Katherine Anne Porter’s The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Katherine Anne Porter’s The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Katherine Anne Porter’s The Jilting of Granny Weatherall is a short story from her collection, Flowering Judas and Other Stories, which was written and published in the year 1930. Porter’s refused to write about the appealing fiction stories published in magazines and newspaper articles instead focused on the valuable experience using Granny Weatherall as a reflection of her grandmother portraying her as a robust matriarchal type which bared resemblance to her grandmother. This is because Porter’s strongest influence while growing up was her grandmother. This is evident in several writings that she indulged in portraying grandmotherly protagonists. Granny faced humiliations and heartbreaks, such as having left on the altar by her fiancé but managed to stand and led a very successful life as a mother, and caregiver. Therefore, Porter’s The Jilting of Granny Weatherall illustrates the plight of women in the 1920s of the American society as Granny Weatherall demonstrates it.

The 1920s American society was characterized by an awakening for women as their rights and freedom were recognized in the society. The role of women, therefore, took a massive leap as more responsibilities were channeled their way, including the right to vote. It led to the creation of new women and drew a line that distinguished the traditionalists and the older generation with the reformed and modern woman (“Women In The 1920S: Changing Roles and Famous Women). The “new women” challenged the previous traditions that had enchained women throughout history, including fashions and personal freedom.

Moreover, the lives of African American women changed drastically following the influence of the Harlem Renaissance and the change from rural to urban experiences in the big cities. During this era, the women’s culture, including the black women, took a step ahead and embraced other cultures, including creative arts, music, theatrical and literary, whereby participants sorted in conceptualizing the Negro apart from the white stereotypes (“Women In The 1920S: Changing Roles and Famous Women).

The 1920s women were stronger and bold in taking risks, as demonstrated by Granny, whereby, even though her husband, John, died, she stepped up and became the sole provider of the family. Granny pushed herself into maintaining her livelihood and the family at large. This testament validated the remarkable strength that women possess, especially in the face of injustice and personal tragedies. Granny recalls her worst breakup with her fiancé, George, who left her on the alter 60 years ago (Porter). Her breakup made her overcome the ordeal all by herself, indicating the strength that women hold. The incident made her feel like “the whole bottom dropped out of the world,” but she had not drowned rather held her head high and thrived. However, she carried the pain of the jilting memory of George, and in her deathbed, she wished to see him show him what she had accomplished.

The decade between 1920 and 1930 witnessed an increase in divorce rate per year as women felt the need to be independent and eventually remarry for someone better than the previous relationship. This was demonstrated by the jilting of the Granny whereby she married John, after she was left in the altar by her fiancé, whom they lived a happy life and had children as well as a family together.

Nonetheless, Granny’s role as a mother, caregiver, and a wife demonstrated the roles of women in the 1920s in the American society that remained on the traditional roles of a housewife. She stayed at home and raised her children well with respect and morals. She prides herself on embracing these traditions while rising above and beyond them. She knew that she was not like “just any other women” as she was determined in rebuilding her life with her husband John and proved to him and herself that the world would continue with or without him (Porter). Therefore, she excelled in motherly roles and be regards it as a massive part of her life success. She never raised weak children and was hard on them, which shaped their future. They respected and obeyed her for what she was and had become. Her children stood by her at her bedside, showing how much they loved her even though she was tough.

Moreover, the attitude and role of women changed after the Second World War, for they took on the jobs that were previously performed by men. The influence and expectations of women in society changed drastically during the decade of 1920s. These expectations were reflected in Granny, who offered wisdom and advice to her children. She brags that her daughter Lydia drove “eight miles” for advice on how she would manage her children, especially when her children jumped the track. She indulged in business and excelled at it even after her husband’s death. She gives her son, Jimmy, advice on how to run the business even at her old age.

Also, Granny was a selfless woman who uplifted other women in society. She was a midwife by trade; thus, she not only cared for other women but also cared for her children and other women’s children. As she laid on her deathbed, she reflects on one time when she fenced 100 acres of land where she dug postholes and clamping the wires with just a farm boy (Porter). This was previously the role of men to the fence and took care of the garden and the compound. However, Granny could not wait for men to uplift her; instead took matters on her hands and performed tasks efficiently with little or no help. Her role as a breadwinner and a mother at the same time unraveling. This shows that she had been an exceptionally strong woman, both professional and personal life, which earned her respect from other people.

The Granny played a significant role in her son’s life as she gave advice and direction both in business and family. She was the kind of person who planned and believed that it’s essential to keep the house clean and orderly. She had been ready for death for over 20 years but considered her longevity is associated with her father, who lived more than 10 decades (Porter). She is very keen and notices the mistakes that people make under the impression that she will not see. She considered herself a better housekeeper and a hard worker than her daughter Cornella. Even with her age, she still believes that she is young enough for her children to come for advice. This overshadowing and sense of authority reinforce the strict gender equality that sprouted in the early 20th century. She imagines showing John, her late husband, how the children eventually turned out and knew that John would appreciate her.

Granny believed in the existence of God and thanked him for the help. She is proud of her strength and determination that God had granted her. She says, “Without Thee, my God, I could never have done it.” However, at the end of the story, she asked God for a sign that would indicate that she is approaching death, but she did not receive it (Porter). She felt that once again, she has been abandoned just the same way she was left in the altar by George, equating him as a bridegroom who once again has failed to be by her side in the time of death. This indicates the struggle that women were going through in the time of change as women demanded more rights and assurance that were yet to come.

 

 

References

“Women in the 1920S: Changing Roles and Famous Women. American-Historama.Org, 2017, http://www.american-historama.org/1913-1928-ww1-prohibition-era/women-in-the-1920s.htm.

Porter, Katherine Ann. The Jilting Of Granny Weatherall: Flowering Judas and Other Stories. 1930, pp. 80-89.

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