Happy (Literary) Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day! As I spend today enjoying my daddy’s company before heading back home, I’d like to reblog a post I wrote two years ago: my list of best and worst fathers in literature. I originally wrote this to celebrate my dad’s birthday, but with the extra traffic it’s been getting lately, why not give it the spotlight once again?

Give him a hug – Best book dads

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.

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

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.

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? 

Masterpiece Monday: Le Pere Goriot

Title page of Honoré de Balzac's Old Goriot (1...

Title page (Image via Wikipedia)

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m almost done with Madame Bovary, I promise, but the novel has made me realize how little French literature I have read. So I thought I’d make this week’s “Masterpiece Monday” a tribute to one of those select few, one which just so happens to be among the  most influential French novels to date: Le Pere Goriot (a.k.a. Father Goriot) by Honore de Balzac.

I read this book my first year of college in my “Global Narratives” class, which was a great opportunity to read fiction from other countries, including Germany, Spain, and Saudi Arabia. Le Pere Goriot was published in 1835, but takes place in 1819 during the Bourbon Restoration. This story is one of almost 100 which became part of La Comedie Humaine, Balzac’s collection dedicated to French society.

The book follows law student Eugene de Rastignac, who lives in a Parisian boarding house with a criminal named Vautrin and Goriot, an old man left broke after supporting his two daughters. Rastignac is the ultimate social climber, willing to do almost anything to become a member of high society. His threshold is reached, however, after Vautrin offers to kill the brother of a wealthy unmarried woman for him. Rastignac refuses this plan (which gets Vautrin arrested later), and instead pursues one of Goriot’s daughters. The novel narrates these characters’ interactions and tracks Rastignac’s social progress: Will he succeed? And if he does, will he still be happy in the end?

Balzac is lauded as the champion of French realist literature, given his extensive descriptions of the boarding house and of Parisian life during this time. Both the beautiful and ugly aspects of the characters intermix wonderfully, so it’s not a surprise that many of them were so popular they were recurring in his other works.

Money, of course, is an essential part of the plot and character development. Rastignac became the French equivalent of Machiavelli, his name a synonym for any end-justifies-the-means personality. As for Goriot, Balzac was even accused of plagiarizing Shakespeare’s King Lear, since they both portrayed a old father destroyed by his ungrateful, greedy daughters. I would answer that parent-child betrayals are very common in literature, and although Balzac was inspired by many authors and historical figures, Goriot is just one piece of the puzzle (despite the book being named after him).

Le Pere Goriot was very well-received after publication, and it has since been adapted into many films and theater productions. While I haven’t seen these adaptations, I have seen “The Godfather.” You might be thinking, well, that’s not relevant at all! But the famous line, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” was borrowed from Vautrin speaking to Rastignac about his fiendish plan. Who would’ve guessed that one masterpiece would help the success of another!

Favorite Quote: “Who is to decide which is the grimmer sight: withered hearts, or empty skulls?”

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?