Literary Analysis Of Eudora Welty’s Why I Live At The P.o

A short story entitled “Why I Live At The P.O” was written by Eudora Welty in 1941. Welty was born on April,13 in 1909 in Jackson, Mississipi. Her father, Christian Webb worked as an insurance executive while her mother, Chestina Andrews worked as a teacher. Both Welty’s parents gave full support on her writing both intellectually and artistically. Welty’s works are mainly focused on the regional manners of people that lives in her birth town, Mississipi. During her glory days, Welty received a lot of awards including The Presidential Medal of Freedom and The Order of The South. Although Welty wrote in many different styles and mood, Why I Live At The P.O is the representative of her masterful evocation of vital, idiosyncratic southern speech. The main feature of Why I Live At The P.O are how jealousy and miscommunication brings suffer to certain parties and causes the inevitable of isolation. 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.

Welty was inspired to write Why I live At The P.O after seeing a lady ironing in the back room of a small rural post office who Welty glimpsed while working as publicity photographer in the mid 1930’s. Welty’s inquiry was probably on the highest level and she must have been in wonder that perhaps that lady lived in that small place. Welty’s work is a joy to read, especially so when she is talented in photographer, yet she decided to create pictures on the pages. Why I Live at The P.O illustrated the isolation of the narrator after her sister came back home after her (the sister) marriage failed. The narrator known as ‘Sister’ in this story claimed that her relationship with her family was in perfect condition until her sister, Stella-Rondo came home and ruined the perfect moment. In this story, Welty highlights the moment of isolation of Sister when every member of the family turned against her.

This story took place in Mississipi which happened to be Welty’s birth place. Welty typically used Southern Town as a setting in her story. Frankly, Welty is famous for capturing the patterns and expressions of Southern speech. In this story, Sister and Stella-Rondo are both symbolic of different ways of life- different places. Sister remained in Mississipi while Stella-Rondo got married and left town. She came back to Mississipi after her separation and brought along a-two-year-old child which she insisted was adopted. The contrast was obvious. Stella now represents a social trend in the North, across the South where as it was stated “… a sense of unified national identity and culture began to solidify.” This occurred in the North, NOT in the South. During that time, the South was still reeling from the effects of the Civil War. The after-effect of the war changed the Southern- society changed much more slowly, and not necessarily in the direction of Northern states. However, as a student of human nature and a sharp observer of the interactions between people, Welty noticed that one of the most important aspects of southern identity was still intact and didn’t change - the small town and rural lifestyle, which close-knit family and community as its center. To relate this with the protagonist of Why I Live at The P.O, Welty sets Sister as a representative for the southern way of life. Sister could not fathom out how different life was for Stella-Rondo. She is an absolute critical and said to Stella-Rondo “I think I would do well not to criticize so freely if I were you and came home with a-two-year-old child I had never said a word about, and no explanation whatever about my separation.” Writing about the lives of Mississipi folk is one main reason Welty is a known author. Welty’s story were based upon the way humans interact in social encounters.

This masterpiece story from Eudora Welty has a lot of underlying messages that need to be taken a good look and research to decipher it. The ‘colour’ and ‘humour’ tone in this story is just a scratch on the surface yet when I am able to dig deeper into the actual theme of this story, Welty set out a deep message through it which is the inevitable of isolation. In this story, Welty did not pointed isolation to only one character, yet Sister’s isolation gives enormous impact for the story. Being an African-American, Welty must have been a bulletproof to isolation. Born with dark skin made Welty felt isolated from the community and not to deny the fact that the ‘White’ that always get the upper-hand in everything must have driven Welty to write about this story.

In one of the figurative of speech in Why I Live At the P.O, Welty was influenced by the behaviour of Women In South when she wrote this story. In southern small communities, women typically lived at home until marriage and their choices of mate were few. Sister’s description of Mr Whitaker – minor character – as “the only man ever dropped down in China Grove” reflects the narrow field of romantic options. Yet, from Welty’s perception, the love which is needed for human vitality and potency does not necessarily depend on woman’s marrying and having children, although these are necessary for some woman to attain full fruition of their womanhood. For Welty, if a woman is able to love another person, a friend or family member, she has a purpose for a living.

In conclusion, Why I Live At The P.O’s elements and literary devices such as setting, theme and figurative of speech came from Eudora Alice Welty’s experiences in life. To ensure that nowadays society are aware of the problems and hardships that was being faced before should have been lessons learned by today’s generations. 

16 December 2021
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