Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597
This comic story is an extended dramatic monologue told by Sister to an unnamed visitor to the post office, where she now lives after having left her home because of the return of her sister Stella-Rondo. As the title suggests, the story is an apologia in which Sister attempts to explain why she has decided to live in the post office of the small town of China Grove, where she is postmistress. The first line of the story establishes the problem quite clearly: “I was getting along fine with Mama, Papa-Daddy and Uncle Rondo until my sister Stella-Rondo just separated from her husband and came back home again.” Ostensibly, Sister’s decision is a result of all of her family turning against her after the return of Stella-Rondo, who earlier ran off with a traveling photographer, who, to hear Sister tell it, was her own boyfriend before Stella-Rondo stole him from her.
What makes the story both comic and complex is that the reader hears only Sister’s side of the story. As she says, Stella-Rondo broke up her and Mr. Whitaker by telling him that she was one-sided. To this Sister, in her own twisted logic that dominates the story, replies, “Bigger on one side than the other, which is a deliberate falsehood: I’m the same. Stella-Rondo is exactly twelve months to the day younger than I am and for that reason she’s spoiled.” It is this petty and petulant point of view of Sister that makes “Why I Live at the P.O.” a tour de force of southern idiom, one of Eudora Welty’s most admired stories.
Indeed, Sister is one-sided, and as she recounts the events that take place around the Fourth of July in China Grove, the reader sees through her seemingly banal defense. Sister is a childish woman obsessed with trivia and her persecution complex. She is also a delightful fictional creation made up of lovely illogic, and that is the key element in this hilarious story. The family comedy begins when Stella-Rondo claims that her two-year-old daughter, Shirley-T, is adopted; Sister denies this by saying that Shirley-T is “the spit-image of Pappa-Daddy if he’d cut off his beard.” Beginning with this remark by Sister, Stella-Rondo methodically turns each member of the...
(The entire section contains 597 words.)
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