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Remembrance and Forgetfulnes in Eudora Welty's "The Optimist’s Daughter"

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Memory is a common motif for southern literature. Eudora Welty’s novel The Optimist’s Daughter is no exception to this generalization as it strongly entails both aspects of memory – remembrance and forgetfulness. The stark dichotomy of memory can be looked at as both a blessing and a burden. Characters throughout this novel and so many other pieces of southern literature struggle with the past which they wish to keep, but cannot fully, and a past from which they want to escape, but cannot fully. Memory, in its purest form, can best be described as a creature’s mental capability to accumulate, hold on to, and retrieve information. In southern literature, this same definition can be applied to memory. The south, plain and simple, is all about heritage, and this same concept can be applied to the literature of the south. There are those things the south wants to remember and those things it wants to forget. The antebellum age of the south was between the dawn of the United States and the beginning of the civil war. The south has many memories about the time period prior to the war, both good and bad. There are the parts of their heritage which they wish to remember such as the plantation south and strong family ties as well as those they wish to forget, such as slavery, their loss of the civil war, and the reconstruction period that the civil war led to. The south’s loss in the civil war may have been hard to cope with, but it still has had the longest lasting impact. One simple question with so many complex answers can be asked to sum up the feelings of the south – “heritage or hate”.
In Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter, what’s lost is a blessing, but what’s lost is also a burden. The relationship between this b...


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...or hate?” Do people who show off their confederate flags and consider themselves proud southerners today truly understand and respect the heritage of the south or are they just doing it because of the bad memories of hate that were all to prevalent during that time? Through The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty successfully conveys the message that the south’s memory is not only limited to what good has happened, but what is truly remembered beyond the good are the bad things that have happened in the past. Eudora Welty’s work in The Optimist’s Daughter consistently deals with the issues and characteristics for which southern writers are distinguished, traits such as realistic setting, strong family ties, and a powerful sense of the past. Welty’s novel The Optimist’s Daughter is no exception to these typical traits of other great pieces of southern literature.


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