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The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty Essay

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The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty presents Wanda Fay on the surface as selfish, manipulative, insecure, thoughtless, shallow, spoiled, and flighty as well as thoughtlessly and carelessly cruel. On the contrary, it wasn’t difficult for me to see Fay as a victim of her family and her upbringing, the elite class of Mount Salus, and her own personal aspirations. Throughout the novel, even though I despised Fay and her weaknesses I did feel sorry for her. Her apprehension discovering that her family was downstairs when she finally decided to leave the bedroom to see her husband, the Judge’s, body for the last time showed me that she had probably hoped to escape her family by marrying the Judge, only to discover that she was forced to confront them when the Judge passed away and no longer ‘belonged’ to her. The Optimist’s daughter is a deliberate metaphor for society. Eudora Welty was slightly prescient, as she never focuses on political issues, but instead crass materialism/boundless energy vs. civilized values/privilege and class.
Fay is a lively troublemaker, and she is guilty of bringing a lot of the tension to the story. Despite the fact that her family, and her own element stand supporting her with her loss, it is also very clear that they don’t seem to be exceptionally fond of her, nor is she particularly fond of them. After the funeral, Fay plans to go back home to Madrid, Texas and her mother first responds by asking how long she plans to stay and then her sister says, “I haven’t heard your excuse for going yet. You got one?” (97). Taken aback by this comment, Fay complains that they didn’t bring DeWitt with them. He is the only family member who speaks Fay’s language, and despite the fat that his family does not hol...


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... prig.” However the characters differences are sorted in the end and it is brought to conclusion when the narrator writes, “Memory lived not in initial possession but in the freed hands, pardoned and freed, and in the heart that can empty but fill again, in the patterns restored by dreams” (179). This is stated at the end of the novel as Laurel rides out of town on her way to the airport making peace with the past, particularly with Fay, as she moves on to a clean future.


















Works Cited

Moss, Howard, “Eudora Welty’s New Novel about Death and Class,” in New York Times Book Review, May 21, 1972.

Welty, Eudora. The Optimist's Daughter. New York: Random House, 1972. Print.








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