Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Stricken by a sudden illness, Granny Weatherall, an octogenarian, has been confined to bed. She is being examined by Dr. Harry, much to her annoyance. Denying there is anything wrong with her that requires a doctor’s care, she dismisses him in the petulance of old age—“The brat ought to be in knee breeches”—only to hear him and Cornelia, her daughter with whom she now lives, whispering about her. Granny imagines herself giving Cornelia a good spanking.
Granny’s mind wanders to things that needed to be done tomorrow—dusting, and straightening, and going through the box in the attic containing love letters from George, the fiancé who jilted her, and John, her long-deceased husband, and her letters to them. She does not want the children to know how silly she had been when she was young.
Granny thinks how clammy and unfamiliar death must feel, but she refuses to worry about it now. After all, her father lived to be 102 years old. She decides that she will live just to plague Cornelia a little more. Thoughts of rationalizing that she is not too old to be self-sufficient—she often thinks of moving back to her own house where there would be no one to remind her that she is old—are intertwined with memories of all the work she has done in her long life, the meals cooked, the clothes sewn, the gardens made. Especially vivid is her memory of herself as a young widow fencing in a hundred acres, digging the postholes herself. She...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
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The setting for "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall'' is the bedroom where Granny Weatherall is dying, though most of the action occurs in Granny's head. Told as a stream-of-consciousness monologue, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" is the story of the last day in the eighty-year-old woman's life. In her final hours with her surviving children around her bed, Granny Weatherall reconsiders her life and ponders her impending death. Almost against her will, her thoughts return to an incident that occurred more than sixty years earlier: She was left standing alone at the altar when her fiance George jilted her.
Porter gradually reveals the details of the jilting through Granny Weatherall's fragmented recollections. In Granny Weatherall's semi-conscious state, the past mingles with the present and people and objects take on new forms and identities. After the doctor leaves her alone, Granny Weatherall takes stock of her life, taking pleasure in the thought' 'that a person could spread out the plan of life and tuck the edges in orderly.'' But it is not long before she finds "death in her mind and it felt clammy and unfamiliar." The presence of death in her thoughts causes her to recall an earlier time when she thought she was dying and how she had spent too much time preparing for it. This time she considers "all the food she had cooked, and all the clothes she had cut and sewed, and all the gardens she had made'' and declares herself satisfied. She imagines...
(The entire section is 569 words.)