George is the man who jilted Granny Weatherall, abandoning her at the altar on what was to be their wedding day when she was twenty. She eventually married another man, had a family, and convinced herself that she had put the pain of being “jilted” behind her. However, she kept letters from George in her attic all her life, and sixty years later his memory still has the power to upset her.
Hapsy is the youngest and apparently the favorite of Granny Weatherall’s daughters—”the one she had truly wanted.” Yet Hapsy also seems to cause her mother the greatest disappointment. Granny Weatherall asks for Hapsy five times during the story, but Hapsy never comes to her mother’s deathbed. In her delirious state of mind, Granny mistakes her other daughters, Cornelia and Lydia, for Hapsy. At one point, Granny seems to confuse even herself with Hapsy, as a memory of Hapsy holding a baby comes back to her: Granny “seemed to herself to be Hapsy also, and the baby on Hapsy’s arm was Hapsy and himself and herself, all at once, and there was no surprise in the meeting.” Some critics have interpreted this memory of Hapsy as the sign of salvation that Granny seems to be looking for throughout the story.
John is the man whom Granny Weatherall married and with whom she had children. He has been dead for a long time, and though Granny still feels close to him, she is also aware of having gone through many changes since she lived with him.
See Granny Weatherall
Ellen Weatherall is a strong-willed eighty-year-old woman on her deathbed. Having raised a large family, she still desires to play an active role in her own affairs and those of her children. Bedridden in her daughter Cornelia’s house, she is often snappish and rude as she slips in and out of lucidity during visits from members of her family, a doctor, and a priest. Readers learn that some twenty years earlier, feeling old at age sixty, she had made what she had thought would be her final visits to her children and grandchildren: “She had spent so much time preparing for death there was no need for bringing it up again.” As death approaches this time, however, memories of loss and disappointment resurface and remain unresolved.
As a young woman, Ellen Weatherall was jilted, abandoned at the altar by a fiance named George. She overcame this setback and eventually married another man. Yet, on her deathbed, remembering these defining moments in her life brings back feelings of self-doubt and regret. Granny Weatherall feels “jilted” once again at the end of the story—perhaps because her favorite daughter, Hapsy, has not shown up at her bedside, and perhaps also because she has become aware of a more profound absence in her spiritual life.
Kathleen Wilson (Editor), Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 1, Katherine Anne Porter, Published by Gale, 1997.