In 1918, the forgotten pandemic called Spanish Influenza kept pace during the Great War regarding life destruction that estimated a death toll of about fifty million people (Lurel 346). During the Spanish Influenza outbreak Katherine Anne Porter wrote Pale Horse, Pale Rider in 1939, her apparently autobiographical representation of life (Eilefson). Pale Horse, Pale Rider was an eponymous text that contributed to a contradictory and complex personal stories and mythology about her experiences as a survivor of the Spanish Influenza. The depiction of life in America and Spanish Influenza by Porter was hailed for its realism. Porter was conscious of the dangers of Spanish Influenza and its consequences that were physically devastating. The narrative documented three periods: the two days of Miranda being bedridden, extreme illness of Katherine Porter and the lengthy recuperation in hospital (Lurel 348). Katherine Porters was close to death; thus her family members made plans for her burial, and the newspaper wrote her obituary. The ceasefire was announced when Porter was still hospitalized, but she stabilized and recovered. The virus took a mental toll on her near death and the novel stated It just divided my life, cut across it like that. Now if you have had that, and survived it, and come back from it (Lurel 349). The novella finishes with the discovery that Adam died because of Spanish Influenza. Therefore, much of the Pale Horse, Pale Rider story that recalls autobiographical events of Katherine Porter's life.
Reasons for Little Post-flu Literature
It was observed that despite the devastating effect of Spanish Influenza, Individuals who experienced it said little about it. Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway are the few writers who alluded and mentioned the flue during the period (Nelson). This phenomenon of cultural muteness explains that in the event of such trauma, silence looked to be the best choice. There was an impossible thing about articulating or witnessing such a traumatic experience. Individuals who were victims of the Spanish Influenza hardly remembered the flu illness because of their hallucinations and the people who saw how the flu ravaged their friends and families scarcely described the symptoms putridness.
However, in the 1930s some individuals looked back on 1918 in a bid to document the occurrences. In 1935, The Doctors Son was published by John OHara, a thirteen tear old boy (Nelson). It was a fiction short story about his experiences when the Spanish Influenza breaks out. William Maxwell mother died of the Spanish Influenza when he was a child in 1918. He published They Came like Swallows in 1937, a novel about a Midwestern family, which falls ill when the Spanish Virus reached their town (Eilefson). Then in 1939 Katherine Anne Porter Novel the Pale Horse, Pale Rider was published (Eilefson).
Before the resurgence of interest in Spanish Influenza, there were no new developments in influenza research and Virology. Such fields were in their infancy giving no room for documentation on literature about Influenza. Thus, American writers came to revisit their memories of the Spanish Influenza through their fiction (Eilefson). Since Porters life was burdened with the flu, many critics have questioned how she was the only individual who was able to voice his experiences with the flu.
Eilefson, Sarah Louise. The Trauma Thesis: Medical and Literary Representations of Psychological Trauma in the Twentieth Century. 2015. http://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2634&context=luc_diss. 31 August 2016.
Lurel, Bollinger. "Trauma, Influenza, and Revelation in Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider"." Literary Criticism (2013): 364. 92747274.
Nelson, Katherine Snow. Influenza, Heritage, and Magical Realism in Katherine Anne Porter. 1 March 2015. http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5415&context=etd. 31 August 2016.
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