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In Eudora Welty’s story Why I Live at the P.O., the reader can only see one point of view of the main heroine, and she is not able to realize the reality of the events which are happening around her, therefore an author makes her an unreliable narrator. The writer describes a hard-working and oriented family, the main heroine tries to find her place in the circle of her family and to gain the love of the family, but her attempts are unsuccessful. She realizes that each member of her family finds an excuse to rebel against her while her spoils sister is lying to them. The family completely ignores the fact that Stella-Rondo makes worse mistakes than her sister, which causes Sister to move out of her family house. From the psychological, feminist and existential viewpoints, Sister does not achieve true independence or freedom.
From a psychological point of view, Sister takes a step towards adult life. At the crux of the first person account is Sister’s need to triumph to her rivalry with her younger sibling, Stella-Rondo. To bolster self-esteem, Sister fights delusive images while concealing from herself jealously that Mr. Whitaker abandoned her in favor of Stella-Rondo. The main heroine feels favoritism and preferences in her family. Eudora Welty shows Sister’s jealousy by pointing out that when her sister is away, the main character has an authority in the house, but she loses her power as soon as Stella-Rondo comes back. Sister and Stella-Rondo have a conflict at the beginning of the story, because Stella-Rondo comes back home with her daughter, moreover she says that a child is adopted. The jealous relationship with Stella-Rondo characterizes Sister, moreover the fact about Stella-Rondo’s situation in marriage delights Sister, and the main character even taunts her sister about the abandonment of Mr. Whitaker, telling, “I knew from the beginning he’d up and leave her” (Welty 121). Sister decided to prove that Stella-Rondo said falsehood about the parentage of Shirley-T. She paints every member of her family as being deceitful and crazy saying that she predicted Stella-Rondo’s fate. Psychologically, a Sister’s jealousness does not give her any possibility to break free from her family. Sister obviously suffers from an intensive jealousy towards Stella-Rondo. Her family’s preference towards her younger sister, the marriage of her younger sister to her former boyfriend Mr. Whitaker, Stella-Rondo’s child, and her sister’s attempt to set the whole family “against her” increase aggravations in the main character. Sister realizes this negative force and declares her freedom by moving to the P.O. This proud sense of freedom quickly fades. The main character does not feel an independence because her immaturity and jealously within herself leads her to isolation but not to the psychological independence. Sister is exiled from her family, which includes a large part of the town and the local mail, as her alienation from the world.
From the feminist perspective, Sister does not become truly liberated in her attempt at independence. There is a feminist point of view in Sister’s seething disgruntlement a need to solve a spirit wounded by male rejection. However, Sister depicts Stella-Rondo’s family as turning against her, because she wants to move back into the house after a divorce. Each character denies the feminine experience in his\her own way; there are such feminine aspects as the denial of the gestation of the child of Stella-Rondo, the belief of falsehood against Sister and the reality that the main character has no name. An unmarried and childless women do not have an authoritative voice in this society. Sister’s choices in life are marriage and motherhood, her opportunity has already passed by. Her life possibilities give her no authority, so she speaks and acts in emotional and impulsive terms. Sister does not take an important place in this family because she has never done any important things. Sister knows, whether she feels it affects her directly or not, that China Grove, a notably patriarchal society, devalues and disrespects women who act out of accord its community beliefs. Although Sister’s matriarchal role in the family almost equals her mother’s, her level of authority does not change, when she does challenge her family, especially the males, they scorn her in harsh language. Much of the town sides with her grandfather, the patriarch of her family. She even declares, “There are always people who will quit buying stamps just to get on the right side of Papa-Daddy” (Welty 11). Sister’s attempt to free herself from the craziness and disloyalty results only in further isolation. The P.O. cannot be a permanent home, but because no one will listen to her words, she tries to get attention through the rash actions. At the end of the story, the narrator decides to isolate herself, however she does not shake off a retaliatory patriarchal family in feminist terms.
From an existentialist point of view, Sister never takes responsibility for her choices. It is very unclear why Sister does not make any existential decisions. The author indicates that it is not possible to avoid the family in such a small town as China Grove. Sister is not married, unlike Stella Rondo, who has escaped temporarily because of marriage. The main character’s decision to flee is not existential, as it is based on fear. Sister lives in circumstances provided by her familyat the P.O. Existentially, main heroine's feelings of independence are false, because she has to respect her family, without them Sister would have no job in China. Thus, Sister's "freedom" in an existential feeling, is based on her taking responsibility for her words, decisions and actions. The main heroine describes her family as a combination of something eccentric and childish. She explains that to leave home is not easy when her family is "the main people in China Grove" (Welty 11), moreover they practically possess the P.O. Moreover, Sister is supported by Papa-Daddy at the P.O. and all the mail is either from or for them. When Sister wants to leave the dinner table in revulsion, Mama offers to call her back “or she'll starve to death” (Welty 23). However, Papa-Daddy still remembers the mention of cutting off his beard, “this is the beard I started growing on the Coast when I was fifteen years old" (Welty 34). When Sister leaves home she tries to furnish her room at the P.O. with the materials from her family home: "Radio, sewing machine, book ends, ironing board and that great big piano lamp — peace, that's what I like” (Welty 69). Thus, leaving her family house the main character realizes that she will never escape from their power.
To sum up, from the psychological aspect, Sister frees the path to adulthood when she moves out of the family house, but her world turns into a dark place of hopelessness and isolation. Existentially, she does not escape from her fears as her family is the main people in the town, and from the feminist perspective, she does not liberate herself from her sister and from her patriarchal family.