The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Questions and Answers
by Katherine Anne Porter

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How is "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" a stream of consciousness story?

One could say that "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" is indeed a stream of consciousness story in that this narrative technique is used throughout to convey what's happening in the title character's head. As Granny is fast approaching death, it's inevitable that her thoughts will become somewhat fractured and disjointed. Stream of consciousness is the appropriate literary technique to use in such cases.

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As a literary style, stream of consciousness offers the uninterrupted and nonlinear thoughts of the story's narrator. Objectivity plays no role, as all events are filtered through the flow of the narrator's perceptions.

In "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," the titular character shapes the narrative beginning with her description of Doctor Harry, what she thinks of him, what she says to him, and how he appears to her. The story unfolds as an interior monologue punctuated with things she says aloud to the doctor and to her daughter, Cornelia, and things that she hears them say aloud.

As Ellen Weatherall approaches death, the present becomes increasingly interrupted by events and conversations from her past. Her thoughts turn toward resolutions; she wants the man who jilted her to know that she had found a better man and had a house full of children with him. She wants to reunite with her deceased daughter, Hapsy, and she wants to convey her final wishes to her daughter and the priest. Because she has lost the power to communicate, her unheard thoughts and desires are all the more poignant. And when she looks for a sign from God at the moment of her death and finds nothing, it is a painful reminder of the the jilting she experienced as a young woman.

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Stream of consciousness is a style of writing that depicts a character's thoughts and feelings as a kind of flow, unseparated from one another or from that character's reactions to the things going on around her. In the case of this story, then, the periods in the text where Granny Ellen Weatherall's inner monologue is described by the narrator are presented as stream of consciousness.

After the doctor comes and goes and Cornelia leaves Ellen alone, her thoughts begin to drift: she thinks of how she prefers things to be orderly, whether physical or metaphysical, recalls the items in her kitchen and the dusting that needs to be done, and her mind alights on the youthful letters she sent and received from her husband as well as her first fiancé. She makes plans for tomorrow and considers death again. Ellen does have a short interaction with her daughter, Cornelia, but she lapses into stream of consciousness again soon.

In her mind, she responds with indignation to her daughter's behavior, and she begins to think about all her children as adults, and then as they were when they were children, and Ellen considers wanting to speak to her husband. She seems to desire his approval and his recognition that she did well with their children, their farm, all on her own. This period of stream of consciousness lasts significantly longer than the first, giving an indication that Ellen is growing nearer to death. We see the way her mind moves from one subject to another, apparently relatively unmoored and directionless, making odd connections that are only somewhat related, if that, to the world outside her head.

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Not all of "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" is told in stream of consciousness, but much of it is. And that part of the story which is told using this literary technique is arguably the most important as it relates to the fractured, disjointed thoughts that are coursing through the eponymous character's head as she approaches the hour of her death.

Stream of consciousness deals with subjective thoughts, memories, impressions, indeed anything that passes through someone's mind at any given time. It's a particularly effective technique to use in revealing what's happening in the mind of someone who, for whatever reason, is no longer connected to the outside world. That would certainly be the case with Granny Weatherall, who's living in a world of her own as she enters the final few hours of her mortal existence.

As such, she's not thinking clearly. Her mind wanders from thought to thought, from memory to memory as she surveys the most significant events of her life, most notably the jilting of the story's title. Only Granny Weatherall can know what this traumatic event was really like, and so it's entirely appropriate that we are given a privileged insight into her disordered thought patterns as she recalls that fateful day many years ago when her fiancé stood her up at the altar.

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winterfox | Student

Yes, you could say that the Jilting of Granny Weatherall is a stream of conciousness. But I would like to add that The Jilting of Granny Weatherall is told from the 3rd person perspective of an 80 year old woman who's bad memories comeback to haunt her at the end of life. She isn't losing conciousness so much as going delerious in bed.

epollock | Student

keebla21,

"The Jilting of Granny Weatherall by Katherine Porter is a classic study in "stream of consciousness." The literary term refers to events chronicled not in a chronologicsl or linear manner, but the way the character perceives things through their inner thoughts. This is often applied to works where characters are either dying, mentally ill, or under great sense where their "thoughts jump from one idea to the next without pattern or motive" (classic definition). 

Ellen Weatherall is fiery, used to having her way, and unwilling to be treated like the sick old woman she is, for a grandmother who has "weathered it all."

With its frequent excursions into the rambling consciousness of its dying protagonist, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” gives us a classic picture of what it means to have lived fully.

The events of the story are reported in the third person by a narrator who can see into Granny Weatherall’s mind. When Granny's lucid, the story proceeds in chronological order.

In the story’s most interesting assages—especially in paragraphs 17–18 and 24–31—Porter uses stream of consciousness with great skill to present the randomly mingled thoughts and impressions that move through Granny’s dying mind. By fragmenting Granny’s thoughts, by having her shuttle back and forth between reality and fantasy, by distorting her sense of the passage of time, the author manages to persuade us that the way Granny experiences dying must be nearly universal.