Granny Weatherall, the central character in Katherine Anne Porter’s The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, is an 80-year-old elderly woman who is staring death in the face. There is a sense of disappointment with Granny that leads readers to develop their own interpretation of her relationship with her daughter, Cornelia. As the narrator, Granny unintentionally paints the picture of Cornelia as a nuisance and bothersome person.
Granny thinks to herself, “The thing that most annoyed her was that Cornelia thought she was deaf, dumb, and blind. Little hasty glances and tiny gestures tossed around her and over her head…” (2). In fact, the reader can rationalize that it is just Cornelia’s concern for her ailing mother that creates the situation of her seemingly being there all the time.
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Granny is having mental flashbacks as death approaches like “a fog rose over the valley” (3). Granny recalls events throughout her life, from being left at the altar on her wedding day, to losing a child, to coming to grips with her own death as the story reaches a close. All of these recollections and the realization of her own death bring together the great ironies of the story, ironies which cause not one, but two jiltings for Granny.
As you read the story, the first irony becomes quite clear. On her deathbed, the memory of a lost love, which has been, suppressed for 60 years resurfaces. The memories are magnified in such a way showing that although she had tried to forget George, her former fiancï¿½, she never actually did. “Find him and be sure to tell him I forgot him. I want him to know I had my husband just the same and my children and my house like any other woman” (5), are the words Granny speaks to create the irony. She reminisces about the wedding day and being left standing at the altar.
Granny vividly remembers, “What does a woman do when she has put on the white veil and set out the white cake for a man and he doesn’t come?” (3) This recollection causes her to start making profound statements about, “Don’t let things get lost” and “it’s bitter to lose things” (3). Though she never says directly why she has these thoughts, the reader realizes that she has this appreciation because of her loss, which was not marrying George.
Of course, she had a nice life with John, whom she married and had children with, but there was always the thought of what might have been had George been her husband. She thinks, “He never harmed me but in that” (3), a direct reference to being stood up at the altar and that was the greatest harm George could have ever done.
She had tried for so long to forget him, now on her deathbed, she wants to see him, find him, and let him know how she feels. Granny reflects, “For sixty years she had prayed against remembering him…” (4). He had always been there serving as a constant reminder of the past, of things envisioned and dreamed of wasted in a single instant, relegating her to think only what if.
The second irony of the story is the cause of Granny’s greatest jilting, the realization that she had been stood up twice. This feeling is caused by her perception that in death Christ had not come to meet her to take her to heaven. She asks God to give her a sign, a sign that death was now and that He would be there.
Now, “For the second time, there was no sign” (7). The irony behind that is that she wanted God to have given her a sign when George had stood her up. That thought gives the reader a sense that she feels if only she had known prior; she could have done something, anything to change the outcome or at least lessen the pain. She wanted God to give her a sign that Jesus would be there in this moment of death with her. Granny is symbolized as that light that is surrounded by darkness.
This is descriptive of the death scene within her mind. The darkness represents death and the sadness of being left at the altar, both of which just consume and swallow the light. Reading the story’s conclusion, the reader can understand what Granny means when she thinks, “Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house” (7). In this situation, Christ is the bridegroom and He has not shown to be with her in death. In Granny’s mind, this is the greatest jilting. Granny indicates this when she says, “there’s nothing more cruel than this-I’ll never forgive it” (7). In the footnotes, the author makes the reader aware that Granny is referencing to Christ.
Intertwined in these two ironies are Granny’s feelings about the loss of her child, Hapsy. Even while thinking about the jilting that she received from George, “it was Hapsy she really wanted” (4). Porter used a great metaphor in describing Granny’s desire to see Hapsy writing, “She had to go a long way back through a great many rooms to find Hapsy standing with a baby on her arm” (4). The metaphorical statement leaves open some interpretation for the reader. Is she talking about Hapsy actually holding a baby, or is Granny reminiscing about holding Hapsy as a baby? Granny is continually engaged in mental flashbacks that affect the way she looks at tomorrow.
She sees so many things left undone that she can do on her own, but it is in direct reference to her belief that she and George left things unfinished and it is something she has never forgot. She loved John, but she wanted and loved George, a jilting she could never forget, until being stood up at death with a priest in the room and no bridegroom, the presence of Christ.
As Granny Weatherall stands at the doorstep of death, her mental connection to the real world fades into a sense of disillusionment. Granny experienced two jiltings in her life; jiltings that as death looms bring her thoughts to a dramatic and horrible end. As Granny thinks about these events on the day of her death, the reader learns more about her in those few hours than perhaps even her children ever knew. The reader sees the pain of losing a child and a mate, the challenge of motherhood, and overcoming the obstacles to help your children grow.
Granny Weatherall is a depiction of strength and fortitude and as her life draws to a close, the reader does not get a total sense of a bitter old woman, but more of a woman who accomplished much without the one thing she truly wanted, marriage to George. These two ironies represent the type of reading that makes this story intriguing and great to read. As Granny Weatherall, “stretches within herself with a deep breath and blew out the light” (7), she dies with an unforgiving heart for the jiltings that consumed her mind in life and death, including the greatest of them all, being left alone by Christ to die.
Porter, Katherine Anne. The Jilting of Granny Weatherall. (1930): 8pp. Online. Internet. 18 June 2004. Available at www.barksdale.latech.edu/Engl%20308/THE%20JILTING%20OF%20GRANNY%20WEATHERALL.doc
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