What is the theme of "Why I Live at the P.O."?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A theme of “Why I Live at the P.O.” is that sometimes a lie is better than the truth.

This story is about a family squabble.  Sometimes families have to tell each other lies, and accept believing one another’s lies, in order to keep the peace and save face.  Stella-Rondo had to leave her husband Mr. Whitaker.  She is trying to make the best of the situation by telling everyone that her daughter Shirley-T is adopted.  The narrator refuses to believe this lie, but all of the other family members seem to accept it.

Stella-Rondo just calmly takes off this hat, I wish you could see it. She says, "Why, Mama, Shirley-T.'s adopted, I can prove it."
 "How?" says Mama, but all I says was, "H'm!"

Mama seems willing to accept this explanation, and the other family members accept Shirley-T.  The narrator does not, and Stella-Rondo is annoyed at her and uses it to turn things she says against her to antagonize other members of the family, such as when she says the narrator wanted to know why Papa-daddy did not shave his beard.  Papa-daddy is very proud of his beard, and this infuriates him.  The narrator denies it, but he continues to believe Stella-Rondo.

Family members’ continued acceptance of Stella-Rondo’s word over the narrator’s is an example of how they have accepted that sometimes it is better to tell a little lie than to tell the truth.  If Stella-Rondo admitted that she had a child out of wedlock, it would be intolerable for other family members.  It is much easier for everyone to accept both of them into family and ignore the narrator’s objections.


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