What is the symbolism in "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several symbols in Katherine Anne Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall." 

  • Symbols of Christianity

A candle, a crucifix, and a rosary are on a table covered with linen (as is an altar) near the bed in which Granny lies. The family has these for Granny as they await the priest who will come to give Granny the last rites, the sacrament of Extreme Unction.
These items that symbolize her faith, however, do not comfort Granny as much as the contact with her loved ones does.

The rosary fell out of [Granny's] hands and Lydia put it back. Jimmy tried to help, their hands fumbled together, and Granny closed two fingers around Jimmy's thumb. Beads wouldn't do, it must be something alive.

Feeling death close at hand, Granny leans over and blows out the light of the candle.

  • The uncut wedding cake

This cake looms in Granny's memory as she cannot forget how she was jilted at the altar on her wedding day. 

  • "A whirl of dark smoke"

As Granny recalls her wedding day, she envisions dark smoke covering a "bright field." The thought of her old fiancé is this "smoky cloud from hell." 

As she remembers this tragic day, Granny imagines "a whirl of dark smoke" (her fiancé) covering a "bright field where everything was planted so carefully." (Granny's plans for her life)

  • A blue light

Cornelia's silk lampshades cast a blue light. In reality, however, the blue light that Granny perceives is the light of her life that is fading. For, near the end of the story as she begins to die, Granny imagines the darkness of death circling the blue light and swallowing it:

The blue light from Cornelia's lampshade drew into a tiny point in the center of her brain.

 

mkcapen1 | Student

The short story "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" is a story about an old woman who is on her death bed.  She is surrounded by her loved ones and the doctor who are awaiting her death.  as she lays dieing she is thinking back on the man whom she had loved who had jilted her.  She begins thinking back and wonders how her life would have been had he not jilted her. 

Granny thinks about the things that she has to do tomorrow such as chores.  This symbolizes her denial that she is dying.

Her breathing is changing into the deep breaths of the dying.

 "oh, push down the pillow, somebody: it would smother her if she tried to hold it."

She thinks back and recalls the emotional damage caused by the jilting as she had waited in a white veil. Hell symbolizes the emotional torment.

"remembering him and against losing her soul in the deep pit of hell,"

Hell is symbolic of the eternal torture that she has had to endure since the man she ahd loved jilted her at the alter.

Finally, death comes and is symbolized as her blowing out a light.

"She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light."

Read the study guide:
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

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