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The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Katherine Ann Porter




“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” an essentially plotless story, takes its form from Granny’s meandering thoughts, which leap back and forth in time. Porter uses this rather loose structure first and foremost to entertain us. Porter challenges herself by writing a story set entirely in bed but creating a structure that follows the twists and turns of the protagonist’s thoughts, Porter transcends the physical limits of the story’s setting. Although the actual events of the story never stray beyond Granny Weatherall’s bed, Granny’s mind wanders everywhere, taking her and us to all of the most important and dramatic events in her life. We come to understand Granny’s rich, complicated life, which was full of both success and frustration.

Porter’s timeless structure also creates a compelling portrait of the disintegration of a dying woman’s mind. When the story begins, the structure is fairly conventional. People have logical conversations and the narration unfolds chronologically. This straightforward structure reflects the sanity of Granny’s mind. As Granny begins to deteriorate, however, the structure of the story deteriorates with her. The narrator’s remarks no longer correlate to what the characters are saying, for example. Instead of proceeding chronologically, the narration darts back and forth from the present moment to years long past. Finally, we’re no longer sure of who is speaking, whether we’re reading thoughts or spoken dialogue, which characters are in the room with Granny, or how her thoughts connect and lead to one another. By the end of the story, the structure has shifted from conventional to something approaching surrealistic, a change that reflects Granny’s progressive descent into death.

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