Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Pennsylvania Station

Though it spoke human speech it did not sound like a human voice, since it was too big to have emerged from known man and it had a quality at once booming, cold and forlorn, as though it were not interested in nor listening to what it said.

Mississippi doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the picture. This makes “Pennsylvania Station” one of William Faulkner’s more unique stories. It’s set in New York City at Pennsylvania Station as one might guess. An old man waiting for a train tells a younger man a story. Having a story within a story definitely is not unique to Faulkner and I didn’t think about it but we don’t necessarily know where either of these men are headed – Mississippi, perhaps? And the quotation above refers to the train station announcer.

The old man tells the younger one about Sister. Sister is a woman whom one might think is the sister of the older man. However, he doesn’t really talk about her as though she is his sibling. He just calls her “Sister”. And Danny is Sister’s son. The old man doesn’t call Danny “Nephew”. We know Sister is dead early on in the story (both stories) but she has paid 50 cents a week for quite a few years so she could have a nice coffin. Each year of payments gets her an upgrade. The insurance/coffin salesman made sure each year the gold plate with her name on it got moved to the “better” coffin.

Anyway, this was the humorous part and the part I enjoyed the most. Danny plays a role in the story, too, but he wasn’t as funny.

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