Best and Worst Literary Dads

Today’s my dad’s birthday, and in honor of him I thought I’d make a list of my most loved and hated fathers in literature. He can be compassionate or cruel, nice or nasty, but there are just some dads you can’t forget:

Give him a hug – Best book dads

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Defender of the discriminated, Atticus was the perfect role model to kids Jem and Scout. Possibly literature’s favorite lawyer, he defended an African-American man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. He risked complete alienation from his Southern community, even suffered Bob Ewell spitting in his face, but he did so in order to stand up for what he believed was right. Definitely check out Academy Award-winning Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, one of the best adaptations of all time.

Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley (Bill and Charlie Weasley not pictured)

Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Another dad who fights against racism, this time of the magical kind. Mr. Weasley loved all things Muggle, and was obsessed with learning how the non-wizards live. His empathy passed on to all of his seven children, even if a little late (looking at you, Percy!). When the going got tough, Arthur stepped up as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, battling Death Eaters while Harry could destroy Voldemort. But I remember the most was how warm and kind the Weasleys were, and how awesome it must have been to spend the holidays with them!

Kick him to the curb – Worst book dads

Ian McKellen as King Lear

King Lear from King Lear by William Shakespeare: Don’t let the title fool you, this king was royally messed up. The elderly Lear decides to give his kingdom to one of his three daughters–the one who flatters him the most. Goneril and Regan brown-nose excessively, but Cornelia refuses to do so and is disinherited. But when Lear lives with his other two daughters, they are still not grateful enough. After a series of betrayals, Lear goes crazy with paranoia. I won’t go into all the play’s details, but eventually tragedy befalls all three daughters, and Lear realizes his mistakes…too late, though, because he dies quickly afterward. Moral of the story: you have to earn love to receive it.

John Noble as Denethor

Denethor from The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien: Lucius Malfoy and Lord Asriel were close runners-up, but Denethor truly makes my blood boil. First off, he’s not even worthy of his throne, which actually belongs to Aragorn. Then, he treats his son Faramir like dirt, because his beloved son Boromir died on the quest to destroy the One Ring. I mean, take a look at this despicable conversation between father and son in the movie (courtesy of IMDb):

Denethor: Is there a captain here who still has the courage to do his lord’s will?
Faramir: You wish now that our places had been exchanged… that I had died and Boromir had lived.
Denethor: Yes.
[whispering]
Denethor: I wish that.
Faramir: Since you are robbed of Boromir… I will do what I can in his stead.
[Bows and turns to leave]
Faramir: If I should return, think better of me, Father.
Denethor: That will depend on the manner of your return.

But Faramir still fights for his father, trying to win his love. He gets gravelly injured, and Denethor–believing him to be dead–tries to burn himself and his son on a pyre. Luckily, Gandalf and Pippin save Faramir, while Denethor goes completely nuts, throwing himself aflame off a cliff. Well, good riddance!

Any other dads that should be on these best and worst lists? 

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8 thoughts on “Best and Worst Literary Dads

  1. Right on with Atticus Finch!!! One of my all-time fave books! He’s really more of an adoptive dad, but Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables comes to mind as a great dad. Bad dad: the father in The Poisonwood Bible, the father in The Secret Garden. Great topic!

  2. Pingback: Happy (Literary) Father’s Day! | Book Club Babe

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