What are the internal and external conflicts in "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This excellent story is actually quite a challenge to piece together as the narrative method adopted, the stream of consciousness method, allows for a very incoherent jumping of one memory or thought to the next. However, it is clear that the external conflict that Granny Weatherall is facing is her stubbornness and determination against the mollycoddling (as she sees it) that she is receiving from her daughter Cornelia, and others, such as Doctor Harry and Father Connolly:

Well, she could just hear Cornelia telling her husband that Mother was getting a little childish and they'd have to humour her. The thing that most annoyed her was that Cornelia thought she was deaf, dumb and blind. Little hasty glances and tiny gestures tossed around her and over her head saying, "Don't cross her, let her have her way, she's eighty years old," and she sitting there as if she lived in a thin glass cage.

Granny Weatherall is still a determined and proud woman, who is not giving in easily to death and the care that others try to foist on her.

The internal conflict is of course revealed in Granny Weatherall's memory of her jilting that still hurts her even though it was so long ago. As she struggles to come to terms with it she shows how she still remembers and is pained by the memory:

Wounded vanity, Ellen, said a sharp voice in the top of her mind. Don't let your wounded vanity get the upper hand of you. Plenty of girls get jilted. You were jilted, weren't you? Then stand up to it. Here eyelids wavered and let in streamers of blue-gray light like tissue paper over her eyes.

Here we see Granny Weatherall trying to convince herself that she wasn't hurt and trying to pull herself together, but the final description reveals that the memory of her jilting still hurts enough to bring tears to her eyes. Of course, the story ends with a second "jilting" as Granny Weatherall resolves the internal conflict and accepts the fact that we are all "jilted" in death - that we die alone and that this solitude is greater than any loss we know in life:

For the second time there was no sign. Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house. She could not remember any other sorrow because this grief wiped them all away. Oh, no, there;s nothing more cruel than this - I'll never forgive it. She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light.

This last paragraph shows Granny giving herself up to death and accepting the reality of death as a "jilting". It shows Granny Weatherall's strength in accepting her own death in the face of this ultimate jilting.

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