Bad and Worse Papas


Given the choice between the Battle of Waterloo and father’s day, dads win hands down. I’ve blogged before about the horrible casualty rate of that day and, although we’ve made a big celebration of Waterloo in the past, I think we should remind both his grace and his excellency not to stage a major battle two weeks before RWA Nationals!

So, fathers. They don’t do too well in fiction. In the words of Katha Pollitt, in her poem ReReading Jane Austen’s Novels, Papa’s/a sort of genial, pampered lunatic, and I think that’s a tradition that’s stuck with us. Some do it better than others–Miranda Neville‘s brilliant Mr. Montrose and his weighing fixation, for instance, in The Dangerous Viscount. He is, unlike most of Austen’s fathers, mostly harmless.

Quoting Katha Pollitt again, This time round, they didn’t seem so comic. So let’s take a look at Austen’s fathers, surprisingly creative for a woman whose own father was intelligent, affectionate, and well-respected.

Dead and/or fiscally irresponsible. Mr. Dashwood, you really should have sorted out the business of your wife’s and daughter’s inheritance rather than leaving it up to your son and his wife. Mr. Bennet, get out of the library and see to your investments. Mr. Price, put that bottle down now and give Mrs. Price a rest (if you know what I mean and I think you do). And would it kill you to lend a hand around the house?

Generally unpleasant. Sir Thomas Bertram, I’ve always thought you’re a bit creepy in your interest in Fanny Price. Back off! General Tilney, you’re a jerk. You may have thought Catherine an airhead but she wasn’t that far off the mark, despite her head being filled with gothic nonsense. Sir Walter Elliot, you’re just plain dumb, and you should listen to Anne for a change.

Weird. Verging on the monstrous, yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. Woodhouse. You’d only be happy if you could imprison your daughter for life in your fantasy world of fear, besieged by illness and bloodthirsty foxes. After all, the chickens may only have been the beginning… Two got away (one daughter and one governess) and you don’t want to let Emma go. In your way you’re almost as bad as General Tilney.

Mostly harmless. Only one comes to mind, The Rev. Moreland. (Can you think of any more?)

Do you have any fictitious fathers you love to hate or, gasp, even any favorite fathers in Austen or romance?

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