Updated: Aug 5
Fathers in literature: the wacky, the weird, and the wonderful… We celebrate Father's Day 2019 with some examples of English literature's finest fathers!
It’s Father’s Day! Today’s the day to thank and celebrate the wonderful dads, grandads, and father figures in our lives. And as we collected a list of some of the most wonderful mothers in literature for Mothering Sunday, it’s only fair that we do the same for fathers today.
Again, full disclaimers that these choices are entirely subjective, and that there aren’t that many to choose from, as dysfunctional parents make for much more interesting stories… but here are a few of my favourites to get you started, and please do comment with some of yours!
1. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
We’ll start somewhere obvious: Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Raising his two children as a single father after the death of his wife, Atticus does his absolute best to instil kindness, respect, and compassion into Jem and Scout, and demonstrates constant love, dignity, and generosity in the face of hardship. He’s also awesome because he doesn’t patronise or pander to his children: he takes the time and effort to answer their questions honestly, and expects the best of them, whilst always being ready to forgive any mistakes. It’s no wonder that he tops most people’s lists of the best book dad ever!
2. Sirius Black / Arthur Weasley / Remus Lupin / Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter
I believe I’ve made my feelings about the magical majesty of the Harry Potter books clear in previous blogs, but one of the main reasons I love them is the depth and sincerity of family relationships, exemplified by all these men. There are some wonderful biological families in the books (the Weasleys are just the best), but also lots of self-made families of people across generations who care for and protect each other.
Much is made in the books of Harry being an orphan, but he essentially has four adopted dads: Hagrid looks after him from the second he enters the wizarding world, taking great care over his birthday presents and sorting out his friendship problems; Arthur blithely accepts him as an eighth Weasley child and takes him on exciting trips; Lupin takes great pains with his education and feeds him chocolate; and Sirius puts his life in danger to protect him.
Rowling shows clearly that fatherhood is a choice much more than genetics, and demonstrates some of the best ways of being a father in these men. Good thing all of them survive to the end of the series, or that’d be really sad…
3. John Jarndyce, Bleak House
Moving slightly upwards in literary circles, Charles Dickens writes some of literature’s most memorable father figures, both good and bad. Bob Cratchit from A Christmas Carol is high on the list for selfless, sweet patience, but my personal favourite is John Jarndyce. Embroiled in a lawsuit that has torn his family apart, he adopts three wards of the court, distant relatives, young people whose lives have been spoilt by the case. He makes a wonderful home for them, does everything he can to make them happy, and continues trying to help them, even when one of them turns against him. His main action in life is to work for their good, which he continues even when it costs him personally. As far as selfless, generous, kind father-figures go, you can’t get much better than Jarndyce.
4. Mr Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
As I included Mrs Bennet in my Mother’s Day blog, I have no excuse not to include Mr Bennet here. Like his good wife, his parenting has some flaws, not least his tendency to laugh at the foolishness of his family, rather than doing anything to prevent it. But he raises his daughters (well, his eldest two) to be sensible people, encouraging them to read what interests them, rather than forcing a traditionally feminine education on them. He stands by Lizzy when Mrs Bennet is trying to force her to make a materially advantageous, but emotionally repulsive, marriage, and is capable of springing into action when the welfare of his family is truly in danger. As a representation of a flawed, normal human, who becomes capable of uncomfortable exertion and sacrifice when his children need him, Mr Bennet is pretty great.
5. William, Danny the Champion of the World
Lots of children think their dad is a superhero, only to realise with disappointment as they grow older that they aren’t quite as all-powerful as they first appear. Roald Dahl captures this realisation but makes it magical in Danny, the Champion of the World, as Danny realises that his dad isn’t perfect, but is doing what he can to give Danny a good life. They live in absolute poverty, and William works almost constantly to earn what he can to keep him and his son alive and safe, but in his spare time creates the most incredible games, inventions, and stories for Danny. Danny does discover that his dad uses some… questionable… methods to acquire food and money, but the way that William makes him feel included, valuable, and part of the secret might be irresponsible, but is still some pretty stellar parenting.
This list feels a little less daunting to live up to than the Mother’s Day one – perhaps because fathers are allowed to be more complex figures, or because men aren’t expected to be intrinsically, biologically amazing at parenting. But it still shows pretty well that there are lots of different ways to be an awesome dad, and that you don’t need to have loads of money, everything sorted, or even a blood relationship to be an absolutely brilliant father. So happy Father’s Day!
Blog Post Crafted by Rebecca
Subjects Taught: English, Maths, 7+, 11+
Background: Rebecca is one of our most popular tutors, with a degree in English from the University of Cambridge and hundreds of hours of private tuition experience in 7+, 11+, English and Maths. She is also an assessor for Titanium Tutors, observing the mock lessons taught by potential tutors and deciding whether or not they meet the high standards of the agency.