Study Guide

Post Office

by Charles Bukowski

Post Office Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Post Office is Bukowski’s first novel; it became one of his best-selling works. He had published approximately twenty books of poems and short stories during the 1960’s, with his hero, Henry Chinaski, as the major character in most of the stories. Post Office breaks no new literary ground but offers amplified versions of his typical narratives, now covering a fourteen-year period of employment in the postal service. The plot moves through various episodes of crises with his supervisors, coworkers, and lovers. Post Office presents a domesticated version of the picaresque hero. Chinaski certainly fits the major requirements of the typical picaresque hero, as he is a rogue who satirizes his authoritative supervisors in a series of loosely connected episodes. While his tone is consistently cynical, he usually projects a morally superior attitude.

The plot moves along on the intensity and energy of the particular crisis that involves Chinaski at any given moment. He initially seeks employment with the postal service because the monotonous work appears easy, and he seems exhausted with his transient living conditions; his betting at the race track has also drained his financial resources. The opening line, “It began as a mistake,” sets the tone for the entire novel, which is divided into six major sections.

The first two sections present his beleaguered contacts with overly demanding customers and inflexible supervisors such as the thirty-year postal veteran Mr. Jonstone, known throughout the remainder of the novel as “The Stone.” A bureaucratic bully of monstrous proportions, Jonstone spends most of his days doggedly carping at Chinaski and “writing him up” for the smallest infractions of postal rules. Chinaski, while suffering from The...

(The entire section is 738 words.)

Post Office Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Baughan, Michael Gray. Charles Bukowski. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publications, 2004.

Cain, Jimmie. “Bukowski’s Imagist Roots.” West Georgia College Review 19 (May, 1987): 10-17.

Cherkovski, Neeli. Bukowski: A Life. South Royalton, Vt.: Steerforth, 1997.

Harrison, Russell. Against the American Dream: Essays on Charles Bukowski. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1994.

McDonough, Tom. “Down and (Far) Out.” American Film 13 (November, 1987): 26-30.

Pleasants, Ben. Visceral Bukowski: Inside the Sniper World of L.A. Writers. Northville, Mich.: Sun Dog Press, 2004.

Sounes, Howard. Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life. New York: Grove, 1999.

Sounes, Howard, ed. Bukowski in Pictures. Edinburgh: Rebel, 2000.

Wakoski, Diane. “Charles Bukowski.” In Contemporary Poets, edited by James Vinson and D. L. Kirkpatrick. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.

Weizmann, Daniel, ed. Drinking with Bukowski: Recollections of the Poet Laureate of Skid Row. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2000.