Why I Live at the P.O.
American writer Eudora Welty (1909-2002) also was an accomplished photographer. During the Great Depression, she worked for the Works Progress Administration where she documented daily life. One of her photographs was of a woman ironing clothes in the back room of a post office. This image became the basis for her short story “Why I Live at the P.O.”
The story itself takes place in the small town of China Grove, where Sister’s uneventful life is turned upside-down by the arrival of her sister, Stella-Rondo, recently separated from her husband. Stella-Rondo shows up with a little girl, Shirley-T, who she claims is her legally adopted daughter. Sister, however, believes the girl to be her biological daughter.
Much of the story then concerns various arguments that the family members have, sparked by the confrontation between Sister and Stella-Rondo over the child. Mama especially wants Sister to apologize, both for the accusation and her making tomato-pickles, a food that several family members cannot eat.
As a result of the arguments, Sister moves to the post office, taking all of her possessions. The rest of the family tells her they will never step foot in the post office again, nor send or receive mail. Sister moves to the post office, where she tries to tell herself that she is happy. There is little actual mail to sort in the small town, and townspeople are split as to whom they support in the feud. Sister then announces that she will not listen to Stella-Rondo’s apology.