Today is Father’s Day, and it got me thinking about all the great fathers in literature. I did a search for the characters who were fathers. There are lots of fathers in literature, obviously since fatherhood is a major life experience. At a minimum one has a father, but in many cases most men at some point become fathers. It’s amazing how many fathers in literature were bad fathers. Perhaps there are more bad fathers in literature than good. I decided to make a list of the good fathers in literature for Father’s Day, but I wanted to limit the list to works that I have read.
1. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
2. Mr. Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
3. Jean Valjean from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
4. Bob Cratchit from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
5. Joe Gargery from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
6. The father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
7. Prospero from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
8. Squire Allworthy from Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.
9. Leopold Bloom from James Joyce’s Ulysses.
10. Nikolai Petrovich Kirsanov from Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons.
11. Sir Thomas Bertram from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.
12. Teshoo Lama from Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.
13. Tom Brangwen from D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow.
14. Odysseus from Homer’s The Odyssey.
15. King Priam of Troy from Homer’s The Iliad.
16. Anchises from Virgil’s The Aeneid.
17. Mr. Tulliver from George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss.
18. Byrun Bunch from William Faulkner’s Light in August.
19. Nikolai Bolkonsky from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
20. Consul Johann Buddenbrooks from Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family.
21. King Henry IV from William Shakepeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.
22. Earl of Gloucester from William Shakespeare’s King Lear.
23. Virgil in Dante’s Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.
24. Konstantin "Kostya" Dmitrievich Lëvin from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
One name on the list where I did cheat is with Johann Buddenbrooks. I’m currently reading Buddenbrooks, but I haven’t finished the family saga yet. Still I can tell he will be a very good father.
It’s interesting that a number of fathers on the list were adoptive fathers. Jean Valjean (Les Misérables), Squire Allworthy (Tom Jones), Byrun Bunch (Light in August), and Joe Gargery (Great Expectations). Some are rather idealized fathers like Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbirdi), Sir Thomas Bertram (Mansfield Park), and Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol). Some are more realistic fathers such as Tom Brangwen (The Rainbow) and Johann Buddenbrooks (Buddenbrooks). Some are symbolic fathers in that their “sons” see them as their father such as Leopold Bloom (Ulysses) and Virgil (The Divine Comedy).
Now which of these fathers strike a chord of father/son love that is truly touching? For me I would have to say the unnamed father of McCarthy’s The Road with his son, the Teshoo Lama’s relationship with Kim, and Jean Valjean’s fatherly nurturing of Cosette resonate the most. If you haven’t read those works, do so.
What about you? Which fathers in literature do you like the most?