Most Memorable Literary Dads
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
Greetings, Darling Readers. Take a moment, please and thank you, and re-read that title, and take note that it doesn’t say “Best Literary Dads,” “Most Lovable Literary Dads,” or even “Exemplary Human Beings of the Male Persuasion Who Happen To Have Fathered A Child.” To further belabor the point—some of the entrants on this list (see the author’s disclaimer at the end of this article) will never be considered for the Father Of The Year Award and as such, you’d be better served to find another source of reference for good parenting skills. In no particular order:
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.
Rick tops my personal list of memorable literary dads for a couple of reasons. Not only is he doing the single-dad thing, but he’s doing it in a post-apocalyptic world while also being the de facto leader of a ragged group of survivors. Seriously, you think hauling your kid to guitar practice once a week is a big deal? Try doing it while being pursued by flesh-eating zombies.
“The Man/ The Father”
The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Coming in at number two on my list is another post-apocalyptic dad. The Man (also called The Father), like Rick Grimes, is doing everything he can to keep his son alive in the barren wasteland that America has become. Stark and haunting, this story of the bond between The Father and The Boy is one that will resonate with the reader for a long time to come.
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling.
Arthur may come across to some readers as a more laid-back dad, content to let his wife Molly take the lead on child-rearing (and in particular, disciplinary) matters in the wild and wonderful Weasley household, but he is undeniably a kind and loving dad to his own red-haired brood of witches and wizards as well as a fine father figure to young Harry Potter.
The Shining by Stephen King.
Many of you may be more familiar with Jack Nicholson’s brilliant and beautifully unhinged performance in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, but the literary Jack was certainly a dad who leaves a lasting impression. Sure, he had a whole herd of demons in his head to deal with, as well as the ones inhabiting the Overlook Hotel, and he tried to kill his son Danny at their urging, but what else are you going to do when you’re a recovering alcoholic who has taken a job as a caretaker of a haunted, snowbound hotel?
Horton the Elephant
Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss.
When the flighty (you should pardon the pun) Mayzie the bird lays an egg but can’t be bothered to go the parental distance to seeing it hatched and takes off on an extended vacation to Palm Beach, Horton takes on the role of mother and father to the egg. Even after Horton is captured and put in a traveling circus, he still won’t abandon his charge. “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant . . . An elephant’s faithful—one hundred percent!” Horton’s parental love and patience is rewarded a thousandfold when his egg hatches.
Don Vito Corleone
The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
The patriarch of the Corleone clan may have had a few moral shortcomings, but as evidenced by his quote “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” he most certainly loved his children. Let’s just overlook the fact that his love imperiled his children and led to the deaths of two of them. Hey, nobody ever said life in a mafia family was a walk in the park.
(OK, remember that part in the intro when I said this list was about memorable fathers, not good ones?) Humbert Humbert is not merely a bad stepfather to Dolores; he is thoroughly, unadulteratedly evil. His vile obsession with the 12-year-old child he privately nicknamed Lolita destroys her childhood and ultimately, her life.
King Lear by William Shakespeare.
Old King Lear was a silly old dear. In a completely misguided plan to determine which of his daughters loved him best, and would therefore inherit his kingdom, he is driven to madness. (Note to self: I wonder if his daughters were teenagers.)
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.
Fourteen-year-old Charlie Fox’s dad Allie is a brilliant yet slightly unhinged inventor who has had just about enough of American consumerism. He moves his family from suburban Massachusetts to the eponymous Mosquito Coast in Honduras. (Spoiler alert!) Allie is killed by a religious zealot named Spellgood, but before his untimely death, he invents this really cool ice-making machine.
Colonel Wilbur “Bull” Meecham
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy.
Inspired by Conroy’s own experiences growing up in a military family, this powerful and immensely readable novel is told from the viewpoint of Bull’s son Ben and chronicles the complicated relationship between them. The lengths to which Ben goes to earn the love and acceptance of his father, “A warrior without a war,” is at times heart-wrenching, but it is clear that Bull Meecham loves his family with the same fierce passion that he loves his country and the United States Marine Corps.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Yes, I saved the best for last. Atticus Finch is the absolute acme of parenthood—he is kind, dignified, brave, and loyal. He holds tight to his principles, even when it comes at a tremendous cost. It is nearly impossible not to be inspired by Atticus’ quiet yet steely strength.
So, Dearest Readers, if you’ve made it this far, bless your heart, and thank you from the bottom of mine. Regardless of your location or your circumstances, may you all have a blessed Father’s Day. Happy reading—
(***Same as it ever was—the opinions and viewpoints expressed here are solely those of the author and are in no way reflective of Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, or their fathers.)