Fictional Families: Fathers and Sons

file2611300812890 by ameestauffer

We’ve been examining family dynamics in fiction, looking at strong and healthy relationships rather than the dysfunctional ones that tend to create drama and difficulties. While the latter are more common and more interesting at times for an author to write, the former give us imaginative role models for our own lives and can give characters something to love and lose, driving their choices and decisions (and just giving them someone to talk to).

So today I wanted to look at some loving examples of fathers and sons.

A Portrait of a Lady: Ralph Touchett and his father, Mr. Touchett, have a very touching relationship, I thought. Even though Ralph spends much of his time outside of England for his health, you can tell that they’re very close. He describes his father as “motherly,” more so than his mother, and it’s to his father that he confides in, sharing his hopes for Isabel and his plans to leave her half his fortune after his father’s death. Their camaraderie is quite delightful, and one of the best parts of the book, I thought, because you can tell that  they both think the world of the other.

Little Women: Theodore Laurence and his grandfather have a rough-yet-loving relationship. Mr. Laurence tyrannizes his grandson, making him go to college and training him to take over the family interests, and yet he loves him deeply, despite his bluster and the fact that he disliked the boy’s mother. They are both independent men, and they never get close enough to truly confide in each other that much, but theirs is a loving relationship all the same.

Wives and Daughters: Squire Hamley and his two sons, Osborne and Roger, have what I’d call a loving but troubled relationship. At first, all of the Squire’s hopes are on his first born, Osborne, and when his son fails in college and gets badly in debt, he finds he can’t forgive him, especially since the young man won’t tell him why he keeps leaving the family home and what he spends his money on. Meanwhile, Roger fulfills his father’s every dream, but he cannot become the next squire due to his being a younger son. Throughout the book, Squire Hamley is full of bluster and confusion, saying more than he should and making things worse without knowing it, and yet he cares for his son’s deeply: he just doesn’t know how to relate to them, and they don’t talk to him enough to help him know what’s wrong.

Twenty Years After/The Viscount of Bragelonne/The Man in the Iron Mask: Athos and Raoul have another one of literature’s best relationships, I think. In Twenty Years After, Raoul doesn’t know that Athos is more than his guardian, and at some point, he learns that he’s his father (a scene I rather wish we got to read), but the two of them are always close. Athos can be a bit daunting at times, with his pure and high nobility and his discouragement of his son’s romance, and yet the plot proves him to have been in the right to suspect Louise’s attachment, and Raoul loves his father so that even his discouragement is not enough to make him rebellious. It is a less warm relationship than Ralph Touchett and his father, but it is also a different era with more formality expected in everyday life, so I’d rate them the same in terms of closeness (and truly, Mr. Touchett could use a bit of Athos’ perspicacity in advising his son).

What about you? What are some of your favorite father-and-son duos in movies or books? 

Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren

Photo by ameesauffer, Creative Commons

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