Understanding ofWhy I Live at the P.O.
--Unreliability, Dysfunctional household life and the use of diction
Why I Live at the P.O.,written by the American author Eudora Welty, employs the first person narrative and an unreliable narrator. The narrative Sister, seemingly the much-abused daughter in the family who deserves the audience’s sympathy, veils her cruel, one-sided and mean-spirited composition under her distorted interpretation and skillful manipulation of the whole text from her own perspective, whose credibility is somehow underscored by her unrelenting criticism and dramatic commentary towards her family members. While blaming Stella-Rondo craftily turning Papa-Daddy and Uncle Rondo against her, Sister herself is guilty of the same transgressions that she claims to be a innocent victim and fails to recognize her vicious disposition including jealousy, pettiness and officiousness. In the beginning of the story, instead of show sympathy for her recent-separated sister, Sister accuses Stella-Rondo of breaking into her harmonious family life and hinting that Stella-Rondo had taken Mr. Whitaker away from her unfairly, which summarizes the main conflict in the story. She even delights in her sister’s failed marriage and her predict coming true--“I said from the beginning he’d up and leave her. I foretold every single thing that’s happened”, showcasing transparently sister’s cruel streak. Declaring moving to P.O. out of pride and a sense of independence , this departure is in fact an act of Sister’s cowardice.
The Rondos, seemingly living intimately under the same roof, operates a dysfunctional household life in which every family member is isolated from each other due to their habits of lying, negative mode of interacting and resistance towards communication. Instead of enjoying the precious family reunion time, the family members take refugee in isolation. For example, the Papa-Daddy prefer the solitude of the hammock in the yard and “will certainly beat you on the head if you come within forty miles of him”; Uncle Rondo drinks bottles of prescription so as to drown himself in a inebriated state. Instead of telling truth and seek truth from others, the family choose to lie and support, regardless of whether true or not, the most palatable version of others. They deem telling lie is much more easier than being earnest and communicating appropriately, for the latter demands trust and honesty which the family can not obtain. Thus, by isolating from others, habitually lying and suspecting, the family operates in a dysfunctional way.
In this story, the author employs the use of diction to humanize her characters. The writer use italics and the appearance of words to add unique tone and detonation to the character’s action or speech. For example, the space lettering in the phrase “So Papa-Daddy l-a-y-s down his knife and fork!” emphasizes the theatrical gesture of Papa-Daddy and the intensity of Sister’s fear.
Why I Live at the P.O.,employing the first narrative, the use of diction and other writing techniques, portrays the paradox of human relationship between an individual and a community exquisitely and profoundly.