Who Is Your Literary “Father Figure?”
What does it mean to be a father? Dads approach fatherhood in a variety of ways, from overbearing to “wrapped around your little finger,” and everything in between. There’s no formula for the perfect father, but there are some commonalities among father figures in literature that make the concept of fatherhood a powerful one.
In honor of Father’s Day, here are six father figures in literature. Which reminds you of your own father?
King Lear, The “Prideful” Father
The life of the title character in Shakespeare’s King Lear is shaped by his three daughters. When it comes time for him to step down from the throne in his old age, King Lear makes a drastic mistake. Instead of dividing his empire evenly among his three daughters, a final deceit causes him to disown Cordelia. Unfortunately, King Lear doesn’t realize that Cordelia loved him most until it’s too late. Despite this tragic choice, King Lear’s powerful love for his daughters defines his life.
Mr. Bennet, The “Protective” Father
Mr. Bennet may not be the richest character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but what makes him a memorable father is the constant care and empathy that he shows for his daughters. Given the Bennet family’s financial situation, he feels pressure to marry his daughters off, but instead of focusing on money he keeps his children’s best interests in mind. Throughout the novel, it’s clear how much Mr. Bennet admires his daughter Lizzy, in particular, in the way he uses both his wisdom and humor to guide her through difficult life decisions.
Bob Cratchit, The “Optimistic” Father
The majority of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol focuses on the eternally grumpy Ebeneezer Scrooge and the unfortunate Tiny Tim. The unsung hero here, however, is Tiny Tim’s father, Bob Cratchit. As Scrooge’s employee, Cratchit can’t see much light at the end of the tunnel, and he is perpetually kept cold and underpaid. Instead of giving up, Cratchit makes the best of the situation and dutifully reports to work in order to take care of his beloved son. After a spiritual intervention, Scrooge makes a turn for the better and Cratchit’s persistence and steadfastness pays off.
Atticus Finch, The “Role Model” Father
Despite tough times, Atticus Finch serves as a father figure to admire in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. A widower and lawyer in the Jim Crow South, Finch does his best to be his children’s moral compass. Perhaps the best example of this is the way Finch encourages his children to be who they want to be instead of what their troubled society says is right. Instead of forcing his daughter to be a girly girl, Finch encourages Scout to develop her tomboy personality. He has a challenging road in front of him, but he remains a pillar of strength throughout the novel.
Calvin’s Dad, The “Patient” Father
For years, fans enjoyed Bill Watterson’s funny and sweet comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. A calm and collected counterpoint to the mischievous Calvin, his dad proves time and time again that patience is a virtue. Throughout many story lines, Calvin’s dad answers his son’s often-obnoxious questions and deals with his many well-intentioned mishaps. Best of all, he loves Calvin through all of his trying moments and troublesome times.
The Man, The “Sacrificing” Father
The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a post-apocalyptic novel that remains grim from cover to cover, but one of the shining lights throughout is The Man. This father figure doesn’t have a lot to offer his son, due to their extraordinary circumstances. Instead, he does everything he can to keep his son alive and motivated along their incredibly difficult journey through what seems like the end of the world.
These father figures demonstrate a full range of parenting styles throughout centuries of literature. What unifies them is their dedication to their children and their insistence on placing their kids and their families first and foremost. Which father figure do you find most inspiring?