The Optimist’s Daughter was first presented to a once-idealistic society soured on the cynicism of assassinations, riots, and the comeback of Richard Nixon and took the form of a long short story published in the New Yorker in 1969. By 1972, an America standing on the precipice of pessimism was presented with Welty's story in book form and its author was presented with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for the effort.
One of the thinnest volumes to ever receive that top honor, The Optimist’s Daughter proves that in the world of novels it is not about quantity, but quality. Indeed, Welty demonstrates the power of economy that comes from decades of producing short stories. While the South remains firmly intact as setting and Welty addresses any of the same themes permeating past works, what really sets The Optimist’s Daughter apart from her past glories is not length, but liberation.
The very same woman who left one of her most famous characters stuck in limbo in the back room at the post office here creates another domestic drama about identity and (practically) sibling rivalry in which the title refers to a woman who actually manage to find a way out of her trap. Though Eudora Welty would live for another thirty years and produce short stories and works of non-fiction, The Optimist’s Daughter would be the last novel she ever published.