In "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," what is the functional purpose of the imagery employed? What is the significance of the title?
“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter is one of the most widely anthologized short stories of modern times and used widely in textbooks. The story has been read from points of view representing the whole critical spectrum.
We essentially see the world from Granny’s--a woman who is on her deathbed--point of view. Most of the story is stream-of-consciousness (the jumbled stream of observations, thoughts, and memories that passes through their minds at any given time), interrupted by the voices and faces of people at Granny’s sickbed in the present.
This alternative strand of things happening that Granny does not take in represents the perspective of the doctor, the priest, and Cornelia, Granny’s daughter. They try to talk to her, but she rarely connects with them. The alternation of the two points of view sets up a contrast between the rich inner subjective world of memories, emotions, and regrets and the outer objective linear world of practical concerns.
Memories of her past with her first love, her husband, and her children take up the early pages of the story. When she thinks of her grown daughter, Cornelia, Granny imagines spanking her “and making a fine job of it.” The pillow pressing against her reminds her of the feeling in her heart when she was jilted. Cornelia connects her to memories of Hapsy “standing with a baby on her arm. She seemed to herself to be Hapsy also, and the baby on Hapsy’s arm was Hapsy and himself or herself, all at once, and there was no surprise in the meeting.”
The first allusion to the jilting occurs when Granny thinks about “George’s and John’s letters and her letters to them both.” Later we see that as a young woman Granny had been left at the altar by George. Granny still is emotionally involved with the event, as well as defensive about it. She thinks,
“I want you to find George. Find him and be sure to tell him I forgot him. I want him to know I had my husband just the same and my children and my house like any other woman. . . . Tell him I was given back everything he took away and more.”
Then she realizes that he took away something she did not get back, perhaps an innocence or sense of security or hope.
The surface plot line of the story takes place in one day, with the ill Granny getting worse, her children and the priest gathering around her, and her dying. Parallel to this surface story line is Granny’s last reckoning and settling of accounts with the lover who jilted her. Death in the story becomes an abandonment parallel to the jilting, with “again no bridegroom (Jesus perhaps? or God himself?) and the priest in the house.”
Granny was definitely a woman who had "weathered it all."