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There are numerous short stories that deal with the concept of home and how it applies in unfamiliar environments. The two stories compared in this analysis, “Borders” by Thomas King and “Why I Live at the P.O.” by Eudora Welty, look at such situations from different perspectives. The former deals with how life in a different location with a new culture can change people and communities within the span of a generation. The latter is about a girl and her conflict with her family, which eventually leads her to leave her home and start living at the post office. This essay compares the perspectives of the two stories on home and its relationship with the person.
Home as the Community
“Borders” takes a bold stance on the issue of the community and one’s allegiance to it. Laetitia’s mother views the Blackfoot society, divided between the United States and Canada, as a group that takes priority over everything else (King). She refuses to consider herself or her daughter a citizen of either country and declares her nationality as that of her clan, leading to issues with the border guards. The misunderstanding is only resolved once reporters and officials become involved, and until then, the mother and daughter are trapped between the borders of two nations. Afterward, however, the guards do not challenge the two due to the publicity and the attention of the authorities that the case attracted.
Unlike the example above, the heroine of “Why I Live at the P.O.” does not show much loyalty to her household or her general community. She values outside news that can be acquired through radio or mail, a trait that leads to her eventual departure to the post office, where she would be closer to things she enjoys. Her relationship with her family degrades throughout the story, and at the end, her mother, father, and Stella-Rondo declare that they will not use mail, even though some of them rely on it (Welty <“Wah!” says Stella-Rondo. I knew she’d cry. She had a conniption fit right there in the kitchen.>). There are various reasons for the poor opinion the different characters have toward the heroine, which may be skewed by her perspective, but ultimately, she chooses to abandon her home.
Laetitia has also chosen to leave her home, but possibly in different circumstances. Her initial decision was not supported by her mother, but eventually, the family grew to forgive her and show pride in the daughter’s ability to sustain herself in an unfamiliar environment alone (King ). The choice was informed by less superficial reasons than those of Welty’s protagonist and showed better planning. She maintains her connection with her family, and at the end, she says she is considering moving back to the reserve (King ), though the statement may have been superficial. The bond is the reason why the mother and daughter go to visit her in the story, leading to their predicament.
Home as a Place
The heroine of “Why I Live at the P.O.” abandons her home in spirit, but she does not move far from where her family lives. It takes nine trips by wagon to move her belongings, and the family did not consider the endeavor a significant undertaking worth more than a nickel (Welty ). In the ending, only five days have passed since the parting of Sister and the rest. Although no attempts at contact have been made, the small distance and the short time frame make a future reconciliation followed by a move back to the family house a possibility. It is not difficult for the protagonist to change the place where she lives, as she does not possess much and has made her decision on a whim.
Laetitia’s decision was more significant and permanent, though she did not move a distance that could not be covered in a car trip. Her father is American, allowing her to travel across the border between the United States and Canada without much difficulty (King ). The environment may not be radically different from that in Canada, as her mother recalls more impressive features in Edmonton, near her home (King ). However, the inability to contact her family whenever she would like, combined with the fact that she would be entering a society where she did not know anybody, made the separation more profound. Nevertheless, she carried through with her decision and ended up succeeding and impressing her skeptical mother.
The Differences between the Stories
Ultimately, “Borders” presents the proposition that home is one’s community and that as long as one remembers his or her family, he or she will do well. Laetitia rejected some of her mother’s more conservative teachings such as her tendency to speak the Blackfoot language and declare herself a citizen of the clan. However, she retained her love of the family despite the disagreements, parted on terms of mutual respect, and sent postcards that regularly invited her mother and sister to visit (King ). The mother encounters some difficulties due to her beliefs and their conflict with rigid national structures but is ultimately able to defend her way by attracting the attention of the media. The Blackfoot community is able to retain its identity and traditions even as members choose to move elsewhere and embrace new cultures.
Unlike Laetitia, the Sister of “Why I Live at the P.O.” does not show loyalty to the family unit and considers home to be the place where she is most comfortable. The family does not show her any more consideration than she does them, supporting her decision to leave and offering help (Welty < “Thank you kindly for the cot and ‘peace’ is hardly the word I would select if I had to resort to firecrackers at 6:30 A.M. in a young girl’s bedroom,” I say back to him.>). The heroine does not have to go far to leave her home, as it does not encompass the overall community, and the post office satisfies her as the choice of a location. Unlike the Blackfoot people of King’s story, Sister is self-contained, and home is wherever she chooses to live, with the corresponding potential for change. In the future, she may decide to return to her family’s house. However, she may also maintain her grudge and stay at the P.O. to spite her family or leave the place altogether should the community unite against her.
The two stories offer considerably different perspectives on what home might mean to a person. Laetitia chooses to move to Salt Lake City but retains her bond with her family. Her mother views the Blackfoot community as her home, regardless of the actual greater nationality of the members. Sister goes to the other extreme, disregarding everyone but herself and centering the idea of a household around her comfort. Each approach is valid in its way and offers valuable insight into the character.
King, Thomas. “Borders.” The Harbrace Anthology of Short Fiction, 5th ed., edited by Raymond E. Jones and Jon C. Stott, Nelson Education Limited, 2011, pp.
Welty, Eudora. “Why I Live at the P.O.” The Harbrace Anthology of Short Fiction, 5th ed., edited by Raymond E. Jones and Jon C. Stott, Nelson Education Limited, 2011, pp.