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“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” a short story by Katherine Anne Porter, describes the last thoughts, feelings, and memories of an elderly woman. As Granny Weatherall’s life literally “flashes” before her eyes, the importance of the title of the story becomes obvious. Granny Weatherall has been in some way deceived or disappointed in every love relationship of her life. Her past lover George, husband John, daughter Cornelia, and God all did an injustice by what Porter refers to as “jilting.” This unending cycle of wrongdoing caused Granny to be a mixture of strength, bitterness, and ultimate fear as she faces her last moments in life.
Granny gained her strength by the people that she felt jilted by. George stood Granny up at the altar. He never showed at all and it is never stated that she heard from him again. The pain forced Granny to be strong as is proven by her thoughts when she is asked if anything could be done for her. “ I want you to find George. 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… Tell him I was given back everything he took away and more” (Porter 584). Granny did marry a man named John, but her strength was again tested when he died at a young age, leaving her to raise their children on her own. “Sometimes she wanted to see John again and point to them and say, well, I didn’t do so badly did I?” (582). She had been strong enough to carry the burden of two lost loves and raise good children at the same time.
It was one of these children, Cornelia, who made her act somewhat bitterly in her last days. With her daughter whispering about her and saying she should be humored at her old age, Granny felt like she had been in some way betrayed. “It was strange about children. They disputed your every word” (584). She felt like Cornelia was treating her like a child. “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 saying, ‘Don’t cross her, let her have her way, she’s eighty years old,’ and she sitting there as if she lived in a thick glass cage” (582).
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In her most final moments, as she felt herself slipping into death, she could not find a sign of God, George, or John to welcome her. Not only was she jilted in life by the two most important people in it, but also in death and by the most important man-figure of all, God. “Granny lay…staring at the point of light that was herself; her body was now only a deeper mass of shadow in an endless darkness and this darkness would curl around the light and swallow it up. God, give a sign!” (586). She had once again been left at the altar, but this time, the altar of death. “For the second time there was no sign. Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house. She could not remember any other sorrow because this grief wiped them all away…there’s nothing more cruel than this-I’ll never forgive it” (588).
In life and in death, Granny Weatherall has been jilted and therefore made strong, bitter, and fearful. One must wonder that with these three characteristics in life, she must have due a great compensation in the afterlife. The greatest wrongdoing was that having been promised a Heaven, an eternal life, and Granny was once again left alone.
Porter, Katherine Anne. “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 2000.