Sick in bed, Granny Weatherall is being visited by Doctor Harry, a man whom she considers little more than a child. Saying there is nothing wrong with her, Granny orders the doctor to leave. He speaks in a condescending tone to her, even after she snaps at him. Granny reminds him that she’s survived more serious sicknesses before he was even born. Closing her eyes, Granny feels as if she is in a hammock. She hears the doctor and one of her daughters, Cornelia, talking about Granny’s illness. It annoys her that they are talking about her when she is within earshot. Cornelia’s goodness also irritates Granny, who says aloud that she would enjoy spanking Cornelia.
Granny thinks about what she has to do tomorrow. She believes it’s important to keep the house clean and orderly. She decides that she must hide her letters that George and John had written her. Granny thinks about death, which she prepared herself for twenty years ago, when she felt that the end of her life was near. Her father, who lived until he was 102, attributed his longevity to his daily hot toddy, a liquor made from tree sap. Granny asks for a hot toddy and then snaps at Cornelia. It irritates Granny terribly to think that Cornelia is humoring her. She hates the small gestures people make when under the mistaken impression that she won’t notice them.
Granny considers herself a better housekeeper and harder worker than Cornelia. She’s still young enough for her children to come to her for advice. She longs for the old days, when her children were small. She imagines showing John how well the children turned out. They are older now than John was when he died. After his death, Granny changed. She had to fence in acres of land and act as a midwife and nurse. She thinks John would appreciate the way she kept nearly all her patients alive. She remembers lighting the lamps when her children were young. She recalls how they stood close to her, moving away once the frightening dark had been dissipated. Granny thanks God for his help and begins to say the Hail Mary. She then thinks about the necessity of picking all the fruit and not letting any go to waste.
Granny feels as if her pillow is suffocating her. She remembers the day she was supposed to get married for the first time. Her groom, George, never came to the church. She can’t separate the idea of hell from the memory of George. She admonishes herself not to let her “wounded vanity” overpower her. Cornelia comes in and presses a cold cloth to Granny’s forehead and comments that everyone will arrive at the house soon. Confused, Granny asks whether they are going to have a party for someone’s birthday. Doctor Harry arrives. Granny protests that she just saw him five minutes ago, but Cornelia says that it’s now night. Granny makes a witty retort, but when no one answers, she realizes she must not have spoken aloud. The doctor gives her an injection.
Granny thinks about Hapsy, the daughter she wants to see the most, and imagines seeing Hapsy holding a baby and greeting her. Cornelia asks if there is anything she wants to say or anything Cornelia can do. Granny wants to see George and tell him that she’s forgotten him and has had a rich life. She wants him to know that she has everything he took from her. As she thinks these thoughts, however, it occurs to her that there’s something she’s still missing. A terrible pain cuts through her. She imagines that she’s in labor and must send John for the doctor. She believes that after she gives birth to this last baby, she will regain her strength.
Cornelia says that Father Connolly has arrived. Granny thinks about the priest, who cares as much about tea and chatting as he does about the state of her soul and who often tells humorous stories about an Irishman confessing his sins. Granny is not concerned about her soul. She believes that her favorite saints will surely usher her into heaven. She thinks again of her first wedding day when her whole world crumbled and the priest caught her before she fell. He promised to kill George, but she told him not to. Granny thinks about herself and John comforting the children when they had nightmares and about Hapsy getting ready to deliver her baby. She looks at the room and sees a picture of John in which his eyes, which were blue, have been made to look black. She remembers that the man who made the picture called it a perfect copy, but she said it wasn’t a picture of her husband. On the bedside table, Granny sees a candle, crucifix, and light with a blue lampshade. The lampshade looks ridiculous to Granny. Seeing a glow around Doctor Harry, Granny jokes that he looks like a saint, which is the closest he’ll ever come to being one. No one understands what she said.
Granny imagines getting into a cart beside a man she knows. Up ahead, she sees trees and hears birds “singing a Mass.” She holds her rosary while Father Connolly speaks Latin in a tone that strikes Granny as melodramatic. She imagines that he’s tickling her feet. She thinks again of George. She hears thunder and sees lightning. She thinks Hapsy has arrived, but it is Lydia. Jimmy is there too. Granny realizes that she’s dying. She feels surprised and unready. She thinks of small, last-minute advice and instructions she wants to give. Aloud, Granny tells Cornelia that she can’t go yet. Granny worries about what will happen if she can’t find Hapsy. She looks for a sign from God, but none comes. This absence is the worst sorrow of all, and she feels she has been jilted again. She dies.