I’ve been thinking about examples of good parenting in novels and movies, and, not entirely to my surprise, I haven’t found that many. I can think of lots of bad parents and lots of stories where a parent (or both) are absent–all the Cinderella and Oliver Twist stories, the Pride and Prejudice –type mothers and Persuasion –type fathers–but finding good examples of parents who care and do their best was a bit harder.
So I decided to take a few posts and examine good relationships, starting with fathers and daughters in classic literature.
- Little Dorrit. The eponymous main character has a unique relationship with her father. He cares for her and his family in his own way, giving what he feels they need more than what is best for them, but I always felt that he tried to the best of his abilities. He wasn’t a good father, or a capable father, or a wise father, but he was a broken and struggling father who tried, and she responds to this by being entirely devoted to him while they are in debtor’s prison (and struggling to show her love for him when they are rich).
- Pride and Prejudice. This is another father-daughter duo that isn’t necessarily ideal, but is still loving. Mr. Bennet considers “his Lizzy” to be a daughter worth missing, a daughter worth recommending, and a daughter worth advising, even if it means directing her to avoid his mistakes in life. His laughing at life tends to encourage her in a self-complaisant vein that sets her up for trouble, believing she alone (with perhaps her father) can see the follies of all the world, but he does want to see her happy and, in a limited way, does what he can to make that happen (without worrying himself too much, to be sure).
- The Little Princess. In the novel, he isn’t a very good father. He’s indulgent, foolish, and self-absorbed, but in the movie, he’s splendid and Sara Crewe is more than justified in missing him. He’s her anchor, her best friend, and her protector, and while she does her best without him, you can see how much she struggles.
- Little Women (the first part). Mr. March doesn’t show up very much in the novel, but you can see how much he cares for his daughters through his letters and his brief visit towards the end, as he encourages them all in their progress and little victories.
- Little House in the Big Woods. Pa Ingalls isn’t always the best of fathers, as he takes his family from state to state and territory to territory, but you can see his caring for his daughters (and Laura in particular) in this novel. He tells stories, plays his fiddle, and encourages Laura to like herself and her brown hair. I always felt that his noticing her unhappiness and gently encouraging her to like the way she is and how she looks was special and a sign of a caring father.
- Heidi. In this book, you get not one caring father-figure, but two or three. First, there is Heidi’s grandfather, who, for all his bluster and grumpiness, truly wants her to have the happiness he’s found on the mountains. His house is open to her and he’s more than willing to let her help him around the place. On the very first day, he gives up his blanket and chair for her and goes to check on her in the middle of the night during a storm.
He is, perhaps, not as firm about keeping Heidi with him as he could be, but I think he worries that the mountain life will prove too much for her constitution (and he was badgered on the topic, not just be Dete, but also by the pastor of Dorfli).
And then, we have Herr Sesemann, who may not have hired the best of housekeepers and may be rather busy with his work, but he certainly cares for his daughter, Clara, enough to where he talks things over with her and tries to make her happy (but guards her health even above her happiness and in this keeps her from being greatly spoiled). And lastly, we have the doctor, who takes a father’s care of Heidi while she is in town and seems to continue to do so, even after.
So there you have eight fathers from six classics. They may not be perfect role models, but they certainly do care about their daughters, in their own ways and means, despite their faults and shortcomings.
What about you? What are some of your favorite Father-Daughter duos in film and fiction? Have you ever written a good Father-Daughter relationship yourself?
And don’t forget, the “Characters in Costume” blogfest is coming up at the end of this month. If you haven’t signed up already, click here to join us!
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren
Photo by dee, Creative Commons