Study Guide

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Mortality

By Katherine Anne Porter

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While [Granny] was rummaging around she found death in her mind and it felt clammy and unfamiliar (18).

The characterization of death as "clammy and unfamiliar" sure does emphasize its creepiness, but it also lets us know that even at eighty years old, Granny isn't entirely consumed by the thought of death. Not only is death weird and unfamiliar to her, it's a pretty passive, inert force if it's just lying around in her head waiting to be found.

[Granny] had spent so much time preparing for death there was no need for bringing it up again. Let it take care of itself now (18).

Well, that's one way to deal with a fear of mortality: Burn yourself out on preparing for death and dying won't seem nearly that big a deal when it happens. Too bad that doesn't seem to be the case for dear Granny.

When she was sixty she had felt very old, finished, and went around making farewell trips to see her children and grandchildren, with a secret in her mind: This is the very last of your mother, children! [. . .] That was all just a notion like a lot of other things, but it was lucky too, for she had once for all got over the idea of dying for a long time. Now she couldn't be worried (18).

Death? Whatevs. Granny is so over the whole death thing. . .or so she says. Are there other parts of the story that contradict her claim?

But there was Hapsy standing by the bed in a white cap. "Cornelia, tell Hapsy to take off her cap. I can't see her plain" (50).

There's kind of a pattern to Granny's hallucinations of Hapsy. Granny can never really seem to see her too clearly (she's described elsewhere as "grey gauze," remember?). What does this suggest?

She was so amazed her thoughts ran round and round. So, my dear Lord, this is my death and I wasn't even thinking about it (57).

Yeah, that's the thing about death, Granny: it doesn't really seem to care whether you were thinking about it or not. Pretty humbling.

My children have come to see me die. But I can't, it's not time. Oh, I always hated surprises. I wanted to give Cornelia the amethyst set—Cornelia, you're to have the amethyst set, but Hapsy's to wear it when she wants, and Doctor Harry, do shut up. Nobody sent for you (57).

You'd think dying might slow down or quiet Granny's barrage of thoughts, but it's quite the opposite: Once Granny figures out this is really it, her stream of consciousness is practically on steroids.

Oh, my dear Lord, do wait a minute. I meant to do something about the Forty Acres, Jimmy doesn't need it and Lydia will later on with that worthless husband of hers. I meant to finish the altar cloth and send six bottles of wine to Sister Borgia for her dyspepsia. I want to send six bottles of wine to Sister Borgia, Father Connolly, now don't let me forget (57).

Ha! It's funny to imagine the Lord stopping Death just so Granny can help out her nun friend with her indigestion. Why is Granny fixated on these little errands at the moment of her death?

Cornelia's voice made short turns and tilted over and crashed. "Oh, Mother, oh, Mother, oh, Mother. . ."
"I'm not going, Cornelia. I'm taken by surprise. I can't go." (58-59).

So it looks like Miss I'm-So-Over-Death isn't ready to check out after all. How come?

You'll see Hapsy again. What about her? "I thought you'd never come." Granny made a long journey outward, looking for Hapsy. What if I don't find her? What then? (60).

We really can't criticize this story for being too sentimental about death. Sure, Granny hopes that she'll see Hapsy again, but her fears that the happy reunion might not take place doesn't exactly leave us readers with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Her heart sank down and down, there was no bottom to death, she couldn't come to the end of it (60).

Hmmm. What do you think the phrases "there was no bottom to death" and "she couldn't come to the end of it" mean?

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