Dads, I realised as I sat down to write this post, are not well represented in literature.
Firstly, literature has an overwhelming number of orphaned children (Jane Eyre, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Great Expectations, Harry Potter), or otherwise absent fathers (Narnia).
Even ignoring these father figures, we are faced with a plethora of dads who frankly fail in their positions as parents. Woolf’s To the Lighthouse sees a strange, manic father who embarrasses his children – and was based upon Woolf’s own father. In Wharton’s The Custom of the Country we see Undine’s doting father unwittingly help to turn his daughter into the shallow, materialistic, morally corrupt woman we see at the end of the novel. Do not even get me started on Lord Asriel in His Dark Materials.
Plays can offer up nothing better – especially Shakespeare’s, with King Lear’s murderous, scheming ways; the ghost of Hamlet the elder seeking revenge which ruins his own son’s life; and Prospero’s well-intended actions which end in tears in The Tempest.
However, through the swathes of poor fathers, I managed to find one exemplary dad, who I thought we would celebrate as it is Father’s Day (still, my own dad could put him to shame…).
(Okay, there’s also Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, but he’s not her actual father. Her actual father’s pretty poor…)
Atticus Finch: To Kill a Mockingbird
What an amazing father. He raises Jem and Scout to have values which he sees as virtuous, in spite of the contrasting values of the rest of society. Not only in terms of race, which is the obviously key theme in the novel, but also in ideas of gender, and otherness, Atticus teaches his children through experience, not just by telling them. He defends a black man in court – and gives him the fairest trial he can. He allows his daughter to wear beeches and teaches her how to read in secret. He teaches them that being alone or reclusive, as Boo – sorry, Arthur – Radley is, is not a bad thing. He teaches them that being nice to someone – like Mrs Dubose – is an act of decency which we shouldn’t seek return from. He is always there for them, teaching, caring, listening. A truly inspiring father-figure.
Can you think of any other good father-figures in literature?