The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

by Katherine Anne Porter

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What is Granny's attitude towards the doctor, Cornelia, and her illness?

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In “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” Granny’s attitude toward her illness, the doctor, and Cornelia is one of pride and contempt. To understand Granny's contempt, the reader needs to understand her conflict. Granny is struggling to accept her death. The whole story immerses the reader in the perspective of this dying woman; Granny’s mind sways unsteadily between brief glimpses into her present reality and very clear, resurrected memories of her past. When Granny sees and hears the doctor and Cornelia, she gets pieces of her present reality—hints that she is dying.

Granny is ill-tempered and impatient with the doctor and Cornelia because she wants to stay in denial about her own impending death. This is clear where she plans what she will do the next day:

“The box in the attic with all those letters tied up, well, she’d have to go through that tomorrow. All those letters—George’s letters and John’s letters and her letters to them both—lying around for the children to find afterwards made her uneasy. Yes, that would be tomorrow’s business. No use to let them know how silly she had been once.”

It is evident from this quote that Granny still feels she will overcome her illness, or at least that she feels she will be strong enough the following day to get out of bed and do some work.

Granny fuels her denial about dying with comforting thoughts of past illnesses she has survived, as well as her strong genetics:

When she was sixty she had felt very old, finished, and went around making farewell trips to see her children and grandchildren, with a secret in her mind: This was the very last of your mother, children! Then she made her will and came down with a long fever. That was all just a notion like a lot of other things, but it was lucky too, for she had once and for all got over the idea of dying for a long time. Now she couldn’t be worried. She hoped she had better sense now. Her father had lived to be one hundred and two years old and had drunk a noggin of strong hot toddy on his last birthday. He told the reporters it was his daily habit, and he owed his long life to that.

While Granny prepared long ago for death, she had “got over the idea of dying for a long time.” This reveals that Granny is not in the mindset of accepting her own death.

She condescends to the doctor and Cornelia because she holds them in contempt for treating her like she will die. As he attends to her, Granny addresses the doctor as a mere “schoolboy” and mentions how much older she is, as if her age makes her superior in evaluating her own condition: “Where were you forty years ago when I pulled through milk-leg and double pneumonia? You weren’t even born.” Granny is again self-deceptive, reasoning that the doctor does not know what he is talking about. If he thinks she is ill, he is wrong, because after all: he is just a child. Granny also treats Cornelia with contempt for giving her a reality check about her health. Cornelia does not speak openly about her mother dying, but she speaks loudly enough with the doctor for Granny to realize that that is what Cornelia assumes is happening.

It was like Cornelia to whisper around doors. She always kept things secret in such a public way. She was always being tactful and kind. Cornelia was dutiful; that was the trouble with her. Dutiful and good: “So good and dutiful,” said Granny, “that I’d like to spank her."

Granny wanting to “spank” Cornelia shows that she once again wants to relegate Cornelia’s strange behavior to childishness. If she can dismiss Cornelia as childish, she has no reason to believe Cornelia is right about Granny dying. In short, Granny feigns superiority towards her own illness and her caretakers to maintain her delusion, showing that she may not be prepared to die after all.

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What is Granny's attitude toward her own illness in the story?

Good question. The answer depends on when you are asking. By that I mean, in the very first lines of the story she is dismissive. She flatly says, “Get along now. Take your schoolbooks and go. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

She doesn't take the illness seriously, and she tries to get the doctor to leave.

She then claims she is well; she denies the illness.

Then her attitude begins to change a bit. She welcomes the illness as a chance to rest and reflect (though she still doesn't really call it an illness).

Finally, though, I'd say her attitude is one of perspective. Her past ups and downs are so intense that this illness isn't that big a deal…even if it kills her.


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