Short Story #261: Why I Live at the PO by Eudora Welty

Title:  Why I Live at the PO 

Author:  Eudora Welty

Summary

Portrait of Eudora Welty.  Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudora_Welty#mediaviewer/File:Eudora_Welty_at_National_Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4558.JPGLife with her family is ok for Sissy until her sister Stella-Rondo comes home just prior to the 4th of July with a child that she claims in adopted after leaving her husband, whom Sister had been dating first.  Sister explains that her sister is spoiled and proceeds to show the reader how.  When Sister raises a question about the baby's parentage because she looks so similar to the family, Stella Ronda is angered.  Over the course of the day, she finds ways of turning the family members against sister.  Later, Sister hears Stella-Rondo upstairs yelling and goes to check on her.  Stella-Rondo asks Sister to tell her what she sees outside and Sister says she sees their grandfather and their Uncle Rondo, who happens to be wearing Stella-Rondo's kimono from her husband.  Stella-Rondo speculates on why he is wearing it but at last just declares he's a fool.  In between the feuds, Sister is doing various tasks about the house such as cooking and preparing food.  While making food, her mother comes in criticizing her for what she's making and Sister calls her our for the unfair treatment she receives.  The topic turns to the adopted child, and Sister notes that the child hasn't said a single word since she arrived.  The mother marches up to Stella-Rondo to ask if she can talk, but in doing so, blames Sister for saying the child can't talk.  This results in more blame on Sister and she watches as the entire family is turned against her.  At dinner, Stella-Rondo tells her uncle that Sister was mocking him for wearing the kimono.  She tries to explain but to no avail.  The next morning, Uncle Rondo throws a package of lit firecrackers into her bedroom.  It's at this point that she decides to move off to the P.O. where she is post-mistress for the town.  She slowly reclaims her possessions, including the ones that others are using or borrowing without permission.  As she leaves and asserts her items and ideas, the others start to take notice.  The family continues to waver between taunting her and convincing her to stay.  However, when it's clear that Sister is leaving, they largely swear off using the post office entirely.  She calls out this inconsistency and how it will impact Stella-Rondo's life, which sends her into a fit of anger and tears.  Sister leaves and sets up life in the P.O., happy to be rid of her family.  

Reflection

Welty captures the sometimes chaotic nature of family life quite well in this piece, with its various feuds, eccentricities, and habits.  However, one element of the story that I like and wonder about this piece is its authenticity.  Sister tells the entire story and are we to believe this is how or why things turned out?  Is she entirely truthful?  

Short Story #261 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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