The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
is a 1930 short story written by American author Katherine Anne Porter. While the story is set inside a bedroom, most of the action takes place inside the mind of 80-year-old Granny Weatherall as she spends her last day on her deathbed. The narrative employs a stream-of-conscious monologue as Granny recollects her long life and ponders her imminent death in her final hours. As her remaining family members gather around her bed in support, Granny Weatherall can’t help but recall the time she was jilted at the altar by her fiancé George 60 years prior. The short story was originally published as part of Porter’s short story collection, Flowering Judas, and Other Stories
. In 1980, a television adaptation of the story was directed by Randa Haines, starring Geraldine Fitzgerald as Granny Weatherall.
Told in a third-person, stream-of-conscious-style narrative, the story begins in Granny Weatherall’s bedroom. On her sickbed, 80-year-old Granny Weatherall is visited by Dr. Harry, whom she thinks is immature. When Dr. Harry proclaims nothing is wrong with Granny, she dismisses him from her room. Dr. Harry retorts with condescension. Granny informs Dr. Harry that she’s suffered graver illness before he was even born. Granny closes her eyes and envisions herself in a hammock. She overhears Dr. Harry and her daughter Cornelia discussing her condition. It perturbs Granny that they are speaking about her as if she’s not in the room. Granny is also annoyed by Cornelia’s goodhearted nature, audibly declaring that she would like to spank Cornelia.
Granny ponders the tasks she must perform the following day. She thinks it’s important to keep her home tidy. Granny decides she needs to hide the letters addressed to her by George and John, her fiancé and husband. Granny also considers death, something she’s been preparing for since having a near-death experience two decades prior. Granny’s father lived until 102, attributing his longevity to daily hot-toddy cocktails. Granny requests a hot-toddy then berates Cornelia. Granny is vexed by the thought of Cornelia indulging her, and hates the fake gestures people make toward those in need. Granny also thinks of herself as a superior housekeeper and more dedicated worker than Cornelia.
Granny wishes for the old days when her children were tiny. She also imagines showing her late husband John how healthy the kids turned out. The children are now older than Johnny was when he died. Following John’s death, Granny became different. She became a caretaker and midwife forced to tend to her own acreage. She believes John would have been proud of the way she nursed her patients back to health. Granny recalls her children clinging to her side in the dark and how they moved away when she turned on the lamps. As Granny begins to thank God for his assistance, she recites the Hail Mary. Her mind then wanders to the necessity of picking all the fruit before it rots and goes to waste.
Granny senses her pillow suffocating her. She recalls the day she was supposed to wed for the first time. Her bridegroom, George, never arrived at the church. Granny struggles to differentiate the idea of hell from being stood up by George. She guards herself against her sense of “wounded vanity.” Cornelia enters, applies a cold press to Granny’s forehead and announces that everyone in the family will soon arrive. Confounded, Granny asks if a birthday party is being thrown for somebody. When Dr. Harry arrives, Granny throws a tantrum and claims she just saw the doctor mere minutes before. Cornelia assures Granny it is nighttime, to which Granny rebuts with a quip. When nobody answers her comment, Granny assumes she must not have spoken aloud. Doctor Harry injects Granny with medicine.
Granny imagines Hapsy, the daughter she wants to visit the most. Granny envisions Hapsy greeting her with a baby in her arms. Cornelia asks Granny if there is anything she can get for her, or if there is anything she would like to say. Granny responds by saying she wants to see George and tell him that she has gotten over him and has experienced a full life in his absence. She wants him to know of everything he robbed her of. However, as she has these thoughts, Granny realizes that she still has an empty feeling. A shooting pain strikes Granny’s body. She imagines she is in childbirth and must dispatch John to fetch the doctor. Granny clings to the idea that she will regain her strength once giving birth to her final child.
Cornelia claims Father Connolly has come. Granny considers the priest, who cares more about tea and pleasantries and telling jokes than expressing concern for Granny’s soul. Granny isn’t worried about her soul, as she believes her favorite saints will usher her into heaven when she dies. She recounts her wedding day and how devastated she was by George’s rejection. She recalls the priest catching her as she fell. The priest promised to murder George, but Granny convinced him otherwise. Granny begins to think about the time she and John comforted the children during their nightmares. She also imagines Hapsy on the brink of giving birth. Granny scours the room and sees a picture of John, whose blue eyes appear black in the photo. She recalls the man who created the photo had called it a perfect portrait, but Granny told him it was not a picture of her husband. Granny spots a candle, crucifix and glow with a blue lampshade on the bedside table. The light produces a saintly halo around Dr. Harry, which Granny ridicules by saying it’s the closest the doctor will ever come to sainthood. However, nobody can understand what Granny says.
Granny envisions sitting in a vehicle beside a man she knows. Just yonder, she hears birds and trees “singing a Mass.” Granny clutches her rosary as Father Connolly recites Latin scripture in a way that she finds overemotional. Granny witnesses thunder and lightning as she thinks of George again. Her daughter Lydia arrives, but Granny thinks it’s actually Hapsy. Her son Jimmy is also present. Granny knows she’s dying. She feels shocked and unprepared. She conjures last minute advice she’d like to share with her family. Granny loudly declares that Cornelia cannot leave yet, and worries what will happen if they can’t locate Hapsy. As she lies dying, Granny awaits a final sign from God. When nothing comes, she feels as if she’s been jilted again. Granny dies sorrowfully.