By BARBARA LAMAN, University of Miami
The ambiguities in Katherine Ann Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" have provided fertile ground for widely different interpretations. Most critics, however, agree that Granny dies without a sign from God that her soul will be received into heaven. I would like to present evidence to the contrary: Granny does indeed get a sign, but one that she does not recognize. Her mistake is that she expects to receive this sign from Christ, when it is not Christ whom she should expect, but her own daughter Hapsy.
Hapsy is an elusive character. Even her paternity has been questioned. David and Madeline Barnes, for example, in "The Secret Sin of Granny Weatherall," claim that Hapsy is George's child. Their conclusion contradicts evidence that Hapsy is Ellen's last child, born "forty years ago when [she] pulled through milk-leg" (GW 66), a disease that Laurence Becker points out is related to childbirth (1169). Charles Allen symbolically identifies Hapsy with George (226); Joseph Wiesenfarth argues that Hapsy, like George, never shows up; and John Hardy associates her with the "Blessed Mother" and merges "images of Hapsy's baby [with] the infant Jesus" (94). The significance of Hapsy, however, lies not in her paternity, nor in her similarity to George or the Virgin Mary, but in the fact that she was Ellen's favorite child and that she died while giving birth to her own child.
Granny has demonstrated all her life that she is an independent and pragmatic woman who does what needs to be done with or without a man. Mostly, she appears better off without a man. Although George had the ability to pitch "her soul in the deep pit of hell," and John died and left her alone to fence in "a hundred acres . . . digging the post holes herself" (GW 70), only Christ can utterly destroy her by not showing up at her deathbed: "There is nothing more cruel than this--I'll never forgive it" (GW 78)....