The writings of Eudora A. Welty have been published since 1936. They include four collections of short stories and five novels. Although she is a highly anthologized southern writer and winner of several literary awards, serious criticism of her works has been limited to her early short stories or the regionalism of her novels.

The scope of this thesis includes a traditional analysis of "The Wanderers," a story in The Golden Apples (1949) collection which has received cursory study, as well as an analysis of her latest published novel, The Optimist's Daughter, (1972) which has yet to be studied by critics.

In addition to contributing to the overall examination of Miss Welty's literary works, this thesis suggests that the novel is a derivation of the earlier story.

Both stories revolve around the events surrounding the funeral of the protagonist's parent and the change in philosophy experienced by the surviving daughter during the immediate mourning period highlighted by the funeral--both protagonists are single, middle--aged women. In addition, the social setting is similar in both stories. They are, in fact, quite interchangeable, and the symbols in both stories mirror each other: sight, clocks, and birds. Finally, both relate to the theme of living the "really good life" which is associated with moving boldly into the future unshackled by past or by convention.

The basic weakness of "The Wanderers" is its failure to make the change in Virgie Rainey's approach to life a reasonable occurrence: a viable stimulus is missing for the transition from her being a 40-year-old woman living quietly at home with her mother and working as a typist to leaving her hometown to seek a bold and golden life elsewhere.

In The Optimist's Daughter, the daughter Laurel Hand is supplied with a series of experiences which carefully lead her towards a new look at life, thereby rectifying the primary weakness of "The Wanderers." Not only is Laurel Hand's change of attitude realistically presented in the novel, but Miss Welty also puts forth a panacea for coping with contemporary alienation and ennui. Such a forthright statement is unusual for Miss Welty who usually specializes in merely describing very well the contemporary human situation.

It seems that in The Optimist's Daughter has taken the framework of "The Wanderers," strengthened its weakest part, added the colorful and useful characters of Becky and Fay, and made a clear statement on her conviction regarding how to live life.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Delmer I. Davis

Second Advisor

Robert P. Dunn

Third Advisor

Karen Reiber

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Welty, Eudora, 1909-2001--Characters--Women; Welty, Eudora, 1909-2001--Criticism and interpretation.



Page Count

iii; 69

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives