31 pages 1 hour read

Katherine Anne Porter

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1939

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Pale Horse, Pale Rider is a story about Miranda. As such, the story is infused with her personality, and her nihilistic worldview becomes a central theme. Nihilism is a philosophical view that rejects every traditional value or belief about the world, instead positing that life and existence are essentially meaningless. After an apparent lifetime of unhappiness, Miranda can’t view the world as anything but meaningless. To her, every action and event is defined by its ineffectiveness. Even something as consequential and historical as World War I is relatively unimportant to Miranda. To her, the war is just another inevitable consequence of human action. She has no ability to affect or change the war. She spends more time worrying about paying her bills—something over which she at least has control. Miranda’s nihilism is all-consuming. Every part of her life is affected by her detachment from society. She drifts through life, unable to really care about anything because everything seems to her to be already terrible. Given the scale of the war and the rise of the influenza, both of which will kill many millions of people, Miranda feels justified in her nihilism.

Adam’s role is to provide a rebuke to Miranda’s nihilism.