Analysis of 'The Jilting of Granny Weatherall' by Katherine Anne Porter

Saviors and Self-Reliance

Bride sitting on church steps with her head down.
Image courtesy of Cary Bass-Deschenes.

"The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" by American writer Katherine Anne Porter (1890 - 1980) was first published in Porter's 1930 collection Flowering Judas and Other Stories. It later appeared in The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, which won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and it has been widely anthologized.

The story is a stream-of-consciousness description of Granny Weatherall's thoughts on her deathbed, focusing particularly on her being jilted at the altar when she was a young woman.

It seems clear that Granny has never really gotten over the incident even though she tells herself otherwise. She has kept it hidden from her children, and the shame and sorrow of the incident loom large in her final thoughts.

Granny is so focused on her abandonment that she lets it overshadow the enormous self-reliance she has developed in her life. In the end, she feels abandoned by God in death just as she felt abandoned by her fiancé in life, but the evidence in the story suggests she is not alone at all.

Saviors

Granny is clear that God is her savior. As she reflects on her life, she thinks:

"God, for all my life I thank Thee. Without Thee, my God, I could never have done it."

But she seems tormented by a search for a different kind of savior: the Prince Charming of fairy tales.

She seems to take George's rejection of her as an inescapable judgment, as if she is unworthy of being loved because he did not love her.

And she seems to have trouble valuing her own life except as a retort to his abandonment. She imagines giving someone (Cornelia?) orders to deliver a message to 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."

It's as if her life isn't worthwhile until she can prove its value to George.

When Granny is abandoned at the altar, someone -- probably John, either literally or metaphorically or both -- catches her as she faints and says, "I'll kill him for you."

John, who married Granny and gave her a life "like any other woman," could be considered as saving Granny from her jilting. But even John died young, leaving Granny alone again.

Self-Reliance

Granny reflects on the many trials she has overcome in life, such as surviving milk-leg and pneumonia. John's early death left her to raise the children and manage their farm alone. Porter writes:

"She had fenced in a hundred acres once, digging the post holes herself and clamping the wires with just a negro boy to help."

(Note: I recognize that the reference to the boy's race raises big questions about why Granny's own children didn't help and why having the help of an African-American boy is somehow equivalent to doing something alone, but for the purposes of this piece, what's important here is that Granny did the work that would have fallen to John if he had lived.)

Granny not only took care of herself, her children, and her farm, she also took care of others.

She served as a midwife and tended sick people and animals, "hardly ever losing one." People counted on her.

Granny muses that even at this age, her children frequently seek her advice. Lydia drives eighty miles to ask for advice about her children, Jimmy consults her about business decisions, and "Cornelia couldn't change the furniture around without asking."

She is sought after and respected by nearly everyone except George. But his approval (or lack thereof) is all she can see.

"God, Give a Sign!"

Near her death, as darkness looms, Granny begs God for a sign. But we are told, "For the second time there was no sign. Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house."

Once again she is seized with despair, just as she was at the altar, when 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."

Yet I would argue that Granny's pronounced fear of abandonment is very different from actual abandonment.

George is not God, and God is not George. Just as someone caught Granny as she fainted, there are signs that many people, living and dead, care about her. Her family gathers around her deathbed. Her dead daughter, Hapsy, appears to be waiting for her, ready both to take care of her and to be taken care of. Granny herself has an ongoing relationship with God and feels "easy about her soul." (She is not unprepared, like that other famous Grandmother from Flannery O'Connor.)

At one point, Granny imagines a cart coming for her. Porter writes:

"Granny stepped up in the cart very lightly and reached for the reins, but a man sat beside her and she knew him by his hands, driving the cart."

The driver might be interpreted as John, as Christ, or perhaps as some combination. What's beautiful about this image is that Granny is prepared to take the reins. She's ready and willing, but she doesn't have to do it. She's not alone, and she has help.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Sustana, Catherine. "Analysis of 'The Jilting of Granny Weatherall' by Katherine Anne Porter." ThoughtCo, Dec. 30, 2014, thoughtco.com/analysis-of-jilting-of-granny-weatherall-2990471. Sustana, Catherine. (2014, December 30). Analysis of 'The Jilting of Granny Weatherall' by Katherine Anne Porter. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/analysis-of-jilting-of-granny-weatherall-2990471 Sustana, Catherine. "Analysis of 'The Jilting of Granny Weatherall' by Katherine Anne Porter." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/analysis-of-jilting-of-granny-weatherall-2990471 (accessed November 24, 2017).