Study Guide

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Abandonment

By Katherine Anne Porter


The pillow rose about her shoulders and pressed against her heart and the memory was being squeezed out of it: oh, push down the pillow, somebody: it would smother her if she tried to hold it. Such a fresh breeze blowing and such a green day with no threats in it. But he had not come, just the same (29).

So that's kind of weird: Granny's pillow triggers a memory of the day she was jilted. What's the effect of introducing the jilting incident in this way?

What does a woman do when she has put on the white veil and set out the white cake for a man and he doesn't come? She tried to remember. No, I swear he never harmed me but in that. He never harmed me but in that. . .and what if he did? (29).

If jilting her was the only harm that George ever inflicted, it seems like poor Granny was pretty much blindsided, which probably made the experience of being abandoned a whole lot more traumatic.

There was the day, the day, but a whirl of dark smoke rose and covered it, crept up and over into the bright field where everything was planted so carefully in orderly rows. That was hell, she knew hell when she saw it (29).

Whoa, pretty intense. How is being jilted or abandoned similar to hell?

For sixty years she had prayed against remembering him and against losing her soul in the deep pit of hell, and now the two things were mingled in one and the thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell that moved and crept in her head when she had just got rid of Doctor Harry and was trying to rest a minute (29).

Just when you think you're over the guy who broke your heart over half a century ago. . . It obviously took a lot of conscious effort for Granny to keep the memory of George the Jilter at bay all these years. So it only makes sense that as she's dying and her mental defenses begin to weaken, he creeps to the forefront of her mind. Yet another reason dying is not cool.

Wounded vanity, Ellen, said a sharp voice in the top of her mind. Don't let your wounded vanity get the upper hand of you. Plenty of girls get jilted. You were jilted, weren't you? Then stand up to it (29).

Wow, Granny's pretty tough on herself. Do you think her reaction to being jilted was helpful to her?

Yes, she had changed her mind after sixty years and she would like to see George. 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 (42).

How do you like me now, George? Granny revels in the thought of rubbing her good life in George's face. But, why should she even care what he thinks if she's really over the dude?

Tell [George] I was given back everything he took away and more. Oh, no, oh, God, no, there was something else besides the house and the man and the children. Oh, surely, they were not all? What was it? Something not given back. . . (42).

Intriguing—what might that something have been that George took away from her?

Since the day the wedding cake was not cut, but thrown out and wasted. The whole bottom dropped out of the world, and there she was blind and sweating with nothing under her feet and the walls falling away (49).

At the end of the story, Granny similarly remarks that "there was no bottom to death" and that "she couldn't come to the end of it." In that way, the story suggests that being abandoned and being jilted are a lot alike in the sense that both leave a person feeling utterly disoriented and unstable.

He had cursed like a sailor's parrot and said, "I'll kill him for you." Don't lay a hand on him, for my sake leave something to God (49).

Who do you think is the "he" referred to here (hint: some readers have suggested that it's John, Granny's future husband. If it is, why is this made ambiguous)?

God, give me a sign!
For the second time there was no sign. Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house. She could not remember any other sorrow because this grief wiped them all away. Oh no, there's nothing more cruel than this—I'll never forgive it. She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light (60-61).

Jilted a second time? That's just unfair.

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