Good Fathers in Literature

As a follow up to last week’s post about my own father, I’m posting again today, the day after Father’s Day in the UK, about dads.

I was inspired to do this one after reading a post by fellow blogger, Christina Philippou, on good examples of fatherhood in literature. So thanks, Christina. You can read her post here

When I began thinking about who I’d put on my list, I was surprised how difficult it was to come up with a few. I decided not to ask for Mr Google for suggestions and to just trawl my memory – so it it would indeed be my list.

Lots of what I’ve read has had absent fathers, bad fathers or no mention of fathers. I could come up with a few good fathers from my childhood and young adult reading and two from my most recent reading, but for all the years of reading in between I was struggling to come up with any. There’s perhaps a PhD thesis in why they seem scarce.

Or perhaps this says more about what I choose to read than about whether these male characters exist or not. I’d be interested to know what readers think about that.

Anyway, without further ado here are my five best dads in literature:

Malory Towers

  • From childhood and Enid Blyton’s first book in the Malory Towers series, it would be Mr Rivers, the father of main character, Darrell Rivers. She’s having a hard time settling into her new boarding school until her surgeon dad saves the life of her fellow pupil and future best friend, Sally who needs her appendix out. Not the easiest example for dad’s to follow but hey surely, if you’re kid is having trouble making friends or being picked on at school, it would surely be worth it to get yourself off to medical school.

Little Women

  • From later childhood reading, I would nominate Mr March. He is the much loved father of the four March girls in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. He’s absent for most of the book, but in a good way as he’s off being an army chaplain during the American Civil war. His absence is a significant presence (if you see what I mean) and is central to the story.

To Kill A Mockingbird

  • From my young adult reading days, best father has to be Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mocking Bird. His integrity, honesty and respect for his fellow humans makes him just the best role model.

And coming up to date, my final two are from my current weakness for contemporary crime fiction.

Keep the Midnight Out

  • Firstly, there’s Detective Superintendent William Lorimer who is the lead cop in Alex Gray’s novels. He’s not actually a father but in Keep the Midnight Out his longing to be a father is poignantly told as he and his wife come to terms with infertility.

Thin Air

  • And finally, it’s another detective, this time Jimmy Perez from the Ann Cleeves, Shetland set crime novels. He’s a flawed but loving step-dad, struggling to do the best for his step-daughter.

So, who’d be on your list?

14 thoughts on “Good Fathers in Literature

  1. Hi Anne, Quite difficult as you say. Elizabeth Hawksley has a current blog up about the missing grandparents in Jane Austen. In it she refers to the good influence of Mr Gardiner over the Bennett girls – as opposed to their own papa. Mr Bennett is an absent presence and the opposite of your Mr March. I agree with your choice of Jimmy Perez. Will now puzzle… anne stenhouse

  2. Mallory Towers – that takes me back! I remember reading about Mr Rivers taking out Sally’s appendix. I think Darrell thought she’d caused Sally’s illness but Mr Rivers put her mind at rest? Good old Mr Rivers! 🙂

  3. A father-figure rather than a father – Hector in Neil Gunn’s ‘Young Art and Old Hector’. Young Art is 8 years old and his own father is away fishing a lot. Hector is maybe more of a grand-father figure and the friendship between the two is maybe more typical of grandchild-grandparent. What I loved about the book when I first read it (in my 20s, long time ago!) was Hector’s gentle understanding of what it was like to be a child. He guides and protects Art and Art gets his chance to save Hector. Brilliant 🙂

  4. It was published in 1941. I wish I had a copy, I must have borrowed it from a library. The sequel is ‘The Green Isle of the Great Deep’, same two characters in a very different story.

  5. The dad from ‘Danny, the Champion of the World’ ! Made a lasting impression, to the extent that many years later, as teenagers, we tried the ‘draw a line hypnosis method’ on some hens. It worked. No hens were harmed in the course of this experiment 🙂

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