An Unfulfilled Life
The characters in Katherine Anne Porters The Jilting of Granny Weatherall include Ellen Weatherall and the people who made up the memories and her present reality. They represent the sum total of Granny Weatheralls experiences, her relationships, her suffering, her endurance, and finally her passing. The characters and memories offer Granny no resolution and no peace in the final hours of her life.
Grannys name Weatherall reflects strength, survival, and endurance (Harder, 151). Her memories upon her deathbed reveal her to be strong, independent, Catholic, and Southern (Abcarian, 20). Her life was a struggle to avoid dealings with her true feelings (Brinkmeyer 12). Granny is not ready to die and has not come to terms with the events of her life. She is desperate to discover some meaning and purpose for the life she lived (Abcarian, 20). Granny is bored to explore repressed memories and her true self and feelings (Brinkmeyer, 11-12). The critical event in her life occurred when her fianc George left her at the altar (Abcarian, 20). It is obviously a turning point in her life (Brinkmeyer, 11). She returns to it again and again and recalls that the whole bottom dropped out of the world (Brinkmeyer, 11). Despite marrying another man and having a family, she suffered a loss that was never fulfilled (Abcarian, 21). Granny comes to realize in the end that even her religion has been a means of denying real feelings and pain (Brinkmeyer, 13-14). She looks for, but does not receive a sign from God (Brinkmeyer, 12). She believes she has not received a sign from God but may actually have received a sign from Hapsy, her daughter who died (Laman, 279). She sees Hapsy who tells her she has been waiting for her for a long time (Laman, 279).
Hapsy is a daughter who died giving birth to her own child. Like the fianc, Hapsy is the one she really wanted, but who left her. Granny sees her as she fades in and
out of consciousness. Hapsy says, I thought youd never come which may have been the sign Granny was looking for (Laman, 279). The name Hapsy may symbolize happiness. Hapsy represents, not only loss, but love and creating that have been part of Ellens life to (Harder, 151).
George brought turbulence and destruction to Ellens life when he jilted her (Harder, 3). Ellen declares that losing George was not important because she found another world a whole lot better, and she is desperate to have someone let him know she found something better. Almost immediately, though, she realizes her loss is so deep she has never been fulfilled (Abcarian, 21).
John was Ellens husband who died young. Her thoughts suggest that she may have married him and did not love him but came to love him later (Abcarian, 21). He, too, left her to do the work of both man and woman as she fenced a hundred acres digging the post holes herself (Laman, 279). Marriage to John left her unfulfilled and she was searching for something not given back (Abcarian, 21). Because he died young, she says he would be a child besides her now (Hoefel, 11).
Ellen reacts to two minor characters: Dr. Harry and Father Connell who are at her bedside. Dr. Harry treats her like a child as in calling her Missy (Hoefel, 11). Ellen resists male authority because she has proven to be capable and does not need to be taken care of. Ellen tells him not to speak disrespectfully to her (Hoefel, 11). When father
Connelly administers last rites, she says My God, will you stop this nonsense. Her religion did not offer the peace she was searching for (Hendrick, 92).
Her children play a role in her final moments. Cornelia is Grannys daughter with who she lives and who is dutiful (Hendrick, 91). Jimmy is Grannys son. When she drops the rosary beads, which were meaningless, she clasps Jimmys hand in love and realizes she is dying. That bond held meaning for her though the rosary beads did not (Harder, 152).
The death of Granny Weatherall does not convey comfort and peace. It is a disturbing picture of one still troubled by a life that did not completely satisfy and that does not feel finished. Finally, though, as Granny blows out the light she ends her struggle.