“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” is an excellent introduction into the literary technique known as “stream of consciousness” for the uninitiated. Stream of consciousness is a device by which the writer provides not just a description of the actions or even just a description of the thoughts of a character, but a means of gaining entry into the conscious process of how a character thinks, the unconscious flow of thoughts beyond the conscious awareness of a character or both.
In this short story, author Katherine Anne Porter uses this technique to jump back and forth in time through the use of flashbacks and jumps back to the present through sudden shifts in the topic of Granny’s thought. Authors such as James Joyce and William Faulkner experiment with the technique by often taking the concept of presenting a character’s thoughts to the extreme which means lack of familiar punctuation and no readily apparent way of determining what may be taking place in the present and what is a memory.
What makes “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” such an easier introduction to stream of consciousness is Porter’s willingness to make entry into the story more accessible by the use of triggers that come to form a motif which helps to situate the reader as to whether they are in the present with Granny or back in the past taking place inside her mind. For instance, shifts in time and place often coincide with the introduction or disappearance of dialogue between characters.
Aside from the literary experimentation, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” can be enjoyed as an especially insightful and prescient offering from a member of literature’s Lost Generation which foretells the coming paradoxical fragmentation of the traditional family dynamic in post-Eisenhower Interstate System America.