A Story About The Ten Bridesmaids in The Jilting Of Granny Weatherall
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Jesus tells a parable about ten bridesmaids who are supposed to use their lamps to light the way for the bridegroom of a wedding. Five are foolish and only bring the oil already in the lamps, and the other five are wise enough to bring extra oil. The bridegroom is delayed, so they all take a nap. At midnight, a shout comes: “Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and welcome him!”(Matthew 25:6b). They all leap up to prepare their lamps, but the foolish ones’ lamps start to go out. The wise do not have enough oil for all of them, so the foolish have to run to a store to buy some oil. While they are gone, the bridegroom arrives, so when they finally return, they are locked out of the marriage feast. They call to the watchman to let them in, but he says he does not know them. Jesus finishes the story with this moral: “So stay awake and be prepared, because you do not know the day or hour of my return”(Matthew 25:13). In “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” Katherine Anne Porter shows the implications of this parable, all the while intermingling allusions to the parable’s subject matter.
Granny Weatherall prepares for death about twenty years earlier than it actually comes to her. This is symbolic of arriving to light the way in the evening, thinking the bridegroom will come sooner than he actually does. Because she has already had to keep waiting after this false alarm, she assumes she is prepared whenever her time really comes: “She had spent so much time preparing for death there was no need for bringing it up again”(1164). The idea of death does not bother her anymore because she is not entirely convinced that it could come at any time, including the present. Even if it did plan on taking her that day, she figures she is plenty ready for it. She is sure she has enough oil in her lamp.
The next obvious allusion to the parable is found in the midst of Granny Weatherall’s memories. She recalls “lighting the lamps” that would comfort her children so they could feel safe letting go of her (1165). It foreshadows the coming time when her children would really have to let go of their mother. The actual memory does not have much relevance in relation to the parable, but it gives the reader a clue that it is time for Granny to light her lamp. The bridegroom is on his way.
As Granny Weatherall becomes more aware of her situation, she realizes her lamp is a bit low on oil. She remembers a whole list of things she has not done yet: “I wanted to give Cornelia the amethyst set. . . . I meant to do something about the Forty Acres. . . . I meant to finish the altar cloth and send six bottles of wine to Sister Borgia”(1168). She is not ready for the bridegroom, but he is most definitely coming now. She does not even mention the one thing that really is the oil she needs: forgiveness. This is the proof that she cannot return in time with enough oil; she is not even looking for the right thing. This portion of the story lines up perfectly with the parable. If the bridesmaids had been awake even a few minutes earlier to realize their shortage, they may have made it to the feast. If Granny had recognized her shortcoming, she may have been able to ask God for strength to forgive the man who jilted her.
Unfortunately, in both tales, this last-minute repentance does not come in time. The bridesmaids are locked outside in the cold, and at the moment of her death, Granny Weatherall finds herself shut out in the darkness: “Her body was now only a deeper mass of shadow in an endless darkness and this darkness would curl around the light and swallow it up”(1169). This is the parallel to the horrible moment when the bridesmaids see that they cannot get inside. Granny pleads for a sign, just as they call out to the watchman, with the same response. She knows she is left in the darkness alone, but she still cannot forgive the man who jilted her—or Jesus, whom she now realizes has also jilted her. She blows her light out, which likely would appear to the others in the room as taking her last breath.
This is not the kind of message Jesus is expected to bring, but this story lines up perfectly with His parable. He does not take good people; His are only those who are ready for Him. The one great difference is that Porter does not include an example of one who is prepared, but Jesus does not focus too much on the wise bridesmaids either. The point is found in the story of the foolish ones because mistakes and failures teach more than successes. “You do not know the day or the hour of my return”(Matthew 25:13b). It could be later or earlier than expected, so His must be prepared at all times for either case.
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Just a Minute! Jesus tells a parable about ten bridesmaids who are supposed to use their lamps to light the way for the bridegroom of a wedding. Five are foolish […]