Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy
Growing up without a stable father figure, I learned most of what I could about manhood from books. It was where I could see their decisions and consequences and sift through the base and cowardly to embrace the noble and selfless behavior of a good man. This caused me to wonder about fathers in fiction. There are plenty of father figures (i.e. Gandalf for Bilbo and Frodo), but not that many characters we would call admirable fathers. Books are filled with exceptional mothers, but truly good fathers are hard to find. I believe they are so rare in fiction because they are so rare in true life…at least to authors.
With that said, I was able to compose my top ten list of best fathers in fiction.
1. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a widower in a small town rocked by social change. He provides for his children and not only teaches them wisdom, but lives an admirable life and stands for true and justice.
2. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. from Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen. This book and its sequel are true stories written by Gilbreth about his childhood and his unique parents. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. is an extraordinary figure filled with ingenuity, humor, and eternal optimism that pervades his children’s early lives.
3. Pa Ingalls from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series of books. Like Cheaper by the Dozen, Wilder’s book is based on true accounts from her childhood. She grew up on an isolated farm and often knew hardship and difficulty. Throughout, her father was a rock of strength and goodness based on an eternal faith in God.
4. Mr. Bennett from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett is the father of five willful girls and husband to an energetic and often misguided wife. They all love nothing more than to intrude on his peace. Mr. Bennett is the epitome of practicality and patience, loving his daughters and guiding them as best he can without crushing their spirits.
5. Unnamed father from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In this brutal post-apocalyptic nightmare story, a widower father’s entire existence is consumed with protecting his son. The father is eternally patient and never blames his son even in the privacy of his own thoughts for the son’s actions that cause them both to suffer. The father even pushes himself to the point of death for his son and sacrifices everything for this unconditional love.
6. Samuel Hamilton from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Steinbeck supposedly modeled this character and his circumstances after his real-life maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton. Samuel is a generous, warm, intelligent inventor/farmer from Ireland who has the heart of a poet. Universally admired by friends and neighbors, Samuel never achieves material success for himself, but lives his life in such a way that most of his children find it readily.
7. Andy McGee from Stephen King’s Firestarter. Andy is one of three widowers on this list and is desperately trying to keep his daughter safe from those who would harm her. Andy seeks to allow his daughter to be a little girl and protect her from a world that he is willing to destroy if need be. In the end, Andy sacrifices himself to save his child.
8. Ned Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Ned is a genuine character in a world filled with hypocrisy. His love and care of his children, even the bastard John Snow, is in striking contrast to the lack of care shown by Tywin Lannister and Robert Baratheon for their own offspring.
9. Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Vito Corleone is a unique figure in that he holds immense power, yet seeks to reason with people. He does not force other people’s hands except as a last resort. Vito even extends this view to his children and let’s them find their own way when they defy him and they end up loving and respecting him all the more for it.
10. Leto Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Duke Leto Atreides is a powerful man in violent and dangerous universe. His young son Paul will one day be duke in his stead. Leto does everything he can to prepare his son for the dangers ahead of him.
What other books can you think of with good father’s in them (not father figures)? Hope you have a Happy Father’s Day.
Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has four sons and writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.