Katherine Anne Porter, the author of “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, uses a lot of symbolism to convey the theme of life and death. For example, her hallucinations seem to foreshadow her ultimate demise while reflecting on her past, and the protagonist’s very last name hints at the weathered life she’s lived and how she may be ready for her death. But none of these uses of symbolism are as pertinent or as subtle as Porter’s use of light and darkness in this story. The use of these symbols is very much meant to convey the approaching of death (through darkness) and the life she’s led and the little she maintains (through light).
“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” is a very fascinating story of one woman and her last day before her death, and how she tackles the imminent departure that creeps in as the story progresses. We get to witness what she is thinking about, her memories, her regrets, and as subtle as they are, they give us a very vivid picture of who this woman exactly is. We see that her fiancé George left her at the altar; then, later, her husband John dies, and she is very resentful of these things. Granny Weatherall is being taken care of by her daughter Cornelia as well as the doctor whom Granny doesn’t trust because of his youthful look. This story is written as stream of consciousness, which means that often times memories and events seem jumbled with the narrative and perspective. This could seem nonsensical upon first reading, but after digging deeper it becomes clear there is a method to Porter’s madness in writing this way. Her use of light and dark in the story is one of these clever motifs that thread throughout thes tory to remind us of the death that is approaching our protagonist and the life that is far behind her.
The first use of light and dark in “Granny Weatherall” occurs when the doctor first leaves her room, and Granny drifts to sleep. “Her eyes closed of themselves, it was like a dark curtain drawn around the bed” (Page 344). This symbolizes the creeping shadow that is starting to surround her. The “dark curtain” symbolizes death, closing in around her against her will—“eyes closed of themselves.” This marks the beginning of her slow transition from life to death. But she awakens to the sound of Cornelia and the doctor talking about her and continues to fade in and out of reality.
But Porter does not only use darkness to symbolize death, but uses light to symbolize the beauty of life and living. For example, Granny has a brief vision of death creeping as a fog, an “army of ghosts”, then she says this peculiar statement: “Soon it would be at the near edge of the orchard, and then it was time to go in and light the lamps” (paragraph 26, p. 346). Death is almost upon her, and possibly a new life awaits her. The aspect of fog also hints at uncertainty, and her fear of what comes after death. She recalls the time she lit the lamps around her home with her children, who watched, and their eyes “followed the match and watched the flame rise and settle in a blue curve, then they moved away from her”(paragraph 27). This statement has a very poetic and symbolic meaning. Granny is remembering the time she had with her kids, at what feels like the happiest time of her life. The flame settling into a “blue curve” seems to invoke a youthful feel, that this was the most vibrant period for her, and the proceeding departure of her kids marks the downward decent in happiness for her. The color blue indicates that youthfulness, when life is at its fullest. It is the most intense part of a flame, as well. The blue “curve” symbolizes that transition from her kids needing her to them becoming independent. Aside from that memory—or hallucination—of her happiest time in life, Granny is very discontent and unhappy with the rest of it.
The idea of light connected to her children reappears in paragraph 50 when she has a hazy recollection of her kids: “So there was nothing to worry…