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Important Quotations Explained

1. “Told him I was one-sided. Bigger on one side than the other, which is a deliberate, calculated falsehood: I’m the same.”

Sister speaks these words in the story’s opening paragraph, referring to what she considers one of the lies Stella-Rondo tells to lure Mr. Whitaker away from Sister. This complaint summarizes the story’s central conflict. Sister’s gripe may be with her family as a whole, but the theft of Mr. Whitaker’s affections proves to be the transgression she cannot get over. Welty gives a double meaning to Sister’s complaint. Although Sister is talking about her physical shape, the phrase “one-sided” applies equally well to her clouded vision of herself and the world around her. Sister wishes to portray herself as a well-balanced, fair, and accurate judge of character, but her willful denial and subjectivity prove to be the source of her unhappiness. Although Sister isn’t self-aware enough to understand how “one-sided” she actually is, we can see from this quotation and the rest of Sister’s narration how deluded she is about herself and those around her. Sister’s insistence on shunning everyone’s perspective but her own emerges as the defining tragedy of the story—when Sister leaves home for the post office, she effectively refuses any possibility of expanding her view of the world.

2. “I want the world to know I’m happy. And if Stella-Rondo should come to me this minute, on bended knees, and attempt to explain the incidents of her life with Mr. Whitaker, I’d simply put my fingers in both my ears and refuse to listen.”

This quotation concludes the story. Sister believes that she has triumphed over the people who have oppressed her for so long, and she wants to proclaim her victory to the world. However, Sister’s announcement that she is content and satisfied does not mean that she is actually fulfilled. Ultimately, Sister is trying to convince herself that the isolation and solitude of the post office are preferable to the isolation and emotional solitude that defined her home life. However, she cannot help but confess her secret hope that Stella-Rondo will someday explain her actions and beg for Sister’s forgiveness, even if Sister will refuse to listen. Despite the pride she claims to have in her escape, Sister is still mired in the rivalries that have punctuated her relationship with Stella-Rondo since the two were little girls. The story ends on a note of irony: the lack of empathy and the inability to listen, from which Sister believes she has suffered, are now being directed at Stella-Rondo by Sister herself. Sister has inherited this dysfunctional mode of communication from her family and shows no sign of breaking free of it anytime soon.

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