The Optomist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty
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Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001)


Eudora Alice Welty was the oldest of her family's three children and the only girl, was born in Jackson , Mississippi , on April 13, 1909, to Chestina and Christian Welty.As a child , she was always surrounded by books and loved listening to her parents and other people tell and share stories.After completing her public education in Jackson, Welty attended Mississippi State College for Women from 1925 to 1927, finishing a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929 at the University of Wisconsin. Then she studied advertising at Columbia University from 1930 to 1931.In 1936 Welty published her first story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman. She later published magazines, short stories and more novels. Over the next thirty years, Welty had over fifteen books published, including short fiction, novels, and nonfiction. Welty's work has been recognized with awards such as a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1942, the O. Henry Award in 1942, 1943, and 1968; the National Institute of Arts and Letters literary grant in 1944 and Gold Medal for fiction in 1972; and a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for The Optimist's Daughter. Welty died of pneumonia on July 23, 2001, in Jackson, Mississippi, at the age of 92.

external image 0860683753.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgThe optimist daughter begins with Laurel McKelva Hand, a widow who travels to New Orleans from her home in Chicago, to see her father(judge Clint Mckelva) to get his eye operation. As Laura’s father was recovering at the hospital, laurel discovers her stepmother (fay McKelva) true colors and who she never made any connections with in the beginning. Fay rarely visited Laurel’s father since the two were married. Fay starts to show her true self as Laurel’s father’s condition continued to worsen.Laurel realizes how selfish and superficial her step mother was, After a violent argument in the hospital with his wife, the judge dies. Soon after the death of the judge, Fay left to go back home to Texas with her family who she originally claimed she never had until Laurel confronts Fay to the reason which her mother died. After her ruthless and immature stepmother leaves, she began to recollect herself, remembering her parents that passed, the house she grew up in and the life she had before she left Mount Salus. Laurel’s visit to her hometown and the memories of her parents helped her to discover more about herself. She leaves Mount Salus with a new understanding of life and good family and friends influences. But most of all, she gains a new understanding and respect for herself.

Set In New Orleans/ a small town of Mount salus Mississippi in March of the 1970’s

Main Characters
Laurel Mckelva Hand- Judge McKelva’s daughter
Judge Clinton Mckelva-Laurel’s father, who is an optimist

Wanda Fay (chisom) Mckelva-Fay is Judge McKelva’s second wife, Laurel’s stepmother
Becky McKelva-Laurel’s mother and Clint’s first wife

Minor Characters

Mrs. Bolts-the minister wife and an elderly woman
Major Rupert Bullock-friend of judge McKelva,
Tennyson Bullock-major Bullock's wife, close friend of the McKelva family
Tish Bullock-

an old friend of Laurel's. She is the daughter of Major and Tennyson Bullock. Bubba Chisom-
Fay's brother,
Grandpa Chisom-Fay's grandpa, the only one who seems to have manners
Mrs. Chisom-Fay's mother, she felt no sympathy for anyone or the judge death, she was more interesed in the money and the house Fay has as a widow and wants to move in with the family
Sis Chisom-Fay's pregnant sister,
Adele Courtland
-Dr. Courtland's sister and luarel's first grade teacher
Dr. Nate Courtland-the family doctor and the eye specialist of the McKelva, long time friend of judge McKelva
Mr. Dalzell-patient who shares the same room as the judge in the hospital
Mrs. Pease
-an elderly neighbor, who liked to gossip especially about fay
Missouri-family cook for the McKelva's since Laurel was little


is Laurel trying to figure herself out and discovering her past she left behind, realizing who are truely positive people and things in her live and the negative ones like her stepmother ( Fay McKelva). Her and her stepmother have no connections or understanding and they try as much as possible to avoid each other.

Literary Devices
"judge and jury" metaphor was used often in the book. The metaphor describes Fay's judgment of Laurel's visit during her father's hospital stay, and l Laurel's judgement of Fay`s resentment towards Becky (Laurel mother)

The author uses birds to signify death, every time a bird enters a reference to or an actual death occurs
“ it (the bird) could not get in here. But it had been in already? For how long it made free of the house, shuttling through the dark rooms? And now Laurel could not get it out.”

Literary Criticism
Welty studies the ambiguity of the South—what people say and what they don’t say. What people perceive and what they don’t perceive. It is important when reading Welty that you cannot always trust her narrators. They too can be ambiguous, and say things they don’t really mean. In this way, the reader experiences much of the same communication problems and errors that the characters themselves experience. While she writes about human perception in a number of her stories, Welty, indeed, does it best in The optimist daughter -JC Robertson

Personal review
The book started off alright nothing really attention grabbing,but as the story continued it started to get more interesting as Laurel trys to reconnect with her past to discover present and her heartache of loosing her parents.Also her not leaving her fathers house to see how selfish and arrogant her step mother was.At some point in the book it started to get a little confusing, I could not tell at times if they were in the present or talking about their past and some parts of the book did not really connect. This book is one of those books one would consider taking their time to read, to really feel like their in the authors mind. This is a real warmth and thoughtful book. The book was well written the author really wanted the reader to feel like they were in Laurel's mind for a moment. I thought the book was alright I'm sure if i read it again I would understand it more.I would consider the book to anyone who likes touching and thoughtful type books


  • Patterns of Vision in Welty's "The Optimist's Daughter", by Robert L. Phillips © 1981University of North Carolina
  • The Optimist's Daughter, in U.S. News & World Report, February 15, 1993. Turner, W. Craig, and Lee Emling Jennifer Bussey, Critical Essay on The Optimist'sDaughter, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2002
  • Harding, editors, Critical Essays on Eudora Welty, G, K, Hall (Boston,Ma),1989
  • Vande kieft,Ruth,Eudora Welty,Twayne (Boston MA), 1962