The Optimist's Daughter

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 attract.

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.