Through a technique of stream-of-consciousness in which the past and the present become intermingled, Granny Weatherall’s finest moments of life serve ultimately to reveal details about the defining moment of her long life. Her children have gathered around her bed for the death watch and provide witness to the minor forward progression of the narrative from the point at which the reader enters. One can argue that in her final moments, Granny Weatherall’s thoughts turning back to the day her finance George jilted her at the altar are not necessarily what she wants to be recalling as eternity lingers before her. Indeed, there is the distinct sense that Granny Weatherall is not entirely in control of her dying recollections.
The twilight state existing between the conscious world and the unconscious allow Granny’s mind to wander and create the space necessary for the past to become confused with the present. The attending physician exits and Granny is soon taking thorough stock of her life. The present reaches back to remind her of another time in the past when death seem near and how in her ignorance of the tidiness of life at odds with the unfamiliarity of death moved her to waste time in preparation for the coming end. The end did not come, however, and so Granny is moved to consider the sheer volume of food that she cooked and clothes that she cleaned and gardens she tended. Ultimately, her late husband is asked a pointed question by Granny about whether or not she did too badly, all things considered.
Then, almost like an intruder peeking into her coffin, the memory arrives of her jilting. Granny’s head rests against the pillow but heart and mind are sent back through time to relive that awful day when the cake was as white as the veil. Neither cake nor veil would ever be lifted by the intended groom, however, because he never showed up. She spent the next sixty years in a concerted effort to forget him and never allow his memory to enter back into her mind, but the time has come to settle a score with George. She informs the groom who might have been her husband that she did get a husband and children and a home just the same. Even so, Granny seems to exist so much in the moment of being jilted that she explodes with the realization that George’s cowardly act resulted in entire world just falling away beneath her and from her.
As the dividing line between the present and the past blurs to the point that it even becomes difficult to tell the difference between who is alive and who is dead, Granny Weatherall’s life is just minutes from ending. The priest arrives and administers the last rights. Sight and sound fuse together to create a bizarre netherworld in which the past and present exist simultaneously. She reaches and grabs the thumb of her son, instantly recognizing that death won’t pass her by this time. She silently requests some kind of sign from God that will provide relief about the existence of the afterlife. But no sign is forthcoming.
At just the moment she needs to know God is beside her more than ever, she has been jilted once again.