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

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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. Memory, in its purest form, can best be described as a creature’s mental capability to accumulate, hold on to, and retrieve information. In southern literature, this same definition can be applied to memory. The south, plain and simple, is …show more content…
None of ‘em living’” (27). Through this statement Fay denies having any recollection of her past. Throughout The Optimist’s Daughter, many references are made to both birds and flowers. This is not just limited to the text inside of the novel as even the novel’s cover depicts multiple birds and flowers. In the context of the novel, flowers typically symbolize something good while birds symbolize something bad. The floral images throughout the novel have significant importance with the stories that are being told. Remembering his late wife Becky at the beginning of the story, Judge McKelva states, “‘Of course, my memory had slipped. Becky would say it served me right. Before blooming is the wrong time to prune a climber,’ Judge McKelva went on in the same confidential way; the doctor’s face was very near to his. ‘But Becky’s Climber I’ve found will hardly take a setback.’ ‘Hardly,’ the doctor murmured. ‘I believe my sister still grows one now from a cutting of Miss Becky’s Climber’” (5). Though this story occurs early in the text, it is of significant importance to the rest of the novel. Becky’s Climber, a collection of roses, tells the story of Becky’s life, a life which Judge McKelva struggles to understand. Becky’s Climber is also the cause of Judge McKelva’s eye injury which requires surgery to fix fully. He sustains this injury while pruning Becky’s roses. This quote

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