Sister, the cynical, outraged narrator of “Why I Live at the P.O.,” is a complex mixture of sorely used scapegoat and self-deluded, unreliable narrator. She stands in the shadow of her younger sister, Stella-Rondo, whose return to the family home with her daughter, Shirley-T., dredges up Sister’s long-simmering jealousy and resentment. Her family seems unwilling to believe her word against Stella-Rondo’s, and Sister is frequently accused of saying things she did not say and doing things she did not do. When Uncle Rondo gets angry with her for making fun of his kimono, he tosses a pack of firecrackers into her bedroom. Sister’s position as the much-abused daughter seems clear. However, her unrelentingly dramatic commentary and insistence on operating at a constant fever pitch undermine her justified frustration. Because Sister is the narrator, every event in the story is tinged with her outraged disbelief, and she offers no real window into how she actually feels. The extremity of Sister’s narration damages her credibility.
Although no one in the family seems fully sane, Sister frequently seems as strange as the rest and participates in the criticism and alienation as much as anyone else. The jealousy that characterizes her relationship with Stella-Rondo, especially over the affections of Mr. Whitaker, brings out her own cruel streak. The fact that Stella-Rondo’s marriage has failed practically delights Sister, and she even taunts Stella-Rondo about Mr. Whitaker’s abandonment, saying, “I knew from the beginning he’d up and leave her.” She even goes so far as to mimic Shirley-T. and suggest that her young niece has a developmental disability. Sister seems determined to prove that Stella-Rondo has lied about the parentage of Shirley-T., not letting the matter go even when it is clear that Stella-Rondo will never admit that she’s right. Although from Sister’s perspective it appears she was driven out of her home to the post office, the record of her own transgressions suggests she had a hand in creating her fate.