In "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall", why did Father Connolly tickle Granny Weatherall's feet?

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

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The arrival of Father Connolly heralds another moment of bitter-sweet humour as he begins to perform the Last Rites on Granny Weatherall. Crucial to understanding the story is the point of view that is employed by the author - we see everything from Granny Weatherall's point of view, and as she is dying, her thinking is very confused and she makes associations that aren't expected in her stream-of-consciousness narrative. Thus, whilst Father Connolly begins his Last Rites, we see the overlapping images that are going on in Granny Weatherall's head as the reality is interposed with a vision of the past:

Granny stepped up in the cart very lightly and reached for the reins, but a man sat beside her and she knew him by his hands, driving the cart. She did not look in his face, for she knew without seeing, but looked instead down the road where the trees leaned over and bowed to each other and a thousand birds were singing a Mass. She felt like singing too, but she put her hand in the bosom of her dress and pulled out a rosary, and Father Connolly murmured Latin in a very solemn voice and tickled her feet. My God, will you stop that nonsense? I'm a married woman.

We have a confused scene which mixes past and present and takes us suddenly from a past memory to the present interruptions of Father Connolly. Her interpretation of what is happening is confused by her approaching death, so she misinterprets Father Connolly's touch silly foolishness inappropriate to be practised on a "married woman". She does not recognise that he is anointing her feet with oil - part of the Last Rite ceremony.

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