Character Analysis: Eudora Welty in “Why I Live at the P. O. ” Introduction Eudora Welt’s short story “Why I Live at the P. O. ” is a tale of interfamily squabble and the inferiority complex of the eldest child. Narrated by the protagonist, the family is type casted in a bias fashion, refracted by her perception. The ensemble of characters in this short story portrays a white, highly dysfunctional extended family living in China Grove, Mississippi. The story’s events take place during the 4th of July sometime between the great depression and World War II, most likely around 1939 – 1940.
To fully understand the method used to demonstrate the story’s point an understanding of who the characters is needed. Sister The protagonist, Sister, tells us the story from her jaded point of view in the form of both narration and dialogue. She is the oldest daughter of two and lives with her Mother, uncle and grandfather and serves as the postmistress of the local post office. Her younger sibling Stella-Rondo has suddenly come home for the 4th of July holiday after being ways for several years.
Stella-Rondo’s choice to reinsert herself into the family’s life is the spark that ignites the drama of the day ultimately leading to Sisters climactic decision. “I was getting along fine…until my sister Stella…came back home again” (Welty 123). Evident, unresolved issues with Stella-Rondo from years past fester within Sister, feeding her resentment. Naturally Stella-Rondo’s arrival is to be blamed for disrupting the status and comfort she has grown comfortable with. Every action forth with on Sisters part is motivated toward reclaiming her status within the family.
As most do when focused on a goal born of misperception and selfishness, we try too hard. Sister has little time devoted towards considering the merit of her attitude towards Stella Rondo. “She has always had anything in the world she wanted and then she’d throw it away…” (Welty 123). Sister has her mind made up. Many of Sister’s actions embody the self-realization of her fears. Others are poorly chosen reactions. After claims by Stella-Rondo surface over the origins of her child Shirley-T, Sister attempts to out her by claiming that the child would closely resemble Papa-Daddy if not for his beard.
This of course backfired as Papa-Daddy quickly takes up with Stella-Rondo at the expense of Sisters ear. Even with a request for and receipt of clarification, the old fool persists as if he has not heard a word Sister has said. To set the stain, Stella-Rondo chimes in “Yes You did say it too. ” (Welty 125) Stella-Rondo Stella-Rondo is Sister’s 12 month to the day younger sister and assumes the role as lead protagonist and general pain in the ass for Sister. We learn as the story progresses that Stella-Rondo is the princess of the family and seems to get what she wants, perhaps even when she doesn’t.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule exampled by the radio withdrawn from Stella-Rondo by their uncle and presented to Sister. This event mirrors that which can be seen as the genesis for the ensuing drama. Mr. Whitaker, an apparent sleaze of a man, drops into town and captures the attention Sister. For some reason or other Stella-Rondo decided to have the man for herself. The result is a lonely Sister, and Stella-Rondo married and moved away. For reasons that can only be speculated upon, Stella-Rondo returns home with her child of two years. The answer to her return may lie in the causation of the marriage.
The timing and status of Sheryl-T’s birth is suspect and made issue of. Adamant, Stella-Ronda states the origin of Sheryl-T “…Momma, Shirley-T is adopted, I can prove it” (Welty 124). It is not definite but also not impossible that Stella-Rondo was pregnant before she married. In the 1940s it was common for an unwed mother to be saddled with a stigma that the desire to lie becomes great. Such a beginning to a marriage is like building on sandstone and the relationship cannot be expected to last. Regardless if this is true or not, it is no surprise that Stella-Rondo and Mr.
Whitaker did not last. Either he found her needy and manipulative or he had no time for her because he was tending to his own selfishness. Minor Characters The minor characters of the story include Mr. Whitaker, Mother, Papa-Daddy, Uncle Rondo and Shirley T. Flatly depicted, these characters serve as icons used to demonstrate Sisters perceived status within the family. One by one they systematically fell to the charm of Stella-Rondo. Each represents a slightly different aspect of family morality. Momma appears to be biased, but of the lot, she is the least.
She is filled with impartial love for her offspring but either knows little about projecting this or has a focused ability to lay judgment with sparing words. Mamma’s insistence “I prefer to take my children’s word for anything when it’s humanly possible” (Welty 127) suggests this to be true, but once again Sister’s narration of this matter is unreliable due to the biased nature of her perception. Shirley-T comes into the picture preloaded as any child would. Sister had little chance to gain her favor when presented with the choice, Mother over these loons.
This is demonstrated in the scene where Shirley-T sticks her tongue out at Sister and runs off. Papa-Daddy plays a small role in the drama but is more triggered by it than a participant. It is unclear how aware he really was with the drama, primarily being concerned with his beard. Once he is placed on Stella-Rondos score card he is rarely mentioned again. Uncle Rondo, aside from the comedic relief in the story, demonstrates a characteristic of Stella-Rondo. Her depravity sinks to its lowest when she tells Uncle Rondo “Sister says ‘Uncle Rondo certainly does look like a fool in that pink kimono! (Welty 129) This is an outright lie as it was Stella Rondo that in fact said this. Mr. Whitaker is the least present but perhaps the most important of the minor characters. As the object of contention between Sister and Stella-Rondo, Mr. Whitaker serves as the catalysis for the drama. Without his presence in the lives of both sisters this story would have not taken place. Conclusion In contrast to a harmonious circa 1950s home with white picket fences and the five o’clock echo “Honey, I’m home” Eudora Welty shows the bonds of family for what they by employing an interesting method. Welty expresses her desire for “connection, she nonetheless prefers what she calls obstruction as the means to this end. ”(Welty2 54). By laying out rich main characters, and then set them at odds with each the contrast is made. The use of flat, almost stereotypical minor characters facilitates the events and serves as a barometer for the success and failure of the main characters. Works Cited Booth, Alison, Paul Hunter J and J Mays Kelly. The Norton Introduction To Literature. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2006. Welty, Eudora . A life in Literature. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.