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“I Am Your Father”: The Best and Worst Fathers From Fiction

It was Father’s Day here a while back and it got me thinking about all the iconic father figures that have become a part of popular culture. From Darth Vader to Hamlet’s ghostly patriarch, they all cut a striking, unforgettable figure, at times seeming almost larger than life. “Avenge thy father” is certainly better ingrained into my brain than whatever my dad might’ve told me last month. Joke or not, soon enough the fictional patriarchs almost seem as real as the non-fictional ones. So here’s a (small) list of the best and worst fathers from fiction:

1. Mr Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

Ah yes, good old Mr. B. He surely falls into both camps. With his dry wit, that is at equal measures aimed at himself as it is at others, it’s hard not to be charmed by him. He would certainly make a good neighbour. But he also makes a terrible father. He does close to nothing to contribute to the well-being of his six (six!) daughters. It’s all very well to laugh at Mrs. Bennet but he wasn’t laughing too much at the mess with Lydia and Wickham. And even then his contrition was still restrained, and very quickly forgotten (as admitted by himself). Overall Mr. Bennet is better at being a bad father than he is at being a good one.

2. Danny’s dad from Danny the Champion of the World

Danny’s dad gets gold stars all around. Not only did he do a great job of single-handedly raising such a conscientious and kind kid, but he was also such a fun dad! Teaching Danny to fly kites, hot-air balloons, telling him exciting bed-time stories. Sure, ten-year-old me was scandalised by his poaching – which I was convinced was just a fancy word for “stealing” – but it was all a part of his very important lesson of Sticking it to The Man. He definitely fits Dahl’s advice which appears at the back of the story that a parent needs to be SPARKY.

3. Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables

Yes, technically Matthew isn’t Anne’s Dad, but you know what, he might as well have been. Matthew with his quiet affection, and infinite wisdom. Matthew, who understood Anne’s visceral and agonising need for puffed sleeves (PUFFED sleeves, people!). He was so attuned to Anne’s feelings, providing the gentle, soothing guidance Anne needed to counteract Marilla’s more rigid style. And that line:

“Well now, I’d rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne,’ said Matthew patting her hand. ‘Just mind you that — rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn’t a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl — my girl — my girl that I’m proud of.”

Let’s – let’s move on before the floodgates fully open.

4. Crewe from A Little Princess

I guess I’ll have to leave off worrying about the floodgates, because if any father-child relationship was a tear-jerker it was this one. Mr. Crewe and Sarah had such a deep, emotional connection, tinged with playful humour and light-hearted affection. It was clear Mr. Crewe did everything in his power to ensure that his daughter never lacked for anything. Losing him was such a huge blow and I don’t think I Sarah ever got over it.

5. Tom Riddle Sr. from the Harry Potter series

I’m talking about Voldemort’s Muggle father. Yes, Mr. Riddle was under the power of a love potion when he got together with Voldemort’s mom, and sure, he ended up having a kid he didn’t really plan on, but would it have killed him to show some compassion to the mother and child? In fact, doing exactly the opposite of that is what does get him killed in the end. Showing a bit of kindness to little Voldemort would surely have saved the magic and non-magic folk a world of pain years later. Being rejected by his father is exactly what triggers Tom Jr.’s immense hatred for Muggles. Come on, Mr. Riddle, what about taking one for the team, huh? (This does in no way suggest, of course, that I am a Muggle.)

6. Yotsuba’s Dad from Yotsuba!

I think this guy probably gets top marks. He takes being sparky to a whole new level. He wholly and unabashedly engages in whatever games his young daughter comes up with. To be honest, almost all the adults in this story are very much in touch with their inner child, and that’s part of what make this manga series such a fun read. But it’s clear that a lot of Yotsuba’s easy friendliness and eagerness for life are due to her father’s encouragement.

So tell me, reader, which fictional fathers do you favour?

Faustina Paustin


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