How does The Optimist's Daughter reflect the social issues of the late 60s?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several themes reflected in The Optimist's Daughter that hearken to issues that were prevalent in the 1960s. One of those was the realization of the importance of finding one's roots. Originally a concern of African Americans, the wisdom of the pursuit of one's background soon made it an issue relevant to all groups of people, especially groups of immigrants who were first- or second-generation or who were ill-treated upon their entry to America.

Another issue is marital choice, which correlates to the idea of good marriages versus bad marriages. With divorce rates becoming the topic of news stories, marital choice was a relevant issue of the 1960s. An issue that may be more difficult to understand was the prolonged adjustment to family life in which the family was altered by the death of member, usually the male in a family, in World War II. Though the 1960s seem very far removed from 1945, for some the loss of that war remained unresolved, as the heroine suggests: she remained a widow; she reminisces about what it might have been like.

Finally, a vary important social issue in the 1960s was the idea of coming to understand the need to take personal responsibility for individual decisions. This responsibility was instead of remaining a passive participant in a manipulated life. It was also instead of blaming others for choices made personally. While there are limits to the reach of isolation and the totality of independence of individuals, this was a critical issue in the 1960s.

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The Optimist's Daughter

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