The Usefulness of Denial
Granny Weatherall is a woman in deep denial about the basic truths of her life and character. She refuses to believe that she is dying and that she never got over the man who jilted her at the altar. The story opens with her insistence that Doctor Harry should run along and stop wasting his time on someone who is not actually sick. As the narrative progresses, Granny tells herself repeatedly that she had a wonderful life with John and has forgotten George completely. Of course, her fixation on George makes it plain that she hasn’t forgotten him at all, but she can’t admit this essential fact to herself. Granny also doesn’t see that she treats Cornelia harshly and won’t admit that she regrets certain aspects of her life. She won’t concede that her confusion is the result of her illness and not the fault of everyone around her.
Granny’s state of denial is both a handicap and a necessity. If self-knowledge is a goal worth pursuing, it is one that Granny fails to achieve before her death. She seems to know little about herself and how she has lived her life. In addition, Granny’s state of denial imposes hardships on those around her. It seems clear that her children have suffered at her hands. Because Granny won’t admit even to herself that she has been hard on them, they never get the satisfaction of an apology or at least an acknowledgment of her failings from her. At the same time, however, Granny’s deep-seated denial is what has enabled her to continue living, thrive, raise healthy children, and even save the lives of sick people and animals. She is not an inward-looking woman by nature, and it’s possible that any slip into self-analysis would plunge Granny into despair. By simply refusing to acknowledge the persistence of her pain and ignoring the fact that she is permanently broken-hearted, Granny has managed to put her head down and soldier through her life.