2024 Reading Challenge

2024 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 1 book toward her goal of 285 books.

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

A Slightly Odd Homage to Fathers Or “Hey, She’s Doing it Again!”

So some of you may recall that I did a few posts for Mother’s Day, featuring a bit o’ poetry, a free e-book and reviews of books featuring great mothers, and reviews of books featuring horrid mothers. Well, there seemed to be some decently positive responses to those, so I’m going to mimic them for Father’s Day! This allows me to (a) capitalize on a positive trend in the blog and (b) develop a few posts without having to come up with entirely original ideas. (teehee) Hooray, she said!

To kick off the series of posts, I will again start in a slightly off-beat way (because that is, after all, how I start most things – a fact that may or may not be apparent by now). So here we go, running through a smattering of books that feature bad dads. SPOILER ALERT: some of the summaries/reviews may give away a bit of plot or a “surprise” in the course of discussing the nature (or even name!) of the dad in the story, so read on at your own risk.

Bad dads do not seem to be as big a deal or as much of a surprise in the popular zeitgeist as bad moms. I mean, google “evil mothers” or “bad moms” in literature, and you get a bunch of interesting results; substitute “fathers” or “dads” and you get a couple of lists in fiction, an unfortunate number of “real-life” stories, and a slew of irrelevant things… I don’t know why this is exactly. It’s possible that dads get a bad rap because of the whole traditional “dad as disciplinarian, mom as nurturer” stereotype. Or because dads are often physically bigger. Or historically have tended to more frequently work outside of the home and be gone for vast stretches of the day.

Whatever, I say. Sure I have known some bad dads. But I have known more amazing ones. And I’ve yet to witness any real trends about their tendency toward good- or badness on the basis of their attitudes to/roles regarding discipline, physical size, or locus of work. So I am left stumped as to why bad moms seem to surprise people more. Frankly, I find the concept of a “bad” parent – of whatever sex, gender, or familial role – sad, disturbing and surprising regardless of which parent it happens to be.

But I digress. I am here to discuss bad dads in books. So on with the show! Here are a few of my favorite love-to-hate-‘em fathers – and by “favorite” I mean either that the character himself is so bad that he’s entertaining or that the book is so good that the bad dad deserves mention…

  • Alexander Zalachenko in The Millennium Trilogy (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books) (Stieg Larsson) – Wow. Talk about your evil dads. He repeatedly tries to kill his daughter Lisbeth. He sends his son, her brother, to try to kill her. He repeatedly beat her mother, eventually into senselessness. He is something of an evil genius, criminal mastermind type, who flips loyalties and has governments after him for his nefarious behavior. He is utterly unrepentant of any/all of these things – and doesn’t consider most of them “bad” behavior because he doesn’t think anyone in the world who is not him even matters. You can’t really get much worse thd
  • Dad Rice in Jumper(Stephen Gould) – It’s a sign that you’re a pretty rotten dad when your son has to develop/actualize his hidden ability to teleport as his only means of defense against your physical abuse. The endearing Mr. Rice is a verbally and physically abusive alcoholic whose only joy in life seems to be belittling and hitting his son Davy. Aw, warms the cockles of your heart, doesn’t it? Fortunately, Davy gives it back to his dad in spades once he realizes he is a “jumper” and can travel through space to any place he can visualize clearly. Living well truly is the best revenge, after all, and the boy who can transport himself into and out of bank vaults at will does stand a better than average chance at living well, even if mysterious authorities are after him…
  • Thenardier in Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) – Hm, let’s see. Exhibits greed and utter lack of morals at every opportunity – check. Mistreats the very small child placed into his care, then sells her to the first gentleman who expresses interest – check. (Granted, this worked out well for said child, but he did not have any way of knowing this at the time!) Swindles and/or outright robs guests at his inn/pub – check. Browbeats wife – check. Forces daughter into life of crime – check. Abandons son (who he never even gave a name to) to life as a homeless waif on Parisian streets – check. Ah, Thenardier – a villain that the musical has made people love to hate, and that the novel has made people simply hate. If your only experience of Les Mis is via Broadway, you really must read the novel. It is long and involved (and French), but extraordinary – and very different from the theatrical version.
  • Mr. Darling in Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie) – He’s not really “bad” in the sense of intentionally horrific; he’s more short-tempered and impatient and seems to me not that pleased to be the father of a daughter who isn’t growing up fast enough for his/Victorian tastes. Although honestly, if your children match your voice/mannerisms to the villain in their imagination (referencing the play here, of course), that can’t bode very well now can it? I have seen a list that calls Mr. Darling a good father because he is just trying to get his children (notably Wendy) to grow up. While that is, of course, an admirable thing and a job of a father, it seems to me there are nicer/better ways to go about it than banishing said child from the nursery/her little brothers… Plus, I just love this book and kind of love-to-hate Mr. Darling for his tough-love approach, since I am a child who never really wanted to grow up!

So there you have it, some of the more colorful, less concerned dads in literature. Stay tuned next week for a couple more posts in honor of Father’s Day – both of which will be a teensy bit more traditional honorings… 😉

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