The Mourning traditions in ‘The Optimist’s Daughter
(A review of The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty – 4*/5*)
The Pulitzer winner of 1972 is a very short novella about a woman in her forties, Laurel losing her father and coming to terms with his death.
“Even if you have kept silent for the sake of the dead, you cannot rest in your silence, as the dead rest.”
I think it should he considered good etiquette not to attend a funeral even if one is invited, if one isn’t heavily grieved by loss of the deceased or of his/her close ones. I mean what is point of creating an indifferent crowd busy in gossiping and telling tales when there are people genuinely mourning? Isn’t disrespectful for dead? As it is, there is friction enough even among those genuinely grieved (which explains the argument in last chapter for me) Mourning seems to be a very private thing that people are forced to do in public.
The impersonal, distant narration – with a lot of conversation thus had made this book a two star stuff. Because although the description was realistic, it was also too much at surface, even the characters didn’t impress. It is only in second last chapter that rating started picking up when we go inside protagonist Laurel’s mind – know about her relationship with her father and only then I could understand the motives behind her actions. It is one of those novels best appreciated in retrospect.
The same can be about Fay. Marrying a rich man twice her age, hiding the existence of her family and too melodramatic ways – she doesn’t seem to get a lot of sympathy. In this way, she is like Edith from Stoner, since whatever suffering made her like this remains hidden ( only some subtle hints are given) she comes out as a villain.
“You don’t know the way to fight.” She squinted up one eye. “I had a whole family to teach me.”