Why I Live at the P.O.
Welty’s Use of Diction
Welty records the unique speech patterns of Sister and the other family members to humanize her characters and situate them firmly in their local setting. She fills the lines of dialogue with idiomatic phrasing and the everyday speech of rural southerners. Instead of “must have” or “must’ve,” for example, Welty writes “must of,” a transcription that is grammatically nonstandard but true to the characters’ unique self-expression. Welty also uses italics and the appearance of words themselves to add unique tones and rhythms to the characters’ speech. For example, Papa-Daddy, angry at being provoked about his beard, “l-a-y-s” down his silverware. The spaced lettering emphasizes the theatrical flourish of Papa-Daddy’s gesture. Words are similarly distorted during Shirley-T.’s rendition of “OE’m Pop-OE the Sailor-r-r-r Ma-a-an,” in which the child’s sudden outburst, peppered with a distinctive northern accent, is jarring and unexpected.