Posted in Short Stories

Katherine Anne Porter: Theft

Deal Me In Week 4

9♣  9♣  9♣  9♣  9♣  9♣  9♣

She laid the purse on the table and sat down with the cup of chilled coffee, and thought.  I was right not to be afraid of any thief but myself, who will end by leaving me nothing.

Don’t ask me to explain why because I’m not sure that I could, but the disillusionment found in post-World War I literature is one of my greatest joys.

“Theft” , published in 1929, is the second story I’ve read by Katherine Anne Porter and it’s vastly different from “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”, the first story of hers that I read.  I’ll thank Jay of Bibliophilopolis for pointing out to me in his review the similarity of “Theft” to Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.  


The unnamed female narrator of “Theft” realizes that her purse has been stolen.  She retraces, through a flashback, the New York City steps of her night on the town in which she seems to be repeatedly rejected by men – either through letters or through taxi rides.  I’m not sure anyone in the story is happy in their relationships.  Rejection and isolation continue as a theme as one of the narrator’s playwright friends discusses his theater missteps.

The narrator eventually realizes who stole her purse and confronts the person (it’s not one of the men although it wouldn’t have surprised me if it had been). This person denies it, then confesses and returns the purse.  When the narrator decides to be forgiving and let the thief keep the purse, the thief rejects the offer.

While the story might seem to be low on plot, no detail is wasted.  Everything comes together in a beautiful loneliness.  “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” differs from this story in that Granny, while having seen her share of rejection during her life, still has a weary strength and a small glimmer of hope even at the end of her life.  It’s difficult to imagine “Theft” ‘s narrator having this same glimmer.

I read “Theft” for Week 4 of my Deal Me In 2015 short story project when I drew the Nine of Clubs.  My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seen here.  Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

3 thoughts on “Katherine Anne Porter: Theft

  1. I thought this was a great story when I read is part of my line up last year. The quote you cite at the top sums it up perfectly “I was right to not fear any thief but myself…” Powerful stuff.

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