Writing Assignment on

Katherine Anne Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall"

If you need to, review the general instructions for Writing Assignments.

For a photograph of the author, check out the links for the course.  There is also an essay by Porter on piece of American history that citizens today should know about, which will give you an idea of part of the framework of values from which Porter approached life.

You should work through the Study Guide to the story before attempting to do the writing assignment that follows.

Write your paper on one of the following topics.

Topic A.  What are we to make of the very end of the story.  Reread carefully the final two paragraphs.  What is Granny Weatherall looking for?  Does she get what she expects?  (Explain what leads us to the answer you give.)

Topic B.  The story shifts back and forth among Granny's perception of her present external surroundings, her private thoughts about these events, her memories of the past (versions of events often, apparently, reshaped from what they might actually have been in fact), and fantasies about the future.  In all of these modes, the reader is given the feeling of being immediately immersed in the flow of the protagonist's consciousness - her thoughts and feelings as they follow upon one another by association.  (This kind of narrative point of view has come to be called "stream of consciousness.")  Under these conditions, we (like the character herself) have to construct our idea of what is going on outside her immediate experience from details the emerge within that experience.  Sometimes we as readers are led to follow the implications of leads that Granny herself, given her mental state, never stops to question in any extended way.  

In other words, a story like this proposes a specific sort of game to the reader, namely, to experience the story (at least in reflection or rereading) simultaneously on several levels at once.  We are invited both to identify with Granny Weatherall (to imagine and take on as if it were our own the experiences she is undergoing) and to attend to aspects of the overall situation to which she herself is only dimly aware if not outright oblivious to.  Some of these facts have to do with what is going on in the room around her.  Some on the other hand have to do with what is going on deep within her, in her own "unconscious."  Both of these situations we as readers have to construct in our imaginations on the basis of the direct evidence, which is confined to Granny's memories, fantasies, and incomplete perceptions of what is going on around and within her.

Devote your essay to spelling out some of the important insights you arrive at when you play this game.  Confine your attention, however, to one of the following:

Topic B-1.  Discuss some of the ways in which Porter indicates to us that Granny is trying not to be aware of certain things, i.t., is working to repress consciousness of them.  You might mention a number of these, explain what they have in common, and then focus the rest of your discussion on showing how Porter arranges things to tip the reader off to their presence in moments when they have not risen directly into Granny's awareness.

Topic B-2.  Summarize what we can infer of what Cornelia's relationship with her mother has been like and of what her experience is during the "present" of the story, i.e., while her mother is dying.  How much is she aware of what Granny is thinking?  Of what sorts of things in her mother's train of thought and feeling on this day is she probably not aware?  (Do you think she would nevertheless be aware of them in general?)  How would her experience of this day be different if she were privvy to everything we as readers are?

  Consult the Study Guide to this story before attempting this writing assignment.

  You may also wish to review the general instructions on writing assignments.

  Suggestions are welcome.  Please send your comments to lyman@ksu.edu .

   Contents copyright 1999, 2004 by Lyman A. Baker

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  This page last updated 03 September 2004