The Pain of Jilting

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Katherine Ann Porter published The Jilting of Granny Weatherall in 1930. The story was created to show an old woman facing death and to create a new vision of death through a dying person's eyes. For Porter, however, it was more important to use death as the review of a life and choices rather than to discuss death as it is. As a result, the story appears to be a continuous line of narration and recollections, to which an old woman refers when trying to analyze her life. Obviously, the name Weatherall confirms Granny's endurance and never-ending optimism, but it also shows her growing sense of self-pity, the lack of religious spirit, and despair in the face of death which no one can escape.

The life of Granny Weatherall was full of difficulties, but regardless of weather in both nature and in her soul, she always tried to stay in touch with the world around her. Even on her deathbed she does not want to quit what she intended to accomplish earlier in life. "In her day she had kept a better house and had got more work done. She wasn't too old yet for Lydia to be driving eighty miles for advice when one of the children jumped the track, and Jimmy still dropped in and talked things over: "Now, Mammy, you've got a good business head, I want to know what you think of this?" (Porter). Regardless of her state of mind, Granny always had to stay aware of everything that was happening in her family and around it. Lying on her deathbed, Granny cannot but have a feeling of despair and loss about everything she used to do when she was younger. She remembers her children and longs to get back into the times when they were one single family, and her children were still children ,the children she could care about: "Granny wished the old days were back again with the children young and everything to be done over. It had been a hard pull, but not too much for her. When she thought of all the food she had cooked, and all the clothes she had cut and sewed, and all the gardens she had made ,well, the children showed it" (Porter). It is natural for a person near death to regret everything done or undone. It is even more than natural for Granny Weatherall, a woman well recognized as a wonderful mother, a devoted wife, and a self-fulfilling woman to have these same regrets.

Unfortunately, where Granny's name signifies her never ending and unchangeable endurance, activity, and optimism, this very name also implies a never ending self-pity and regret for something that never happened in her life. On her deathbed, and surrounded by her children, Granny cannot help but think of the two men who impacted her life in such different ways. George was her fiancé who harshly left her alone at the altar, and her loving husband John who passed away at a young age leaving only her to raise the children and cope with her troubles. For Granny, these two personalities are associated with a never ending feeling of loss. Moreover, it is a feeling of something she cannot return or restore, and it makes everything look even more difficult and complicated. Granny tries to persuade herself and her daughter Cornelia that sixty years have changed her and that she was able to forget George, but her revelations are far from truth. It is clear that her whole life changed (was not spoiled or wasted, but changed) because of that tragic day with 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. A good house too and a good husband that I loved and fine children out of him. Better than I had hoped for even" (Porter). Over the years Granny had kept all the letters from George and John because they both represent her greatest joys, betrayals and losses. It is difficult to believe, even though she eventually married and had children, that Granny would be able to ever completely forget George. And again, this desire to find George and to show him that she was able to become happy confirms both her self-endurance and her continuous self-pity. These are the two feelings she carried with her throughout her life and they equally impact her visions and perceptions as she is preparing herself to die.

It should be noted, that as Granny's name shows her continuous self-endurance and unchangeable sense of despair and self-pity, it also reveals her continuous lack of religious faith and spirit in her life. Regardless of the circumstances and situations she had to face and experience, God was not the one to show her way out of trouble. After her fiancé George left her at the altar, she came to recognize that there was no God, and by attending Holy Communion every week she created the image of faith for the public and her children, but in reality had she was living a life of constant religious deception. "Since the day the wedding cake was not cut, but thrown out and wasted. The whole bottom of the world dropped out, and there she was blind and sweating with nothing under feet and the walls falling away" (Porter). Now, as she sees death approaching her, she can finally feel how this lack of faith makes her more vulnerable to pain and despair. She is scared, but God does not seem willing to extend his hand to her. "Granny laid curled down within herself, amazed and watchful, staring at the point of light that was herself, her body was not 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!" (Porter). This lack of faith and continuous vision of religion, which Granny tries to create by attending Holy Community once a week, leads her to realize the spiritual emptiness of her life. Even if George were cruel to abandon her just before the wedding ceremony, she now asks God to turn his head and hand to her. Unfortunately, because she herself is not prepared to face God and recognize her mistakes, her wish for God to give a sign goes unnoticed. She finds herself murmuring words, which no one can hear, and making requests, which no one can fulfill. Her death becomes a measure of her loneliness, and even children, her favorite children, miss a chance to see her for the last time.

At her deathbed, Granny wants to see everyone. Her family has become the light in her spiritual and moral darkness, and now, at the edge of life and death she cannot and does not want to recognize that her hours are counted. Twenty years earlier Granny Weatherall was more brave and decisive when looking into the future. She went to see her children, made her will, and was preparing herself to passing away. Now, however, her name shows her denial, and this denial accompanied her in all life activities. Regardless of obstacles and circumstances on her way, Granny Weatherall denies her being unhappy when left by George. Later, she denies her tragedy of losing John. She denies the fact of remembering George until the very end of her life, and finally, she denies the fact of death hunting for her body and soul: "Don't let good things rot for want of using. You waste life when you waste good food. It's bitter to lose things" (Porter). It is equally bitter to lose one's life, and the feeling of disillusionment is much worse than the feeling of self-denial and self-pity. For this reason, Granny Weatherall makes her choice in favor of the latter and even hours before dying she cannot change her attitudes to life. Granny's name shows her continuous endurance and strength, which helps her survive after being jilted by life. Her name also confirms continuous self-denial, despair, and spiritual emptiness as the distinctive forces in her life. The word "Weatherall" implies that throughout her life, Granny tried to create a sense of stability in her emotional and spiritual life, but none of her emotional and spiritual attempts was good enough to make her death spiritually and morally easier.

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall is an excellent narration which shows an old woman approaching her death. The name Weatherall implies relative stability of Granny's emotional and spiritual strivings. Granny's name confirms self-endurance and self-denial as the two distinctive features of her life. Spiritual emptiness and despair also shape her vision of life. Unfortunately, how endurable and reasonable Granny might have been, her self-denial and self-pity do not produce the desired effects, and in no way make the death of Granny Weatherall morally or spiritually easier. On the contrary, they show Granny as a woman who is not willing to abandon her losses and failures, and who does not want to recognize that her hours are counted.

Works Cited

Porter, K.A. "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall." 1930. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: Pearson Custom, 2005. 94-101.