Richard Ford

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How did the character Frank grow in "Optimists" by Richard Ford?

The character Frank in "Optimists" by Richard Ford grows in the sense that he has become more independent, less attached to his family. This is largely due to the tragic incident one night when Frank’s father Roy killed his friend Boyd. Although Frank still retains his family’s optimism about life, he has become detached from his loved ones, no longer admiring them as he once did.

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Frank’s family are nothing if not optimistic; hence the story’s title. Despite living through hard times, Frank’s parents still managed to retain a positive outlook on life, something they passed on to their son.

Even after Frank’s father Roy killed his friend Boyd one night—an action witnessed by the then fifteen-year-old Frank, and which sent Roy to prison—Roy was still able to keep his sunny side up. Despite everything that’s happened, Roy tells Frank that all he wants for himself and his family is happiness. He also tells Frank that he wants his family to enjoy life, which is indeed a pretty optimistic thing to say under the circumstances.

Over time, however, Franks finds it increasingly hard to maintain respect for his father after what he’d done. Frank could still be said to be an optimist, so in that sense, he’s very much his father’s son. But he’s changed in that he can no longer truly respect his father—or his mother, come to that—which undoubtedly goes some way to explain why he left home and no longer visits his parents all that often. An optimist Frank may be, but his optimism now depends on his living a life of his own, away from his family.

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