The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Katherine Anne Porter's The Jilting of Granny Weatherall. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter was born Callie Russel Porter. Her mother died when Katherine was only two years old, and after her death, the family moved to live with her father’s mother, Catherine Anne Porter. She died when Katherine was eleven, and a few years later, Katherine legally changed her own name to Katherine Anne Porter. Her grandmother was clearly very important to the young Katherine, and “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” is not the only story of hers to feature a grandmother figure. The misfortune of her childhood seemed to follow Katherine throughout her life. She was married at only sixteen to an abusive husband, John Henry Koontz. She converted to his religion, Roman Catholicism, but they were divorced in 1915 and she turned against religion shortly afterwards. Porter would marry three more times throughout her life, but all would end in divorce. Following her first divorce, Porter became very ill. It was thought that she had tuberculosis, but it turned out to be bronchitis. She spent two years recovering, before being struck down again by the 1918 flu pandemic. She survived, but she came very close to dying, and this experience is also reflected in “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Porter was all too familiar with the experience of not only of losing relatives to death, but of being frighteningly close to death herself. She also tragically lost several children, suffering multiple miscarriages. Despite her misfortune, Porter did enjoy great success in her writing career.  Flowering Judas and Other Stories, her first short story collection, was published in 1930 to great critical and public acclaim, and her later novel Ship of Fools was an even bigger commercial success. Her stories were adapted for radio and film, and in 1966 she received both the Pulitzer Prize and the U. S. National Book Award. She was also nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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Historical Context of The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” is a fairly timeless story, given that the narrative swings constantly back and forth between present and past, and old men become children just as suddenly as old women become their daughters. Nevertheless, the story depends a lot on its historical context. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, a particularly lethal pandemic that infected 500 million people—including Porter—provided her with a very close-hand experience of death. The short story form in itself also owed a lot to the era. The rise of magazine culture since the late nineteenth century revolutionized the form in the U.S. in particular, with early proponents such as Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry driving its popularity. These earlier short stories were characterized by a “twist” or surprise ending. With the rise of Modernism in the early twentieth century, which was in many ways a reaction to the horrors of World War One, authors sought to look inside the minds of their characters. The modern short story was less about the twist ending and more about the “epiphany” moment of its protagonist. By 1929, at the time of writing “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” the modern short story was a well-established form, and Porter in fact first published her story in transition magazine, a Modernist magazine based in Paris. Porter uses Granny’s epiphany at the end of the story (when she is jilted for a second time) to powerfully drive home her message about the futility of life and the strength of her female protagonist.

Other Books Related to The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Katherine Anne Porter can be placed alongside many different areas of literature. As a Southern female short story writer, it is easy to compare her to Flannery O’Connor, whose stories, such as A Good Man is Hard to Find, also often deal with darker themes of death, and with Roman Catholicism. Porter can also be positioned in the Modernist tradition, which was in full swing in the 1920s. She is not as overtly modern as contemporaries like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, but her use of stream of consciousness and uncertain perspective in “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” certainly echoes the style of, for instance, Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, or Katherine Mansfield’s “Bliss.” Perhaps a less obvious comparison can be made with Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz­­ – when I died.” In this poem, Dickinson’s protagonist is also on their deathbed, and like Granny, gains an acute sense of clarity because of this. The spiritual and the earthly mingle together, and then just before the protagonist dies, Dickinson focuses in on the buzzing of a single fly. The mundane details of earth seem to get in the way even of death, just as is the case in Porter’s story. Porter’s own story “The Source” is also quite similar in subject matter to “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” In this story, another grandmother figure tries to keep her life ordered and controlled in the face of her decreasing health. The repetitive pattern of the story, as the grandmother moves back and forth between town and country, contrasts with the lineal decline of the old woman, just as the contrasting images of birth and death in “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” serve as reminders of the cyclical nature of life in the face of Granny’s own decline.
Key Facts about The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
  • Full Title: The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
  • When Written: 1929
  • When Published: 1929
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: The deathbed of Granny, probably in the American South
  • Climax: Granny’s death and “jilting” by God, at the very end of the story
  • Antagonist: George
  • Point of View: Third person limited (stream of consciousness)

Extra Credit for The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Famous Family. The renowned short story writer O. Henry was actually Porter’s father’s second cousin. His real name was William Sidney Porter.

A New ‘Do. After she recovered from the Spanish flu in 1918, Porter’s hair, which she had lost during her illness, grew back completely white. It would remain that way for the rest of her life.