Granny Weatherall thinks of herself first and foremost as a gritty survivor. She prides herself on her strength, mothering skills, and ability to run a household single-handedly. After the death of her husband, John, Granny turned herself into both mother and father to her children. When she speaks of her life, she mentions traditionally feminine tasks such as cooking; making clothes; gardening; and tending to sick people, animals, and women in labor. She also speaks of masculine jobs such as paying bills and digging post holes across one hundred acres of land. Granny’s last name, “Weatherall,” is significant: she has weathered all kinds of difficulties and can’t conceive of ever giving up the fight. Even when gravely ill, she tells herself that she’s not tired or dying and will be up and about and back to her old self in just a few days. Because she identifies herself as a strong, capable matriarch, it enrages Granny when her own children treat her like a child, humoring her and shooting meaningful glances at each other as if she can’t see them.
There are many attributes of Granny Weatherall’s personality that she’s not aware of—some endearing, some frustrating, and some tragic. She is a funny, wry woman, for example, who finds excessively good behavior annoying in everyone, including her children. She is also a smart woman, perceptive about people other than herself and capable of cracking jokes minutes before death. Her quips and observant remarks are largely unspoken because of her illness, but it is clear from her thoughts that she had a sharp, merciless tongue when she was in her prime. This sharpness often borders on unkindness, perhaps even cruelty. Granny is shamefully short-tempered with her daughter Cornelia, who clearly adores her mother and waits on her hand and foot. Granny’s life has been a hard one, and she has coped with it by repressing many of her most painful feelings and maintaining strict, almost obsessive control over everything from the harvesting of fruit to the placement of hairbrushes. She thinks of life as an unmade bed and herself as the only person who can make it properly.