Study Guide

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Setting

By Katherine Anne Porter

Setting

One Day in Granny's Room

When it comes to the setting in "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," we're forced to think small. Like, really small. We're never told whether the story is set in Alaska or Missouri—all we know is that it takes place in a room. Similarly, we aren't given many clues to the time period during which the story takes place (Although Granny does suggest that we're past the period of using kerosene lamps so it's probably a safe bet that we're at least in early twentieth-century territory). One surprisingly important detail we get from the setting: The fact that the story takes place over the course of one day. We'll get into that later. 

Uh, Where Are We?

So, we're pretty much stuck in bed with Granny for the duration of this story. Of course, the bed is inside a room (It would be weird if it were on a golf course or something). You'd think we'd have a good sense of this place given that we're hanging out here the whole time. Alas, we're not told diddly-squat about it until relatively late in the story.

Following her testy exchange with Doctor Harry in the opening paragraphs, Granny shuts her eyes for a pretty long stretch of time, effectively blocking out the physical surroundings while we dive into Granny's mind. It's almost like the story is sending us a message: Hey, forget this room—the real action is going down in Granny's head.

Despite how much the physical setting of the room is downplayed throughout the story, we do get a glimpse of it near the end when Granny opens up her peepers again. The narrator notes,

Her eyes opened very wide and the room stood out like a picture she had seen somewhere. Dark colors with the shadows rising towards the ceiling in long angles. The tall black dresser gleamed with nothing on it but John's picture, enlarged from a little one, with John's eyes very black when they should have been blue. (51)

Gah! Even in the most direct description of the room we've been given so far, we're still getting Granny's perspective on the room, meaning we wind up with this vague and murky image of "dark colors" and "shadows rising." It doesn't last long, either. Seeing the picture of John takes Granny back into her thoughts about her husband so there we are in her head again.

Don't get us wrong—none of this is to suggest that the physical location isn't important. On the contrary, the setting plays a critical role in emphasizing the whole point of the story, which is to render Granny's experience of dying. The story tries to engage us with Granny's thoughts rather than, say, vivid landscapes, or something like that.

Time Flies When You're Dying

One of the most jarring moments of the story for us readers has got to be that moment near the middle of the story in which we find out just how much time has elapsed since Granny shooed Doctor Harry away in the beginning. Sure, by this point we've figured out that Granny isn't in the greatest of shape—Doctor Harry looks like he's floating around her bed and her thoughts are getting a tad incoherent—but when Cornelia tells Granny that Doctor Harry is back, she says:

I won't see that boy again. He just left five minutes ago. (36)

Cornelia then informs her:

That was this morning, Mother. It's night now. (37)

An entire day has passed and Granny hasn't realized it? Whoa. At that point, knowing the amount of time that's unfolded in the story becomes pretty important to helping us understand just how serious Granny's condition is. This revelation makes us worry even more about her, and gets us prepared for her death in a hurry.

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