Famous Fathers in Literature

All fathers live in novels

Dear old dad...

All type of fathers exist in the many novels written throughout time. At first we only think of the fairy tale parents that really needed parenting lessons. For example, Snow White, the King missed his wife and therefore married again but was she a kind woman who loved his little daughter Snow White? No! She spent her days in front of her mirror asking, "who is the fairest in the land?" Alright she may not be nurturing, but then she learns that Snow White is far more beautiful than her. Does she buy some aging cream to cut down on the wrinkles? No she has her huntsman take Snow White into the forest and kill her. Where is Snow White's father in all this? Completely absent. I suppose the King spent his days training with the knights or hunting. Who knows.

The King from Snow White is not the only type of father in literature. Some fathers are actually worse while other fathers are actually kind and considerate men. This list is split between Bad Dads and Fair Fathers. This range of Dads are taken from mostly western literature. Shakespeare, children and adult literature. Frankly the entire hub could be about the fathers in Shakespeare's literature. Though I think the list would almost be weighted with bad dads, but there are a few exceptions of fair fathers in Shakespeare as you'll see below. The fair fathers are not necessarily infallible fathers, but they do seem to want the best for their children, which of course is the most redeeming quality of all.

Stern Gentlemen

Bad Dads

King Learfather of three daughters King Lear

Through all his actions and words King Lear is the worst father in Shakespeare's works. Now most lovers of Shakespeare would disagree and say that the worst father is either Hamlet's father or Signore Capulet and Montague. I cannot disagree that they are all rotten fathers and did not realize their mistakes until after their children died, however King Lear actually expects his daughters to flatter his vanity in return for control of his kingdom. A father may want compliments but purposely raising children to falsely flatter is not good parenting. His only daughter to display strength of character, Cordelia, is given nothing in return for telling King Lear the truth. Her sisters Regan and Goneril are given equal control of the kingdom but their greed is awakened and soon plot the death of King Lear, Cordelia, and eventually each other. Yes, King Lear can be proud of these two princesses. Like the fathers in Romeo and Juliet, King Lear does not repent his actions until it is too late and Cordelia, the only daughter who truly loved him, dies due to his vanity.

Archibald Craven father of Colin Craven in The Secret Garden

Naturally the death of a spouse is quite painful but to leave your infant son in the care of servants especially Mrs. Medlock, is more than a little neglectful. Mr. Craven lets his pain control his life, which allows his son to believe that his father hates him because he cannot walk and is supposedly a hunchback. Mr. Craven spends most of his time traveling throughout England and the continent. Whenever he comes back to Misthistlewaite Manor, he only visits Colin at night when he is asleep. It is only Mr. Craven's niece Mary whose interest in gardens actually reawakens the Manor, it's gardens, and especially Mr. Craven. In the end Mr. Craven is not a bully but he certainly is not initially the most dutiful father.

Pap Finnfather or Huckleberry Finn

There is a reason why Huck runs away to sail down the Mississippi with Jim. And it all begins with Pap Finn, a mean drunk. Fathers could in the 1800s physically discipline their children, but there were bad dads then as well as now who went bring a new meaning to horrible human beings. Huck is an adventurous kid anyway but his dad's behavior does not induce Huck to stick around. 

Father of Beauty from Beauty and the Beast

   In the original story of Beauty and Beauty, the father has three daughters. Two are spoiled and selfish, while Beauty is kind and responsible. While traveling the father asks what he can bring back for his daughters. Two of them want new gowns and jewelry, while Beauty wants a rose. While on the journey home the father views a garden from the road and picks a rose for Beauty. The Beast immediately rushes at the father saying that picking that rose cost him his life. The father in a panic essentially blames his action on his daughter. To which the story follows that the Beast ordered the father to send Beauty to live with him forever. Now forgetting Beauty and the the Beast's romance, what father would leave make his daughter stay with a beast? A cowardly, and weak bad dad. 

Lord Alexander (Flyte) Marchmain father of Marchmain children in Brideshead Revisited

Mr. Marchmain is a difficult man to dissect. His religious fanatic wife may not have been easy to live with, but his actions essentially tear the family apart, leaving his family and settling in Venice to live with his mistress, Cara. In the beginning Lord Marchmain converted to Catholicism in order to marry Theresa (Lady Marchmain). It is only before the World War II when Lord Marchmain returns to Brideshead to die, that the reader sees another side to Lord Marchmain. Before his death Lord Marchmain also receives the Catholic sacraments. His return to faith changes the attitude of his daughter, Julia who too resented her mother's Catholic morality. So Lord Marchmain begins as bad dad, but his actions are so as clear cut as the previous examples. Lord Marchmain represents a real man more so than the other fictitious characters because no human being is perfect and actions are not always so easily explained.

Kind hearted man

Fair Fathers

Mr. Bennetfather of Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice

Some may critique the choice to place Mr. Bennet in the fair father section, but in this judgement I view Mr. Bennet's behavior as benign compared to Pap Finn or King Lear. None of Mr. Bennet's behavior causes the death of his daughters. He also is not physically abusive to his daughters, though one deserves a lot of discipline. Mr. Bennet's fault is that he simply doesn't care about his wife or three of his daughters. His main goal in life is to be left alone to his study with his books. Jane and Elizabeth are the only family members that he can stand. So Mr. Bennet is not a bad dad but simply a fair father.

Prosperofather of Miranda The Tempest

Prospero has great cause to revenge upon Antonio, his brother for exiling him to an island and usurping his title, Duke of Milan. In truth Prospero did wait twelve years to perfect his magic and cause a tempest to wreck the ship upon which his brother, King of Naples, Alsonso, Alonso's brother Sebastien, and Alonso's son Ferdinand are sailing back from Tunis. Prospero is a good father because he allows his daughter, Mirando to love and marry Ferdinand, the son of a man who exiled him from Milan. Prospero also protects Miranda from Caliban a strange island creature. Prospero seems to want his daughter to be happy, which is a nice thing coming from a Shakespeare father.

Mr. Darling father of Darling children Peter Pan

Who could ever forget that it was Mr. Darling who tries to force his daughter Wendy to grow up? Though Mr. Darling in the play also becomes Captain Hook, none of Mr. Darling's actions can be judged quite so harshly. He simply wants his daughter to prepare for real life. In the Victorian era, children were meant to act like mini-adults which did not provide for much 'playtime.' I don't see Mr. Darling's actions as mean or horrible but trying to guide his daughter in the right direction. What many parents forget is that most children find their way in their own time.

Baptista father of Katerina and Bianca Taming of the Shrew

It is clear that Baptista favors Bianca, but I think that's because she makes it easy to be close to her. Katerina closes herself off to most emotions except for pride and scorn. She shows her desire to be tough and not taken advantage of. Baptista's redeeming quality is that he will not allow Bianca to wed until Katerina is married. So many who sympathize with Bianca would find that harsh but Katerina has such fire that it is hard not to like her. From all appearances Baptista wants Katerina to find happiness with her husband. He even objects to Petruchio's initial harsh treatment of her, but Baptista also realizes that Petruchio is the only one that makes Katerina listen to reason. So even though Baptista cannot guide his daughter, he knows when to let go of the reins.

Mr. O'Hara father of Scarlett O'Hara Gone With The Wind

Mr. Gerald O'Hara, the father of Scarlett O'Hara, need I say more? He loved his wife, Ellen, dearly and went insane after her death, which is highly romantic. He also taught his daughter to love home, Tara. Not to mention how many fathers could handle a daughter like Scarlett? Not many, I warrant.

So in closing I would like to say Happy Father's Day to all of the father's throughout literature who create happy, sad, tearful, comical, and shocking moments throughout fiction!

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Comments 26 comments

Painted Seahorse profile image

Painted Seahorse 6 years ago from Woodstock, GA

Nice list, Kendall! I enjoyed reading your comments about each one. Another father I would add is Atticus Finch as a good dad. It's true that you could probably write a hub just on Shakespearean fathers!

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 6 years ago from Oregon

What a thorough collection of literature fathers! You've done a great job putting it all together. Now I'm searching my mind to see if there are any better fathers even than the fair fathers you listed, who, though fair, certainly were weak and uninvolved in their families' lives. I've always loved the father in The Little Princess, and wished he would have been around more. Excellent work! I enjoyed this. :)

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thank you Painted Seahorse! I did consider adding Atticus Finch, but I must confess I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know it's a horrible admission and I will get to it one of these days. Shakespeare certainly provides examples of family members that we can happily do without :)

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thanks Jane! I'm finding it's amazing how many different angles we can look into literature. I do remember The Little Princess and thinking that he was a good father. There are so many more to mention but these stood out in my mind. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Never read To Kill a Mockingbird? Excuse me while I swoon -- my fainting couch, please!

Loved the list of rotten fathers even more than the good ones. Made me feel better about reality.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

I know Lynda it's terrible. I should go to the library now and get a copy to stop the guilt. :(

That's one of the best things about novels the characters can make you appreciate your reality so much more. Plus it's a lot more fun to create crazy characters than sane ones.

Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

This was fabulous................ I completely enjoyed every word.

My big thing with fathers in literature is the nine times out of ten there's just a father................. thank you for covering and introducing so many!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Neat topic for a hub!

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thank you Kaie! Glad you enjoyed it! Somehow or other in literature there has to be some adult influence upon the protagonist. Occasionally it happens to be a parent. Most of the time fathers make for an interesting study.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thanks for reading and commenting habee! I wanted to do something different for the Hubmob besides Father's Day gifts.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan

I really enjoyed this, Kendall! I recently read Brideshead Revisited, and now you've got me thinking more about the father's role in the story. He really wasn't around much, and you're right, his absence really did hurt his family.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thanks Rose! It's amazing how little the reader can 'see' a character yet that character makes a huge impact. The best example I can think of is Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. Brideshead Revisited is one of those novels that shows something new each time. Glad you enjoyed this!

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Well done! I enjoyed reading your excellent prose today. Thank you for this excellent work.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thanks James! It was a lot of fun to write!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Kendall, well you can always add Atticus Finch, a wonderful father. This was such a clever hub. I really enjoyed it!

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

You're right Dolores, I can add Attitcus Finch to the hub since he seems to be highly in demand. Glad you enjoyed it!

pmccray profile image

pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

Excellent tribute for fathers day. Great read!!

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thanks pmccray! Glad you enjoyed it!

missmaudie profile image

missmaudie 6 years ago from Brittany, France

Great hub Kendall H, sorry it's taken so long for me to get here! You must read To Kill a Mockingbird straight away! I love that book so much. And I agree totally with King Lear; I had an argument with my English teacher about it because she thought he had learnt something from his mistakes by the end of the play and I thought he was just as selfish and self centered as before.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thank you missmaudie! I will definitely check out To Kill a Mockingbird since it has been recommended by so many people. King Lear is an interesting study. Those of us who are rational would regret our actions long before it resulted in the death of a child, I would hope! Shakespeare really wrote some of the most intriguing characters!

kimballtrombone profile image

kimballtrombone 6 years ago

Nice list--I enjoyed reading through it! I have to agree that the rotten fathers make me feel a bit better about myself as a dad, and that Atticus Finch would be a good ideal father to add.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thank you kimballtrombone! I would say this list of rotten fathers are truly horrendous and I'm sure you don't come anywhere near that. I'm on it to add Atticus Finch to the list! Thanks for your thoughts!

KLeichester 5 years ago

I'm always fascinated by the richness of the past. Thanks for this hub.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 5 years ago from Northern CA Author

My pleasure KLeichester! Glad you enjoyed reading the hub!

Jeff Poirrier profile image

Jeff Poirrier 5 years ago from Washington

Well done. However Prospero from "The Tempest" seems rather controversial as a "fair father." It made me think of some "fair fathers" from the R.A. Salvatore novels I've been reading lately: Bruenor Battlehammer, Zaknafein Do'Urden, and Cadderly Bonaduce! I guess our old college papers really are good for something?!

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 4 years ago from Northern CA Author

Thank you Jeff Poirrier! It's true that a fair father is difficult to find in literature. I suppose it makes the novel far more interesting if the father isn't the ideal father figure. Yes, I've found its fun to go back and read the college papers. Never know what you'll remember..

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