The Optimist's Daughter: Summary

The major characters in The Optimist's Daughter are Judge McKelva,
Becky Mckelva, Laurel Mckelva, Wanda Fay, Dr. Courtland, Miss
Adele Courtland, Tish Bullock, Major Bullock, Miss Tennyson, and
Miss Missouri. Becky Mckelva was Judge Mckelva's wife before she
died and had Laurel Mckelva with him. Wanda Fay remarried Judge
Mckelva after his wife's death. Dr. Courtland did surgery on
Becky Mckelva and the final operation on Judge Mckelva. Miss
Adele Courtland is the sister of Dr. Courtland and is a bride's
maid to Laurel McKelva. Tish Bullock is also a bride's maid to
Laurel and is the daughter of Miss Tennyson and Major Bullock.
Miss Tennyson is another bride's maid to Laurel McKelva and is
married to Major Bullock. Miss Missouri is the maid to the
McKelva's and a long time friend of the family.


Two main characters in The Optimist's Daughter are Wanda Fay and
Laurel McKelva. Wanda Fay is a woman in her 40's and has the
maturity of a child. Whenever she becomes mad, Fay starts to
scream, point fingers, and search out people who will help her.
She can not stand up and fight for herself, instead Fay uses
tactics to make her opponent feel sorry or inferior. This makes
her extremely hard to get along with since she is always demanding
and never giving. Laurel McKelva is the complete opposite of
Wanda Fay. She is kind hearted, nice, caring, and intelligent.
Laurel has a air of maturity and understanding around her due to
her experiences in life.


In "The Optimist's Daughter" Judge McKelva will soon enter eye
surgery to fix a slipped retina. Judge McKelva, his daughter,
Laurel, and his new wife, Fay, are all anxious about the surgery
and what might happen. Laurels mother died from cancer that
started with her eyes and the family fears that the judge might be
suffering from the same illness. The surgery symbolizes a fear
that is contained by the three main characters and is a form of
foreshadowing. As mentioned by Laurel several times, she fears
that her father might not make it out of the operation and die,
like her mother, blind and confused. I predict that Judge McKelva
will not make it through the surgery or he will die shortly
afterwards. With such a sudden death, Laurel and Fay will not
have time to say good-bye to him and this will lead to
complications later in the book.


As predicted, Judge Mckelva dies after his surgery, but he holds
on for a few weeks before his ultimate death. Although the Judge
did eventually die, he did not die shortly after his surgery as
predicted. Laurel and Fay show an almost immediate dislike to
each other during the Judge's decline and after his death. This
hate could, later in the book, manifest itself into a conflict
between the two.


Judge McKelva's daughter, Laurel, and his wife, Fay, disliked each
other from the beginning of the book and are in one constant
conflict. Fay is like a child trapped in an elder's body. She is
used to things being her way, likes to be spoiled, stubborn, and
impatient. Laurel is young and kind hearted. She is more than
willing to wait for her father to get better, but Fay is not.
When they are in New Orleans, Fay keeps speaking about Marti Gras
and how the Judge promised he would take her one day. Not once
does she show any concern with her husband's condition, but
instead continues to think of only her self. Laurel is gravely
concerned with her father's condition and even spends almost all
daylight hours at the hospital with him. Laurel confronts Fay
about her lack of care and concern for her husband. Fay goes into
a temper tantrum and screams about how her husband has ruined her
life because he is no giving her whatever she wants. Laurel gives
up on trying to understand Fay and continues to look after her
father. The conflict between Fay and Laurel is never resolved and
will never be. Fay and Laurel are two opposites and they do not


Judge McKelva's wife, Fay, is in a conflict with her past. She
tries to destroy everything of the past so that it will not come
back and haunt her. Through out the book Fay displays ways in
which she hates the past. Some examples are, When she tells
Laurel that she has no family but then her family comes to Jude
McKelva's funeral, how Fay destroyed all remains of Becky McKelva,
and how she refers to her self as being in the future, not the
past. Fay's hate