Essay on The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
The very well known writer, Katherine Anne Porter, show us a very peculiar character in one of her most famous short stories called: "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall". This narrative will have a profound and powerful effect on the intelligence, imagination and feelings of any student. It is a story that has richness of literal, figurative details, and illuminating visions of Reality (Altieri).
Granny Weatherall, who would obviously be the main character in this story, is going to be the one I will base my research on. This character is not like any character we see in every story.
Granny is a complex personality that is directly related to Katherine Anne Porter. Porter had her personal reasons, when she decided to write about her. This is a story mainly based on the experiences Granny had before she died. Subsequently, It will be stated a brief summary of the plot, and the different characteristics that describe the personality of Granny Weatherall.
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“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” opens with Doctor Harry visiting the eight year old Granny during her final day of life. Next, the author moves to the stream of consciousness narration which renders the thoughts and memories of Granny’s mind (Altieri.) Throughout the story, Granny reviews her life by remembering the important moments, disappointments, achievements, and feelings. Among all these events, it is relevant to mention the caring for sick children and animals, the lost of her last born, the dead of her husband, and the jilting sixty years ago, when she was abandoned by George at the altar. She was never able to forgive him because of the pain and humiliation he caused her, which will produce hallucinations of him in the course of the story.
Granny is remembering all the time about her life and then dividing the present as dark times and the past as the most brilliant and lightest times (Bloom, 1986). Thus, the author will move back and forth from the past through the present using visions and hallucinations. At the same time, Cornelia (Granny’s daughter) is always taking care of her and suffering the death of her mother. All the actions are placed in Granny’s room, where all of her family is accompanying her in her last moments. Along the family, Father Connolly and Doctor Harry are next to Granny. At the end, the room seems to be swallowed by the darkness and Granny ask for a sign of God that will never come and then the darkness consume her when she blows out the light (Allen, 1956), which will mean the death of Granny Weatherall.
This story is used by Porter partially to elaborate a fictional presentation of her actual grandmother. The story is presented by an omniscient observer who reports the consciousness movements of Granny from the present to the past, including all of her old fears and dreams.
Similar to Porter’s grandmother Rhea, Granny had been a strong-willed, active woman who had buried a young husband and brought up a family (Hendrick, 1965). Granny’s emotional and spiritual well-being is menaced bythe revival of the memory of George who jilted her. Granny gave order to her life after her jilting. Then, she feels very confident and secure. She even feels that she has death under control. However, everything seems to break apart when Hapsy’s memories come to her mind in her last moments ( Hardy, 1973). Hapsy was the last born that Granny lost. Hapsy seems to be the daughter she loved most but also the one who had caused her most pain. Later on, Granny begins to have confused visions or hallucinations of Hapsy as if Hapsy were Granny herself carrying a baby.
Then, Granny confuses Cornelia with Hapsy and makes this mistake with Lydia, too. The disorder of Granny’s past forces itself to show up over the artificial “ ordered life” cover that it had before, and Granny’s fear of the return of George to her memory comes true ( Hendrick). In these moments, she realizes that she can not control death. She was not as prepared for it as she thought. Death would not let her put her life in order at last. She tried to love God without forgiving the man who jilted her and therefore she ended as “ one of the foolish virgins without sufficient oil in her lamp to attend the bridegroom’s coming” ( Bloom). Granny did not have a complete success because she thought that being a human being means being orderly. She did not realized that the jilting was a cause of disorder as well as a cause of order to her life. The next sixty years of her life, after her jilting, would be an attempt to reorder her life through religion, marriage, and bringing up a family ( Hardy). However, none of these would help her at all in finding the happiness one day she thought she could have. Lamentably, Love disappeared for her the day in which George never showed up.
From that moment on, she would never dare to love anyone else and the wound would never healed ( Hardy.) All of these means that Granny had internal oppositions during almost all of her life. There were two feelings or sides fighting one against the other. At the end, Granny dies with a great feeling of disappointment, which would never be compensated ( Hendrick.)
After a long wait, I can say that what we see here is a woman who realizes, in great resentment, that she has never lived. A fact that happens at the end of her life. It is not by chance that Henry David Thoreau’s words come to mind at the end of “ The jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Thoreau wrote that the “ mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” ( 1535). Porter tries to show us the readers a life of quiet desperation. Granny lying on her death-bed and hoping for ex detonation machine, ends up blaming a distant god for not showing up to solve everything and make it all right (Hardy.)
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With her gruff appearance and ornery temper, Granny Weatherall makes Oscar the Grouch look charming. From the moment we first meet her on her deathbed, vehemently insisting that she doesn't need anyone's help thank you very much, this lady seems tough as nails. When we probe beneath Granny's surface (scalpel, please), we see someone quite sensitive and vulnerable, someone capable of being hurt. The juxtaposition between Granny's inner and outer self makes her a fascinatingly complex character totally worthy of our consideration. Congratulations on that, Granny.
Granny the Grouch
Let's take a closer look at the exact nature of Granny's grouchiness. In one of her crankiest moments, Granny berates Doctor Harry, telling him:
Leave a well woman alone. I'll call you for you when I want you. . .Where were you forty years ago when I pulled through milk-leg and double pneumonia? [. . .] I pay my own bills, and I don't throw my money away on nonsense! (7).
Granny shows us loud and clear that she likes to be in control and doesn't like to depend on others. She assures the doctor that she'll be the one to call when she wants him, that she takes care of her own bills, and that she's perfectly capable of surviving this illness on her own.
Yup, as other critics like Laurence A. Becker and Caroline Collins have noted, Granny is definitely a bit of a control freak. We get a taste of this once we're inside her head:
Things were finished somehow when the time came; thank God there was always a little margin over for peace: then a person could spread out the plan of life and tuck in the edges orderly. It was good to have everything clean and folded away, with the hair brushes and tonic bottles sitting straight on the white embroidered linen. . . (17).
Judging from this snippet of her consciousness, Granny wants to have about as much control over her life as she does over her closet. This is also why she's so eager to get rid of that box of steamy love letters (We don't know if they're steamy or not, but it's more fun to assume that they are.). She seems to want to have control over the way her children see her, as we can tell from her remark:
No use to let them know how silly she had been once (17).
It seems like whenever Granny's sense of control over her life or her independence is threatened, she gets super cranky. We can see this reflected in her interactions with Doctor Harry, as well as in her sour refusals of Cornelia's offers to help.
But where, pray tell, is Granny's obsession with control and independence coming from? Well, we're about to get some front row seats right inside Granny's head so we can try and find out.
We know from Granny's recollections of her life that she's had to go through some pretty tough stuff. Of course, being left at the altar is definitely one of the top contenders for Crappiest Moment in Granny's Life. Take a look at exactly how she describes the feeling of being jilted:
Since the day the wedding cake was not cut, but thrown out and wasted. The whole bottom dropped out of the world, and there she was blind and sweating with nothing under her feet and the walls falling away (49).
This passage reflects Granny's sense of being totally unstable, or out of control, in the moment she realized George was a no-show at the wedding. Pay careful attention to the phrases "the whole bottom dropped out of the world" and "nothing under her feet." It's no wonder that since the jilting, her whole life has been focused on avoiding that feeling of being out of control.
Similarly, it makes sense that after having been so deeply harmed by someone else, Granny would be wary of making herself vulnerable to or dependent on others. She remembers that aside from the jilting, George was a pretty decent guy:
He never harmed me but in that (29).
We might say that Granny's life has been a quest to restore the order that was disrupted on the day of the jilting. Granny recalls:
There was the day, the day, but a whirl of dark smoke rose and covered it, crept up and over into the bright field where everything was planted so carefully in orderly rows. That was hell, she knew hell when she saw it (29).
But, hey now, let's not blame everything on the guy.
Unfortunately, life brought Granny other traumas, like losing a child, that have only reinforced her fear of losing control over her life. The audience is told very little about Hapsy, Granny's presumed dead daughter. We're not actually told that Hapsy was Granny's long-dead daughter, but we can piece together clues to make an informed guess about who this person is, like the fact that Granny looks forward to seeing her after death. Details aside, we don't need to be told much about Hapsy to conclude that losing a child probably made Granny feel helpless and out of control.
So we (and Dr. Phil) might say that Granny's developed a tough exterior in order to protect herself from the pain that can sometimes happen when we make ourselves vulnerable to others. Granny's character demonstrates one of the key ideas of this whole story—that it's incredibly difficult to know a person based only on the impression they project to us.
As readers, we're in a lucky position to be able to go into Granny's head and gain a little more insight into her tough appearance. It really makes you wonder how well you know the people around you in your own life, even the ones you think you know pretty well. Sure, you could maybe peek into their diaries, but we here at Shmoop do not condone that sort of snooping. Only shmooping. But we digress; back to Granny.
If we're being totally honest, it's hard to say that we really even "know" Granny, given how incomprehensible some of her thoughts are to us (this is an observation often made by readers and critics about Modernist literature).
It's important to note that even though we can't fully understand some of Granny's thoughts, this isn't a failing on the author's part. No way. If anything, it's a pretty brilliant way of showing how difficult it is to truly know another person given just how weird and complex these minds of ours are.Timeline