The Jilting of Granny Weatherall is a short story written by Katherine Anne Porter in 1930. Porter’s works are very emotional pieces and are based on some of her own experiences (Delbanco and Cheuse pg 260-261). This piece is about the life and death of Ellen Weatherall, better known as Granny. Granny is reliving some of the events that transpired in her life as she lay on her deathbed. Although Granny is near death she remains argumentative and critical of her caregivers. She spends much of her last moments arguing with her family and her doctor. As her memories drift from past to present, Ellen Weatherall remembers the events that changed her life forever. Her broken heart as a young woman places this story in the “bad” category of love.
The story begins with Granny reprimanding her young family doctor. She is telling him to leave her alone because there is nothing wrong with her. This attitude shown early in the story is indicative of how independent, tough and stubborn Granny was. Even at the ripe age of eighty years old, Granny continues to be sharp and bossy as she fades in and out of lucidity. She takes out her frustrations on Cornelia, the good daughter, who has opened up her home and has given all her time to care for her dying mother. Granny resents being treated like a child as Cornelia and the family physician whisper as they discuss her condition while in the room with her. However, Cornelia is simply trying to fulfill the role of a loving daughter and caregiver with only a purpose of comfort in mind for her dying mother. Granny's attitude toward Cornelia is also a result of her unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that she is dying. Granny is very tired and wishes to be left alone to rest so she will be able to tidy up the loose ends of her life.
While resting in bed, Granny reminisces about a past lover named George. Ellen was twenty years old and it was her wedding day. She describes the day as “Such a fresh breeze blowing and such a green day with no threats in it” ( Porter, pg 263). She was dressed in her veil and the cake was prepared but George did not come. Her day transitioned from breezy and green to covered in dark smoke . She compares that day to hell and for the next sixty years she tried to forget that George ever existed. She builds herself up for protection against experiencing this type of pain ever again. On her deathbed, she asks Cornelia to find George and make sure that he is aware of the love that she and John shared and that she was worthy and valuable to him.
After being jilted by George, Ellen fell and in love with John. They married and had several children. However, the marriage ended in John’s early death. Ellen was left to raise their children alone. She was quite proud of her accomplishments as a single parent. She insisted that she was a much better housekeeper than Cornelia during an aggravated moment. She longs for her children to be young again when they were sweet and did what they were told. She wishes that she could see John again just to have affirmation on how well she did cooking, washing, sewing and keeping house for their children. However, she is disturbed by the fact that John would probably not recognize her anymore. She is old and rough from the manual labor of digging post holes, mending fences and traveling to houses during hard winters to help women deliver their babies. However, she is proud of her accomplishments and congratulates herself by saying “Well I didn’t do so badly, did I” (Porter, pg 263)?
Not only is Ellen broken hearted by the memories of George and John she is distressed by the fact that Haspy has not arrived. Hapsy was her last born daughter who apparently did not live beyond infancy. She refers to Hapsy as the one that was born last but should have been born first because she was the one that she truly wanted. As her death creeps closer and closer, she relives that moment of Hapsy’s death. She begged John to get the doctor but it was too late for Hapsy. Ellen has now lived through being jilted by George, finding love again only to lose John to an early death and now the death of her last born daughter. All the while Granny is in this constant turmoil of memories, the priest is there to provide comfort to her as she lives out her last moments.
As death nears, Granny’s anxiety intensifies. The children, the doctor and the priest are all there reassuring her. Ellen Weatherall is taken by surprise and realizes for the first time that she is actually dying at this very moment. She refuses to go because there are still so many things left undone. She pleads with God to give her a sign. She wanted permission from God to let go but did not want to let go until she knew that she was worthy of salvation. Unfortunately, God did not reveal to her a sign and she died feeling as unworthy as she did when she was jilted by George.
Granny Weatherall endured such tragedy in her eighty years. She was left at the alter by George, John died at an early age and left her to raise their children alone, she lost her last born daughter and possibly the most jilting of all was that she did not receive a sign from God assuring her salvation. The one thing that Granny was seeking from her family, her husband and God was that she was worthy of being loved. Granny never got over the pain she felt from being left at the alter. She lived her life angry and resentful. She lacked the one thing that could have allowed her a much happier life, self-worth.
Delbanco, Nicholas and Cheuse, Alan. “Literature Craft and Voice Second Edition.” Sept 30, 2013. Pages 260-265.