8 Representations of Fatherhood in Literature

As the UK celebrates father’s day this Sunday, I have brought to you Eight father figures from various novels that explore the different impact and representation of fatherhood on the novel’s plot.

King Lear by William Shakespeare

King Lear is arguably Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy and a welcome reminder of mankind’s numerous flaws. The titular King is an elderly man who wishes to see his kingdom go to the daughter who loves him best – an act that exposes his naivety as he falls victim to their flattery and deceit, which eventually sees him go mad.

Man And Boy by Tony Parsons

Harry Silver, the father figure in Man and Boy, brings on his misfortune though having an affair with a colleague for a very brief period, an act that sees his marriage disintegrate. Silver has to adjust to life as a single parent, and it’s a journey that grabbed the readers attention and imagination when it was first published.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Although Jean Valjean was not a biological father to Cosette, but his actions demonstrate that it takes more than just fathering a child to be a real dad. Valjean is a man of virtue and conscience – his kindly actions continually put him in peril (we first know of his travails after he is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to help his sister feed her seven children), but he never shies away from doing the right thing.

A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

Mr Emerson is character somewhat out of time with the repressed individuals that he must mix with in E.M. Forster’s classic. His ideas are unconventional for the beginning of the 20th Century – he believes in the equality of women for instance. His love for his son, George, though is timeless, as is belief that his son and Lucy belong together.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Karamazov’s indifferent attitude to his three children – possibly four, as it’s inferred that his servant Pavel is his illegitimate son – is the fuel that fires Dostoyevsky’s iconic novel.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Mr Bennet appears to be something of a divisive father figure. On the one hand he is generous, a lover of life and clearly dotes on his five daughters; however, he also has some flaws: his tendency to withdraw when it comes to the big decisions – especially when it comes to Elizabeth’s marital prospects – and his lack of financial foresight.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Bob Cratchit is a good natured and kind character merely doing his best for his family in extremely difficult time as they struggle financially. His bond with his children, notably the disabled Tiny Tim, is one aspect that makes him worthy of a mention in a list of father figures.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Although Hamlet’s father is dead but his presence is felt throughout the play as the entire plot is triggered by his death and Hamlet’s intention of avenging his father’s murder.

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