"Why I Live at the P.O."
Formal Short Essay

Samah Syed

ENG1120 Section E
Dr. Melanie Sexton

January 30, 2014
University of Ottawa

In the short story "Why I Live at the P.O.", written by Eudora Welty, a tale of sibling rivalry is told through the eyes of one sister. Set in China Grove, the narrator of the story is only referred to as "Sister". Throughout the dramatic monologue with a heavy emphasis on irony, Sister seems to be jealous of her baby sister that increases Sister's lack of self-confidence and high demand of being the center of attention.
A lack of compassion or empathy for others often leads one to believe that they are the ones not receiving understanding. As Sister narrates the story, the reader has sympathy for her as she describes her younger sister Stella-Rondo, however her conceited characteristic modifies her situation to be humorous. Sister fails to take Stella-Rondo's feelings into consideration when she talks about whether or not Shirley T is adopted. She says "Shirley T was, she was the spit-image of Papa-Daddy if he'd cut off his beard" (Welty, 374). This statement reflects direct contradiction of Stella-Rondo's statement that Shirley T was adopted. Sister fails to take her sibling's feeling into account and she even attempts to mock Stella-Rondo's sense of style when she tells Uncle Rondo, who is wearing Stella-Rondo's kimono that, "he's got on some terrible-looking flesh colored contraption I would not be found dead in" (Welty, 376). Throughout the story, Sister shows that she is incapable of feeling compassion toward her family, while she accuses her family for not showing her proper empathy.
Since Sister is the unreliable, cynical narrator, she is able to summarize her side of the story instead of using dialogue. Through internal monologue, Sister conveys to the reader what is taking place and denies the audience ability to see her real intentions. Being the narrator, Sister sets herself in the story to be able to win over the family however; she lets her own conspiracies win over her. She creates an image of herself and dictates the outcome of the story, which is ironic because in the end Sister does not come into favor and is left isolated and rejected. Her characteristics of having low self-esteem, dire need for attention, and being confrontational make her vulnerable to Stella-Rondo.
Needing to be the center of attention, Sister decides to move out of her house into the Post Office. Sister's struggle within herself is what pushes her to the point of striving for independence, yet it is ironic that Sister's arrangement for independence was after July 4th, Family Independence Day. The Fourth of July is seen as a time of celebration, and it would have been an even bigger celebration because of Stella-Rondo returning home, but Sister lets her pride and internal struggles stand in the way. Sister proves to her family her seriousness of living at the Post Office when she says, "But here I am, and here I'll stay. I want the world to know I'm happy" (Welty 382). Sister can hope to convince her audience that she is happy living alone, however, as an attention-seeker, she will not be content living in isolation for very long. Though she blames her problems upon family, it is clear that living at the P.O. will not truly bring Sister contentment. Therefore, Sister can never be comfortable around people because she has not yet learned to empathize with their failings.

Word Count: 551