Katherine Anne Porter’s short story “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” depicts the last moments of an old woman’s long hard struggle through life. Using modern techniques, Porter delves into the mind of Granny Weatherall describing the key moments of her life that influenced her outlook. Her life was not only a struggle against the emotional and physical obstacles to survival, but also a struggle to define herself and her purpose in life. Porter presents the disillusionment and meaninglessness associated with modern thought through the failure of Granny Weatherall to find and fulfill a purpose in her life.
Granny Weatherall’s abandonment by those she loved in her life creates the psychological need for her to control in order to have purpose in her life. Lying on her deathbed , she contemplates that “She had spent so much time preparing for death there was no need for bringing it up again”(2). Even when approached with death she felt like she had to be in control of even the littlest thoughts. Her extreme propensity to control presents a psychological dependency; her urge to control may stem from the loss of her loved ones such as her husband John, her fiance George, and her child Hapsy.
The point of view changes occasionally switches to first person to emphasize the focus on Granny Weatherall’s desires and thoughts at specified time; for example in the middle of a description of George’s abandonment the author adds in, “No, I swear he never harmed me but in that. ”(3). Because this information is directly from Granny’s perspective, it demonstrates her deepest thoughts: her need to convince herself that she is not hurt by the abandonment. She tries to suppress the unpleasant pain of the sudden abandonment in order to move on.
Because she could not control the jilting by her fiance, she instead tries to control her emotions not allowing herself to be hurt. To compensate for the unexpected abandonment in her life, she manages every aspect of her life possible. She “sometimes wanted to see John again and say well I didn’t do so badly did I? ” (2). Her desire to show off her children to her husband reveals the pride she takes in accomplishing her duty in raising them according to her standards. She tried to control her life the best she could despite the unexpected death of her husband and Hapsy.
To make up for this uncontrolled abandonment she dictates how the children grow up. The audience sees that she feels a sense of accomplishment by raising her children to her liking and thus takes a sense of purpose in controlling their lives. The need to compensate for the abandonment in her life explains her dependency on control. Granny Weatherall’s lack of physical control in the short story parallels her losing control of her life, thus the loss of meaning. Her bones are described as “loose” and “[floating] around in her skin…” (1). The description of her physical state creates an image of fragility and lack of control.
The diction emphasizes this lack of control because it further elaborates on the “loose” imagery: Even Granny’s basic components are not bound by the restrictions of gravity. The same chaos is seen in the description of Doctor Harry when he is described as “[floating] like a balloon”(1). She is not in control of Doctor Harry as she is not in control of her floating bones anymore. The repetition of floating imagery increases the idea of chaos. When the doctor tries to help her she says, “leave a well woman alone…”(1) ; she is irritated by his presence and refuses aid from both him and his daughter (1).
The inability to control the situation with her doctor is the cause of her frustration; being told how to behave by a younger doctor demonstrates a role reversal, a loss of her purpose. She is no longer the caretaker but the one being taken care of because her physical weakness and incapacity to move renders her helpless and dependent. Unwilling to accept this new role she continues to deny her deteriorating condition saying that she wants to rest, not because she is tired, but because she will have to work more tomorrow(1).
Her physical inability to move and lack of strength despite her mental will parallels her lack of control over her life in general. She says she will work “tomorrow” but will never be able to reach it because of her death and so she also cannot control her fatigue and refuses to admit it. Because she cannot control simple physical actions she cannot fulfill her desire to control her life therefore rendering her without purpose. The overall meaninglessness in life is seen by Granny Weatherall’s inability to control her death represented through the final abandonment of God. While eminiscing, she thanks God saying, “Without Thee, my God, I could never have done it,” (2). She reveals her devotion to God through the fact that He is the only being she is willing to relinquish control of her life too. She depends on God as much as she depends on control to define herself and her life. Therefore, abandonment by God would embody all loss of meaning and void her attempt to find purpose in life. At her death there was “again no bridegroom” (5). Using bridegroom as an allusion to Jesus, the author creates the parallel of this abandonment to that of her previous fiance, George.
The abandonment is another instance of her lack of control. Without the meaning or purpose, she gives up and ends her life herself by blowing out the candle (5). The final action of ending her life demonstrates meaninglessness and hopelessness caused by the disestablishment of all her life’s beliefs and values. The lack of God presents the idea that she is alone again as she was when she was abandoned in life. The author uses this connection to relate her feeling of abandonment by God to the more common emotion of being abandoned by a loved one and thus demonstrate the immense emptiness caused by the failure of something she believed in.
The final jilting of Granny Weatherall represents the annulment of the beliefs that defined her existence. The disillusionment of the modern era is reflected through the failure of Granny Weatherall to find purpose by controlling and rationalizing her life. The author demonstrates this failure in Granny Weatherall to create meaning despite all her effort and devotion in order to express the hopelessness of life. Through this short story, she implies the need for one to make and define meaning for oneself in life because pre-established values and beliefs, such as religion, cannot be depended on in the end.