Porter uses dialogue to show that a gulf separates what we wish to say from what we’re actually able to say. Granny is full of rage at the way her doctor patronizes her, for example, but she can’t find the right words to express her anger. Her dialogue merely sounds querulous and complaining, and no one takes her seriously. Granny’s inadequate words can’t capture the passion and complexity of her thoughts, so they are dismissed or shrugged off. Porter’s use of dialogue serves an instructive purpose. We are forced to realize that when we hear people use clichés—such as Granny’s “respect your elders, young man”—we shouldn’t ignore the speaker entirely. Well-worn expressions, meandering remarks, and general inarticulateness may mask intense feelings and complex thoughts.
As Granny’s condition worsens, she can no longer understand those around her or make them understand her. Granny knows that Cornelia is speaking to her but can’t hear the words coming from Cornelia’s mouth. Here, Porter uses the absence of dialogue to show Granny’s isolation. Not only does Granny fail to grasp what Cornelia says, but she also fails to express herself. Granny’s mind teems with thoughts and last requests, but she can’t articulate any of them. She makes caustic, funny jokes about Doctor Harry, and those at her bedside understand only that she is trying to say something, without understanding what it is. In another moment of failed communication, she insists that everyone leave her alone so that she can rest but realizes that she didn’t actually speak her request aloud as she thought she had. In the final moments of life, the inadequacy of language leaves Granny deeply and tragically alone with her thoughts.
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