What does Granny Weatherall have in common with J. Alfred Prufrock?

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Both J. Alfred Prufrock and Granny Weatherall are quite focused on either the possibility or the reality of being rejected, and both connect rejection with death. Prufrock wishes to ask a woman something important—perhaps if she can love him, perhaps if she will marry him—but he can never bring himself...

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Both J. Alfred Prufrock and Granny Weatherall are quite focused on either the possibility or the reality of being rejected, and both connect rejection with death. Prufrock wishes to ask a woman something important—perhaps if she can love him, perhaps if she will marry him—but he can never bring himself to do it because he fears that she will say, "'That is not what I meant at all; / That is not it, at all.'" He fears that she will tell him that he's utterly misinterpreted everything and that she has no interest in him whatsoever, and so he thinks that he "should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." In other words, he thinks he would have made a very good crab: something solitary but with a hard shell to protect it from being vulnerable. Further, he seems to associate his alienation with death, saying, "And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, / And in short, I was afraid." He realizes that he does not have unlimited time, and his mortality increases the urgency he feels to make some real connection; unable to reach out and make such a connection, Prufrock feels it as a kind of death.

For Granny Weatherall, as she lies on her deathbed, her mind wanders back to when she was jilted at the altar as a young woman. A man named George, apparently, never showed up to the church on their wedding day, and now she seems to think of him as much as she thinks of the husband and family she did have. It's as though that rejection looms so large in her memory that it actually competes for space with her children in her final moments. 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. A good house too and a good husband that I loved and fine children out of him. Better than I hoped for even. Tell him I was given back everything he took away and more.

Granny does experience actual rejection—unlike Prufrock, who only anticipates it—but though it has been some "sixty years" since it happened, it has clearly stayed with her. It is still important to her that George knows that she had a full and rich life, despite his rejection of her; in fact, she makes it seem as though she actually had a better life than she would have with him. It might be true, but it also sounds like sour grapes. She is too defensive, and this makes it clear that she still feels wounded, vulnerable, as Prufrock does. In the end, just as he hopes for the mermaids, she hopes for a "sign" from God, but "For the second time there was no sign." God doesn't show up for her, just like George didn't show up for her. Again, she associates rejection with death.

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Granny Weatherall and J. Alfred Prufrock are two titular characters in Porter's short story and Eliot's poem, respectively. In both of these works of literature, the narration takes us very close to the character's thoughts, and there's a general wandering sense of exploring memories and scenes from the past and present in both of these works. The more specific similarities you might find between Granny and Prufrock are numerous. Let's take a look at each one.

 First, both characters feel like outsiders as sensory details float past them:

  • "[Granny] listened to the leaves rustling outside the window. No, somebody was swishing newspapers: no, Cornelia and Doctor Harry were whispering together."
  • "I [Prufrock] know the voices dying with a dying fall/Beneath the music from a farther room." 

They both also latch onto specific objects and images as they ruminate on the past:

  • "Since the day [Granny's] wedding cake was not cut, but thrown out and wasted."
  • "My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,/My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin"

Granny and Prufrock both think mournfully and seriously about the ideas of failed relationships and rejection. In both of their minds, the harshness of reality intrudes on their ideals of romance and romantic images:

  • "What does a woman [Granny] do when she has put on the white veil and set out the white cake for a man and he doesn’t come?"
  • "When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table"

Prufrock and Granny also both focus on the inevitability of death, as well as what might happen after death:

  • "Granny lay curled down within herself, amazed and watchful, staring at the point of light that was herself; her body was now only a deeper mass of shadow in an endless darkness and this darkness would curl around the light and swallow it up. God, give a sign!"
  • "'I am Lazarus, come from the dead,/Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all--'”

They also both react indignantly and with self-consciousness to the notion that they're growing old:

  • "Sometimes Granny almost made up her mind to pack up and move back to her own house where nobody could remind her every minute that she was old."
  • "With a bald spot in the middle of my hair — /(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)"

Finally, both characters are slightly unreliable as narrators of their own experiences. Granny's failing senses as she approaches death make it hard for her to distinguish among dreams, memory, and reality throughout the story ("Doctor Harry floated like a balloon") and Prufrock seems to contradict himself, saying that he's not a prophet, but he has had a vision of his head brought in on a platter.

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