This story has the power to stimulate profound feelings and an intellectual understanding of life and death. Many students have lived with or visited grandparents or have experienced the pain and grief of their grandparents’ dying. Furthermore, through its treatment of the important events in Granny’s life, the story raises the following questions which will interest most young adults:
1. What is the meaning and purpose of life?
2. How do people cope with adversity and bitter disappointment in life? 3. How do people survive from and adjust to painful life experiences? 4. How do people’s experiences in life change their character and personality? 5. What are the qualities that constitute mental and emotional health? 6. What are the qualities that Granny possessed which helped her to live successfully? 7. Does Granny have any weaknesses? If so, what are they?
8. What intelligent advice and wisdom did Granny give her family?
“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” opens with Doctor Harry visiting the eighty-year old Granny during her final day of life. “She flicked her wrist neatly out of Doctor Harry’s pudgy careful fingers and pulled the sheet up to her chin.” He is feeling her forehead and she becomes feisty with him: “Get along and doctor your sick . . . . Leave a well woman alone. I’ll call you when I want you.” Next the author moves to the stream-of-consciousness narration which renders the thoughts, memories, and associations of Granny’s mind. This technique is especially well-suited to the story because it reveals Granny’s alternating confused and clear thoughts during her final moments as she moves from lucid consciousness to confused semi-consciousness. Moreover, it helps the narrator to illuminate meaning by moving back and forth from the past to the present. Finally, with this technique, the author uses her literary resources to give a sense of immediacy to Granny’s thoughts, feelings, memories, and judgments.
In a semi-conscious state, the feisty and cantankerous Granny reviews her life by remembering the important happenings, disappointments, crises, achievements, and feelings. Her character is depicted fully with vivid and rich details. She exemplifies many heroic qualities such as endurance, fortitude, intelligence, and the ability to work unremittingly hard. In her past life she worked as a farmer, doctor, veterinarian, and she has raised her children courageously. Many nights she sat up caring for sick children and sick animals. She was proud of the fact that she never lost a child except for Hapsy, her last born. She wishes that John, her dead husband, could see her children now and that she could see Hapsy. Furthermore, she wishes that the old days were back even though she had a hard time raising her children without her husband, John. Then her jilting, sixty years ago when she was abandoned by George at the altar, preoccupies her thoughts and feelings. She has never been able to forgive him because of the pain and humiliation that he caused her. She had buried the memory in her mind for many years, but now it overwhelms her:
But he had not come . . . . 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? For sixty years she prayed against remembering him and against losing her soul in the deep pit of hell, and now the two things were mingled in one and the thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell . . .
This passage (well, really the whole story) include many light and dark images. The artistry of the author is illustrated in the darkness and lightness showing the movement of Granny’s thoughts from the past, which is light, to the present, which is dark. The light which she blows out at the end of the story represents her life; she will now descend into the blackness of death. The first jilting by George is mirrored by the second ironic jilting by her faith in God who refuses to prepare her for death with a “sign.”
. . . Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house. She could not remember any other sorrow because this grief wiped them all away. Oh, no there’s nothing more cruel than this—I’ll never forgive it. She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light.
“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” Reading Comprehension Sequence Directions: Katherine Anne Porter uses flashbacks, and foreshadowing to give necessary background information about the meaning and the characters. Below are listed thoughts or events. If the thought or event happened in the present write P on the line following it. If it happened in one of Granny’s flashbacks, write F on the line. Then reorder the following events as they would have happened in real life or as they flashed through Granny’s mind. 1. The letters from George and John. _____
2. Granny rides in a wagon with a man she knows. _____
3. Granny’s first lover, George jilts her at the alter sixty years ago. _____ 4. Granny received satisfaction in the raising of her children. 5. Doctor Harry visits Granny. _____
6. Granny blows out the eerie light at the end. ._____
7. Granny has made plans to leave certain possessions to her children. _____ 8. Her dead child Hapsey’s ghostly form appears near her bed. _____ 9. The priest, Father Connolly visits Granny. ._____
10. Granny raises her children alone. _____
11. Granny marries John who dies young. _____
12. Doctor Harry visits Granny when she delivers her first child. _____ 13. Granny has milk-leg, and double pneumonia. _____
14. Granny’s child Hapsey dies. _____
15. When Granny was sixty, she made her will and cane down with a fever._____