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“Why I live at the P.O.” by Eudora Welty is a mocking reflection on bullying, victimization and corresponding issues. Even though the story was written more than half a century ago, the actual problem is extremely relevant for contemporary society since victimization seems to be a trending matter. Eudora Welty shows how easy it is to consider somebody victimized based solely on a singular point of view of that person. The author’s short story is an example of how selfishness and pride could reverse a person’s understanding of fairness into twisted self-centered opinions.
Even though the lead character, Sister, seems to be bullied, Welty makes an exaggerated effort at showing that her opinion is one-sided, biased and, therefore, not credible which poses the conclusion contrary to Sister’s opinion and creates ironic effect.
The passage containing angry arguments between Sister and her mother indicates several critical character features which help a reader guess the story’s moral. First of all, Sister proves her own self-centeredness: even though the situation her sister faces does not have an equivalent in the main characters life experience, the reader is eager to speculate on uncertain consequences.
Such speculations are unpredictable at best and are not based on logic or facts; Sister, apparently, is willing to victimize herself in the eyes of her mother merely to attract attention. The remark about “controlling the diet” (Welty 663) indicates annoyance on Sister’s behalf and her inability to empathize with another one’s problems if they pose some personal inconvenience.
It is important to note these shortcomings of the character, since Welty is obviously at pains to make Sister as annoying as possible. The stubborn rejection of simple fairness toward family members in this conversation is extremely one-sided. Sister embraces it when her sibling is concerned but “shudders” (Welty 663) at the thought that something like that could happen to her. These characteristics are developed further in the short story and, upon close analysis, could give an answer to the title question.
Throughout the story Sister painstakingly creates a reality drastically different from objective state of affairs. She feels that the situation is not fair enough to suit her because she has to undergo certain inconveniences due to occurrence with her sister. All of a sudden Sister loses priority as a family member to be reckoned with, and such lack of attention drives to illogical turns. With this information in mind one could easily track down the real reason for Sister’s self-imposed detachment: she simply loses an opportunity to establish her ego in her immediate surroundings. Naturally, the circumstances which triggered this situation were indirectly caused by Sister’s sibling, and this is basically why Sister initiates a series of grudges. The conversation between Sister and mother shows how quickly the former dismisses both logical facts and her mother’s authority; one could see that it does not happen due to trust issues since there are none. Rather, Sister’s mother’s appeals are irrelevant to the true reasons of grudging attitudes which are formed by suddenly a helpless ego and desire for undivided attention.
The central theme of the story is self-victimization in the family. On one hand, Sister is repelling due her sour manner and twisted perception of fairness. On the other hand, however, it is relatively easy to trace such behavior into some families; especially where age differences between siblings are huge. When a child realizes that their parents’ attention no longer belongs to him or her entirely, they start misbehaving. Usually, such a situation could be resolved when adolescents are concerned; however, Welty wrote about adults who cannot afford making excuses for limited cognition. It does not mean that Sister and people like her necessarily need sympathy, but one could at least understand the problem and avoid viewing such people as victims of bullying. Irony of the story written by Welty is that writer is presumably the only one who is supposed to judge causes of Sister’s misconduct. Welty exaggerates certain features of her character, thus magnifying the effect of irony to better illustrate the difference between “insider” and “outsider” points of view.
The brief conversation between Sister and her mother where Sister speculates on her own hypothetically unfortunate fate is a characteristically significant moment in the story because it unveils certain features of the main character’s personality. Sister, in other words, demonstrates that she is unwilling to think logically and respect the just arguments from anybody simply because such arguments appeal to the effects of her nasty attitude rather than causes. Being angry for reasons that she is unwilling to admit, Sister takes things farther than she would probably like and, therefore, creates a repelling image of herself in the eyes of her family and story readers. Welty shows through irony that people tend to cover up the real causes of their distress with fake grudges; this message is certainly relatable because it is difficult to imagine a person who has never been subjected to jealousy in a family relationship.
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