Study Guide

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Women and Femininity

By Katherine Anne Porter

Women and Femininity

Doctor Harry spread a warm paw like a cushion on her forehead where the forked green vein danced and made her eyelids twitch. "Now, now, be a good girl, and we'll have you up in no time."
"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" (2-3).

Doctor Harry may just be joking around, but Granny seriously objects to being called a girl (We would too). Granny is quick to correct Doctor Harry that she is a woman (hear her roar).

[Cornelia] was always being tactful and kind. Cornelia was dutiful; that was the trouble with her. Dutiful and good; "So good and dutiful," said Granny, "that I'd like to spank her." She saw herself spanking Cornelia and making a fine job of it (10).

Cornelia seems to conform to traditional expectations of how women should act by being "tactful and kind" as well as "dutiful and good." Granny's disapproval of those qualities suggests that she is totally not down with conventional gender roles.

She lay and drowsed, hoping in her sleep that the children would keep out and let her rest a minute. It had been a long day. Not that she was tired. It was always pleasant to snatch a minute now and then. There was always so much to be done, let me see: tomorrow (16).

It sounds like Granny didn't get the memo that she's not the mother of young kids anymore. What does the fact that these kinds of thoughts are still running through her head suggest?

In her day she had kept a better house [than Cornelia] and had got more work done (25).

Somebody better crown Granny 'Domestic Goddess of the Century.' Although we have plenty of evidence elsewhere that Granny defies traditional gender roles, she can't seem to shake the belief that a woman's value is at least partly tied to the frequency with which she dusts and vacuums.

[Granny] 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).

A mother's work is never done—and that seems to be a good thing for Granny since she clearly bases a lot of her self-worth on being needed by her children.

Granny wished the old days were back again with the children young and everything to be done over. It had been a hard pull, but not too much for her. When she thought of all the food she had cooked, and all the clothes she had cut and sewed, and all the gardens she had made—well, the children showed it. There they were, made out of her, and she couldn't get away from that (25).

The repetition of the word "all" here really emphasizes just how much of Granny's time, energy, and life has been devoted to the activities involved in mothering her children. It's no wonder she can't seem to shut off her "Mom Brain" in other parts of the story.

[Granny] had fenced in a hundred acres once, digging the post holes herself and clamping the wires with just a n**** boy to help. That changed a woman [. . .] Digging post holes changed a woman (25).

So this is an interesting little piece of background: Granny's life wasn't all about ironing her husband's shirts and changing diapers. What do you think Granny means when she says digging post holes changed a woman?

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).

Forget crying and devouring ten pints of Ben & Jerry's. Granny's reaction to being dumped shows that she isn't the type to let herself totally fall apart over a guy. Or at least that's what she thinks.

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. Tell him I was given back everything he took away and more (42).

Maybe Granny's efforts to be Supermom had a little something to do with (consciously or unconsciously) proving something to George rather than being the product of some crazy "maternal instinct."

[. . .] Father Connolly murmured Latin in a very solemn voice and tickled her feet. My God, will you stop that nonsense? I'm a married woman (56).

Aww, how sweet. Granny's husband has been dead for a long time and she still thinks of herself as a married woman. It just goes to show how much of Granny's identity is tied to her roles as wife and mother.

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