Good evening, folks, and Happy Father’s Day a day early! I knew I had to write something bookish about Father’s Day, so why not gush about some of my favorite characters? I’m afraid this isn’t a very complete list; I haven’t read nearly as many novels as I wish to have read, so my judgments of who are the “best” of a certain fictional characters are a little off. But based on the books I have read so far, these are the people I think are the best dads in fiction.
1: Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird
Well there is really no contest here, now is there? Even if I had read more novels, there would still be no contest! The vast majority of people, whether they met Atticus through the book or the movie, will say he is a model father, and for good reason. In the first place, he treats his children as he would want to be treated, a rarity in the 1930’s, when the cardinal rule of parenting was “Children should be seen and not heard.” Another popular rule of parenting, “Do as I say, not as I do,” also goes completely unacknowledged by Mr. Finch. Rather than just telling Scout and Jem how he expects them to behave and doing as he pleases in his own life, Atticus teaches by example. And what a good example it is too! He doesn’t want his children to respect him solely because he is their father, he wants to be the kind of person who deserves respect. Combine that with his deep devotion to and concern for his children (see Chapter 31) and you have one of the best, if not the best, father in literature.
2: Matthew Cuthbert
Anne of Green Gables
I know he isn’t really Anne’s father, but he is still a wonderful father figure. He made an indelible mark on Anne the day he picked her up from the train station, simply because he was the first person who treated her kindly, who was friendly to her and showed concern for her. It was because he didn’t have the heart to send her back to the orphanage that she got to stay at Green Gables and be brought up by a real family. It was also Matthew’s efforts to understand her, where she was coming from and what she was feeling, that made her feel like she did have a family. Matthew was simply a wonderful human being (even if he wasn’t real).
3: Joe Gargery
Again, not anyone’s real father, but he is the closest thing poor Pip has to a dad. Though he is timid and accommodating to a fault, he has a good heart and tries his best to make a good home for Pip. Joe is right: a lot of men would have been reluctant to take in a little baby that wasn’t theirs, but Joe welcomes his brother-in-law with open arms (I nearly cried when I read that part). Besides his merits as a father figure, he is kindhearted, generous, and down-to-earth.
Mr. [Does he have a first name?] Bennet
Pride and Prejudice
Sometimes, I talk so much about the characters of Pride and Prejudice I forget that I’ve never actually read the book cover to cover. Yes, take my woman card away! I’ve never read a whole Jane Austen novel. I only know P&P because I’ve seen three adaptations of it an untold number of times (the 1940, 1995, and 2005 versions. By the way, Laurence Olivier is my favorite Mr. Darcy. 😉 ). But that’s no reason not to let this character have his turn in the spotlight. Granted, he picks on his girls a lot and his financial planning skills stink, but he’s still one of my favorite literary dads. His sarcastic sense of humor might have something to do with that. Take for example this line from Chapter 23 (I did read that far into the book!):
“Indeed, Mr. Bennet,” said [Mrs. Bennet], “it is very hard to think that Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to make way for her, and live to see her take her place in it!”
“My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor.”
Quite a fellow, that Mr. Bennet, and definitely deserving of honorable mention.