Porter’s strongest female influence while growing up was her grandmother, and several of her stories, including “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” feature a strong grandmotherly protagonist. Granny was able to face the humiliation and heartbreak of having her fiancé jilt her at the altar and still go on to lead a very successful life as wife, mother, and caregiver. Even after her later (and kinder) husband John dies, Granny pushes herself on to maintain her livelihood and family. Ultimately, Porter’s story is a testament to the remarkable strength of women, especially in the face of injustice or personal tragedy.
When George abandoned Granny at the altar sixty years ago, she was left to overcome the ordeal by herself. Even though she had felt as though “the whole bottom dropped out of the world,” she “had not fallen.” She held her head up high and carried on with her life, despite the continual pain of the memory of her jilting. Before Granny dies, she claims that “she would like to see George,” so that she can show him that she “had [her] husband just the same and [her] children and [her] house just like any other woman.” Granny prides herself on having upheld these traditional roles, but she has also gone above and beyond them. She has not been “just like any other woman,” because she has been so determined to re-build her life after George, and to prove to herself that she didn’t need him.
Granny was clearly very successful as a mother, and she regards this as a big part of her success in life. She may have been tough, but all of her children gather around her bedside as she dies, so they are obviously attached to her and respect her. Granny’s daughter Lydia drove “eighty miles for advice” when one of her own children “jumped the track,” and her son, Jimmy, still asked her for business advice even in her old age. Granny was also a midwife by trade, so not only did she care for her own children, but she also helped other mothers with their own. She also remembers how she once fenced one hundred acres of land, “digging the postholes herself and clamping the wires” with the help of only one boy. In other words, Granny has been an exceptionally strong woman in both her personal and professional life, and it seems like people respect her for this. Perhaps Porter was trying to illustrate the type of woman that she herself was hoping to emulate in the face of her second divorce (which she was still recovering from at the time), as well as the type of woman that her own grandmother was.
Though Granny is proud of her strength and determination, she also believes that God (a traditionally male figure) is ultimately responsible for these qualities. She says directly to God, “without Thee, my God, I could never have done it.” At the end of the story, however, Granny asks for a sign from God to reassure her in the face of her approaching death, but he does not give her one. Just as George, her first bridegroom, failed to be there for her on their wedding day, God, another bridegroom of sorts, fails to be there for her at her death. She is left in a situation in which, once again, she has been abandoned and has to look after herself. Yet once again she manages this. The story closes with Granny blowing “out the light” of her own life, taking matters into her own hands once she has been abandoned by God. Her steely will has not failed her, even in death.
Ultimately, Granny Weatherall is portrayed as a credit to her name: she has weathered all that life has to throw at her, and stayed resolvedly strong until the end. Even when she is abandoned by God in her dying moments, she is able to pick herself up and die with dignity, on her own terms, acting as a testament to Porter’s affirmation of the strength of women.
Female Strength ThemeTracker
Female Strength Quotes in The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
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.”
Things were finished somehow when the time came; thank God there was always a little margin over for peace: then a person could spread out the plan of life and tuck in the edges orderly. It was good to have everything clean and folded away, with the hair bushes and tonic bottles sitting straight on the white embroidered linen.
While she was rummaging around she found death in her mind and it felt clammy and unfamiliar. She had spent so much time preparing for death there was no need for bringing it up again. Let it take care of itself now. When she was sixty she had felt very old, finished […] she made her will and came down with a long fever. 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.
Little things, little things! They had been so sweet when they were little. Granny wished the old days were back again with the children young.
Why, he couldn’t possibly recognize her. She had fenced in a hundred acres once, digging the post holes herself and clamping the wires with just a negro boy to help. That changed a woman. John would be looking for a young woman with the peaked Spanish comb in her hair and the painted fan. Digging post holes changed a woman.
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.
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. […] 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.