Study Guide

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Old Age

By Katherine Anne Porter

Old Age

"That's no way to speak to a woman nearly eighty years old just because she's down. I'd have you respect your elders, young man" (3).

Whoa, Granny sure puts Doctor Harry in his place. It's funny how Granny sometimes uses the title of elderly to her advantage like in this exchange with Dr. H., but in other places in the story she's totally not cool with being labeled "old."

"She was never like this, never like this!" "Well, what can we expect?" "Yes, eighty years old…" Well, and what if she was? She still had ears (9-10).

Ouch. Granny's awareness of what others are saying about her suggests that, ironically, having your faculties intact in old age can sometimes make things even harder. If you've still got a set of decent ears, you'll be painfully aware of other people's assumptions about your limitations.

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! (18)

Talk about morbid. Do you think this little farewell trip really helped Granny to get over the idea of death as she claims?

Her father had lived to be one hundred and two years old and had drunk a noggin of strong hot toddy on his last birthday. He told the reporters it was his daily habit, and he owed his long life to that. He had made quite a scandal and was very pleased about it (18).

It looks like feistiness runs in Granny's family. Granny's father shows that a dude of 102 can still have a few tricks up his sleeve. Maybe the line between young and old isn't quite as clear-cut as we sometimes think.

The thing that most annoyed her was that Cornelia thought she was deaf, dumb and blind. Little hasty glances and tiny gestures tossed around her and over her head saying, "Don't cross her, let her have her way, she's eighty years old," and she was sitting there as if she lived in a thin glass cage (24).

So Granny's got this idea that Cornelia thinks she's "deaf, dumb, and blind." The ironic and clever thing about this quote is that it shows that Granny gets this impression by paying attention to the subtleties of Cornelia's "little hasty glances and tiny gestures." This give us pretty good proof that she's actually super attuned to her surroundings and anything but deaf, dumb, and blind.

Sometimes Granny almost made up her mind to pack up and move back to her own house where nobody could remind her every minute that she was old (24).

Earlier in the story, Granny kind of embraces the fact that she's elderly, but here she's pretty strongly resisting the whole "old" label. What do you make of her contradictory feelings?

She wasn't too old yet for Lydia to be driving eighty miles for advice when one of the children jumped the track, and Jimmy still dropped in and talked things over: "Now, Mammy, you've a good business head, I want to know what you think of this?. . ." (42).

Granny may have missed her calling as a lawyer. She's pretty good at digging up evidence to refute the charge that she's senile. Even if it turns out her kids have just been humoring her by asking for all that advice, these moments of reasoning that we readers get to see make it impossible for us to simply dismiss Granny as someone who's lost all her marbles.

She used to think of [John] as a man, but now all the children were older than their father, and he would be a child beside her if she saw him now. It seemed strange and there was something wrong in the idea (25).

Yeah, that is a kind of weird thought Granny has about her long-deceased husband. Why exactly is this a freaky thing to imagine?

It was good to be strong enough for everything, even if all you made melted and changed and slipped under your hands, so that by the time you finished you almost forgot what you were working for. What was it I set out to do? She asked herself intently, but she could not remember (26).

Sounds like Granny's describing a senior moment. The phrase "melted and changed and slipped under your hands" suggests a sense of instability and disorientation that's curiously similar to the way Granny later describes being jilted.

"This is Doctor Harry, Mrs. Weatherall. I never saw you look so young and happy!" "Ah, I'll never be young again—but I'd be happy if they'd let me lie in peace and get rested." She thought she spoke up loudly, but no one answered (38-40).

Hey, we were just tricked. What's the effect of putting Granny's response to the doctor in quotation marks and then turning around to suggest that Granny didn't actually speak these words aloud?

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