The Optimist's Daughter: A Look at Death and Dying Essays

The Optimist's Daughter: A Look at Death and Dying Essays

Length: 1417 words (4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Optimist's Daughter: A Look at Death and Dying          

"Fay struck out with her hands, hitting at Major Bullock and Mr. Pitts and Sis, fighting with her mother, too, for a moment. She showed her claws at Laurel, and broke from the preachers last-minute arms and threw herself forward across the coffin on to the pillow, driving her lips without aim against the face under hers. She was dragged back into the library, screaming, by Miss Tennyson Bullock, out of sight behind the blanket of greenery. Judge McKelva's smoking chair lay behind them, overturned" (86).

This is a short excerpt from The Optimist's Daughter (1972) by the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Eudora Welty. The story is centered around Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who left her home in the South to live in Chicago. While in Chicago she meets Philip Hand, and they are married. Philip, however, goes to war and never returns. Laurel is now venturing to New Orleans to be with her dying father. After his death Laurel and her obnoxious stepmother, Fay, travel back to Laurel's home town of Mount Salus, Mississippi.

Once in Mount Salus, Laurel is greeted with many friends and acquaintances. The whole town has already prepared for Laurel and the remains of her father. The day of the funeral the whole town stops to pay their respects; the school ,the bank, the post office, and the court house all close. The funeral is perfect, but Laurel struggles with letting her father go. Laurel's "bridesmaids" also struggle; the "bridesmaids" are Laurel's closest friends and range from young to elderly women.

After the funeral is over Fay returns with her family to Texas for a few days while Laurel finishes saying goodbye to her old house. Fay is very bitter t...

... middle of paper ...

...eels about her. Fay, on the other hand, would be lost without her Texan accent. The Optimist's Daughter opens the mind of the reader to let him see the many reactions of friends and relatives to death and dying.

As Fay strikes out during the funeral it is easy to recognize that culture also plays into people's reactions. When Fay kisses her husband goodbye, while he was in the coffin, it is because that is what her mother would have done. It can be very hard to deal with the death of a loved one, but sometimes it is even harder to deal with how others are reacting. The novel explains that, "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 of restored dreams"(179).

Works Cited:

Welty, Eudora. The Optimist's Daughter. The Vintage Book 1990 Edition. New York.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Candide Or Optimist By Francois Marie Arouet De Voltaire Essay

- ... They send a month there and Candide is happy because he has been treated as a king there. Candide still wants to turn to Cunégonde because he is not feeling complete. They were given sheep to travel with and they loaded them with Eldorado pebbles. They believe this will make them rich and he will be able to save Cunégonde. Candide send Cacambo to buy Cunégonde back from the governor. During this journey to get Cunégonde they lose a majority of their sheep and are only left with two. Meaning that they do not have the fortune they once had from Eldorado....   [tags: Candide, Voltaire, Syphilis, El Dorado]

Powerful Essays
2562 words (7.3 pages)

Free College Essays - The Optimist's Daughter

- The Optimist's Daughter                      The major characters in The Optimist's Daughter are Judge McKelva, Becky Mckelva, Laurel Mckelva, Wanda Fay, Dr. Courtland, Miss Adele Courtland, Tish Bullock, Major Bullock, Miss Tennyson, and Miss Missouri. Becky Mckelva was Judge Mckelva's wife before she died and had Laurel Mckelva with him. Wanda Fay remarried Judge Mckelva after his wife's death. Dr. Courtland did surgery on Becky Mckelva and the final operation on Judge Mckelva. Miss Adele Courtland is the sister of Dr....   [tags: The Optimist's Daughter]

Free Essays
1376 words (3.9 pages)

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

- 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....   [tags: Eudora Welty, Optimist’s Daughter, memory, ]

Powerful Essays
1580 words (4.5 pages)

The Optimist's Daughter: Hidden Depression Essay

- A smile has the incredible ability to hide anything. “The funny thing is, nobody ever really knows how much anybody else is hurting. We could be standing next to somebody who is completely broken and we wouldn’t even know it” (Anonymous). Many people in our world internally suffer. Some may say that “[t]he hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy” (Anonymous). During these years of life, people face an uncountable number of struggles and are exposed the true disfigurement of the world....   [tags: Literary Analysis, Eudora Welty ]

Powerful Essays
1569 words (4.5 pages)

Essay on On Death and Dying, by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

- In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross opened a dialogue of debate about death and dying. She accomplished this with her ground breaking book “On Death and Dying.” In 1993, another physician by the name of Sherwin Nuland, continued the dialogue with his popular book “How We Die- Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter.” A comparison of chapter one, On the Fear of Death, from Kübler-Ross’s book, and chapter seven, Accidents, Suicide, and Euthanasia, of Nuland’s book, shows that both Kübler-Ross and Nuland argue for control over the circumstances surrounding a patient’s death....   [tags: ELisabeth Kubler-ROss, On Death and Dying]

Powerful Essays
1045 words (3 pages)

The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty Essay

- 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 Ju...   [tags: Character Development, Literary Analysis]

Powerful Essays
1605 words (4.6 pages)

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudroa Welty Essay

- In the words of Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Eudora Welty knew no such agony because, for the greater part of her life, Welty shared her stories through writing. Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter contains a mix of “uncharacteristically incorporate[d] bit[s] of biographical [information],”(Marrs 1) adding in a secret element that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. This novel serves not only as Welty’s premier novel but also as an ideal example of Southern literature....   [tags: maya angelou, biography, negroes]

Powerful Essays
1661 words (4.7 pages)

Essay on Personal Narrative : Death And Dying

- ... Like my grandfather, who died when my dad was only twelve years old, my grandmother was laid too rest next him at Fort Snelling. I was eighteen years old and I already had a child of my own. My daughter Adriana was a little over a year old and I had her with me at the funeral but she was getting to antsy so one of the ladies who worked at the church nursery took her and watched her so that I could finish the wake, then the service at the church and then the service at the cemetery. When then had a lunch in at the church and then Adriana was with me again....   [tags: Family, Death, Funeral, Life]

Powerful Essays
1655 words (4.7 pages)

The Death Of Assisted Dying Essay

- Assisted dying is classified as: ‘when a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, making the choice of their own free will and after meeting strict legal safeguards, takes prescribed medication which will end their life’. (Dignity in Dying, 2012) Currently, if you help someone to end their life, under the 1961 Suicide Act, you can be criminally prosecuted and if found guilty can face up to 14 years imprisonment. That said, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines recently stating: ‘Anyone who assisted a loved one to die while “acting out of compassion” was unlikely to be charged’....   [tags: Euthanasia, Death, Suicide, Life]

Powerful Essays
1004 words (2.9 pages)

Essay about Death And Dying : Death

- ... You wouldn’t want your family to be unprepared and flounder financially if something happened to you, especially if you are the sole provider for your family. Our understanding of death grows as we get older and we come to grips with the idea of death. Young children do not understand death, unless they live in a culture where death is common or are terminally ill. They cannot understand that death is permanent and at a younger age, believe that certain people don’t die and never will. They cannot comprehend the idea that all living functions end at death, such as thinking and feeling, and do not understand the cause of death....   [tags: Death, Thought, Old age, Mind]

Powerful Essays
1426 words (4.1 pages)