Eudora Welty’s ‘‘Why I Live at the P.O.’’ was inspired by a lady ironing in the back room of a small rural post office who Welty glimpsed while working as publicity photographer in the mid-1930s. Wetly had just started to write, and the story, which appeared in Atlantic magazine in 1941, was among the first she published. It was also included in her first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green, which appeared that same year. Though Welty writes in many different styles and moods, ‘‘Why I Live at the P.O.’’ is representative of her masterful evocation of vital, idiosyncratic southern speech. Both dark and hilarious, ‘‘Why I Live at the P.O.’’ is one of Welty’s most beloved stories and one of her own favorites. Throughout her long career she has frequently chosen it when invited to read from her work.
‘‘Why I Live at the P.O.’’ takes the form of a dramatic monologue. Sister, the first-person narrator, tells her side of the family spat that has led her to leave the family home where she had lived into adulthood and move into the local post office. She appeals to the reader to take her side as she indignantly recounts her younger sister’s unjust maneuvers in turning the rest of the family against her, but her self-pity and exaggeration render her position unintentionally humorous. Though the story is comic, its underlying themes are complex, concerning the tensions between family affiliation and independence, the relative nature of truth, and the insularity and uniqueness of life in a small southern community.