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Sister is at once paranoid and intensely jealous of her sister, Stella-Rondo,whom she tells us is
“exactly twelve months to the day younger than I am and for that reason . . . spoiled.”
The meticulously skewed logic apparent in this statement suggests the odd nature of the story that follows, Sister’s tall tale explaining why she lives at the post office, or, as she notably phrases it, “the P.O.,” for in Welty’s narrative voice—dialect, cliches, non-sequiturs—and plot are virtually indistinguishable.
The fivekey characters in Sister’s tale are her mother; Stella-Rondo and her “adopted”daughter, Shirley T.; her grandfather, Papa-Daddy; and Uncle Rondo. These encounters are set in motion by the jealousy reawakened in Sister by Stella-Rondo’s return to her China Grove home with Shirley T. following her separation from her husband, Mr. Whitaker, the taker of “‘Pose Yourself’ photos” from Illinois.(Sister believes that Stella-Rondo stole Mr. Whitaker from her.)
The encounters are related in dialogues which contain contradictory accounts of assertions made by the unreliable narrator, presenting multiple perspectives whose plots extend beyond the temporal frame of July 4th and 5th, and spatially beyond Sister’shouse to the Mississippi community represented by the China Grove post office and to Mr. Whitaker’s Illinois.
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