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Optimists Daughter

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Introduction

Angelo Rivera November 29, 2010 Dr. Schmidt The Optimist's Daughter Essay The old saying "The home is where the heart is" takes on a special meaning in Eudora Welty's, The Optimist's Daughter. In this short novel, the death of Judge McKelva prompts Laurel and Fay, who are his daughter and wife, to connect with their own homes. A home is a place where one can restore themselves because it gives one a sense of comfort. Home is where people generally feel accepted, regardless of their moods, feelings, or decisions. It is a safe haven where both Laurel and Fay can be truthful with themselves and one another. In other words, home is the obvious place to go when in a time of crisis and change. For Laurel, the town of Mount Salus is her home. For Fay, home is in the town of Madrid, where her extended family likely meets the same needs for Fay as the house does for Laurel. When reviewing the events of Eudora Welty's life at the time of writing this novel, it will also become clear that, for Welty, home is both Mississippi and her writing. ...read more.

Middle

She hears her mother's voice when she is in the garden, "Laurel went on pulling weeds. Her mother's voice came back with each weed she reached for, and its name with it. 'Ironweed.' 'Just chickweed.' 'Here comes that miserable old vine!'" (Welty 107). Later, in a moment of remembering the pain she felt when she lost her husband in World War II, Laurel hears his voice grieving for their lost future together. Welty writes, " 'I wanted it!' Phil cried. His voice rose with the wind in the night and went around the house and around the house. It became a roar. 'I wanted it!'" (155). There is no other place besides her own home that Laurel can experience such personal revelations and be given the opportunity to confront her pain from the past and make peace with it. The bond that she has with her home is so deep that she can overcome many obstacles and emotional problems in time. Only at home is she truly able to bare her heart and hear what she needs to hear to heal herself. However, to ultimately make peace with her past and her present, she must become "one" with the significance of the house so she can take it with her wherever she goes. ...read more.

Conclusion

Laurel's personal journey to make peace with her past in order to make sense of her future certainly mirrors the author's own struggles. Welty differs from Laurel in the sense that Laurel lives far from her hometown, while Welty lived in Mississippi, where she was born, until her death (Marrs 232). For Laurel, however, the climax of her journey comes from the house. In the absence of a house that holds all of her childhood memories, Welty wrote this book. Welty works through some of her grief in her writing, which is as meaningful to her as the house is to Laurel. Welty comments on Laurel's love of her past, "Firelight and warmth-that was what her memory gave her" (Westling 159). Laurel, Fay, and Welty are all working toward such comfort in a difficult time during the course of The Optimist's Daughter. In very difficult times, confronted with emotion and uncertainty, people often long to return to the comfort and security of their childhood homes. Fay and Laurel find the havens they need by going back to their homes. Laurel is ultimately able to take a piece of that firelight and warmth with her back to Chicago, because she has finally succeeded in making her heart and her home one. ...read more.

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