What was the turning point in Granny Weatherall’s life?
How did she change physically and psychologically?
‘The Jilting of Granny Weatherall’ by Katherine Anne Porter was first published in 1930. It is a brief, but moving account of the last few hours of an elderly woman’s life as she lies dying in bed, attended by her daughter, Cornelia, the doctor, other children towards the end, and finally the local priest. Porter tells the whole story from Granny Weatherall’s point of view and, as she lies there, dying her mind drifts back to the past and we learn about her life. Porter switches easily into first-person narration as she evokes Granny Weatherall’s past life and come to have a very good understanding of her character and the challenges of her life. Granny Weatherall is eighty years old, mis a former mid-wife and nurse, and there have been several turning points in her life.
One major event in her life was that she was about to get married to a man called George and he jilted her – he did not turn up for the wedding. Although it was sixty years ago and she has since married and had many children it obviously preys on her mind because she thinks of George as she lies there dying:
For sixty years she has prayed against remembering him and against losing her soul in the deep pit of hell, and now the two things were mingled in one and the thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell.
Even on her death bed, her jilting by George still causes her pain. However, the real turning pint of her life was the death of John, her husband and father to their many children.
How did the death of her husband change her? It made her a strong independent woman, proud of her achievements as a single mother and proud of the way her children turned out as adults: as Porter tells us, “Sometimes she wanted to see john again and point to them [the children] and say, Well, I didn’t do so badly, did I?” She also became very physically strong:
Digging post holes changed a woman. Riding country roads in winter when women had their babies was another thing; sitting up nights with sick horses and sick negroes and sick children and hardly ever losing one.
Granny Weatherall has brought her children up successfully; she has run the family farm on her own and has also had the energy and expertise to help her community. She dies, confused and feeble, but she has lived a proudly independent life.
Porter, Katherine Anne. ‘The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.’ In Perkins, George and Barbara. The American Tradition in Literature. Volume Two. 12th edition. New York: Mc Graw-Hill. Print.