Cover image for The optimist's daughter
The optimist's daughter
Welty, Eudora, 1909-2001.
Personal Author:
Random House, Inc., 2002 edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2002]
Physical Description:
180 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Previously published: 1972.
Reading Level:
880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 6.0 10842.

Reading Counts RC High School 9 9 Quiz: 08709 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Format :


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Material Type
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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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"It is easy to praise Eudora Welty," as Robert Penn Warren has written, "but it is not so easy to analyze the elements in her work that make it so easy--and such a deep plea-sure--to praise. To say that may, indeed, be the highest praise, for it implies that the work, at its best, is so fully created, so deeply realized, and formed with such apparent in-nocence that it offers only itself, in shining unity." The Optimist's Daughter is Miss Welty's work at its best, and reconfirms Mr. Warren's general tribute, including the difficulty of analysis: Laurel Hand, long absent from the South, comes from Chicago to New Orleans, where her father dies after surgery. With Fay, the stupid new young wife of her father, Laurel returns to her former Mississippi home and stays a few days after the funeral for reunions with old friends. In a night alone in the house she grew up in, she confronts elements of the past and comes to a better understanding of it and of herself and her parents. The simplicity of the story belies its universal implications. This is a story of "the great interrelated family of those who never know the meaning of what happened to them." With unsurpassed artistry Miss Welty shows us Laurel's struggle to come to terms with her father's death and with the life of the small Mississippi town he was so intimately involved with. In trying to deal with people who, like Fay, never even care to un-derstand what has happened to them, Laurel realizes that she too has kept her distance from a shared past. Like so many today, Laurel has lived in a city where she survives by avoiding any real involvement with those around her. It is only the shock of her father's death that leads her to new insights into the relationship between love and death and memory. Certainly this book will be a rewarding experience to readers of Miss Welty's earlier work. Newcomers will discover its many dimensions and great substance: the large cast of characters and the complexity of their relationships, the rich humor and subtlety of dialogue that reveals without describing, the wideness of scope compressed within the boundaries of a short novel, the wisdom and discernment that underlie the author's vision of human life.

Author Notes

Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi on April 13, 1909. She was educated at the Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and at the University of Wisconsin. She moved to New York in 1930 to study advertising at the Columbia University business school. After her father's death, she moved back to Jackson in 1931. She held various jobs on local newspapers and at a radio station before becoming a publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program. Travelling through the state of Mississippi opened her eyes to the misery of the great depression and resulted in a series of photographs, which were exhibited in a one-women show in New York in 1936 and were eventually published as One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression in 1971. She stopped working for the WPA in 1936.

Her first stories, Magic and Death of a Travelling Salesman, were published in small magazines in 1936. Some of her better-known short stories are Why I Live at the P.O., Petrified Man, and A Worn Path. Her short story collections include A Curtain of Green, The Golden Apples, The Wide Net and Other Stories, and The Bride of Innisfallen and Other Stories.

Her first novel, The Robber Bridegroom, was published in 1942. Her other novels include Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, and The Optimist's Daughter, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. She received the gold medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972. Her nonfiction works include A Snapshot Album, The Eye of the Storm: Selected Essays and Reviews, and One Writer's Beginnings. She died from complications following pneumonia on July 23, 2001 at the age of 92.

(Bowker Author Biography)