Vote for your favorite father in literature

June 18, 2009

Alright, boys, it’s your turn. Who are the most famous fictional fathers?

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites, as is Charles Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Although I’ve only seen the movie, one of my favorite father/son stories is Big Fish (it’s loosely based on Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions).

But these are all good fathers. What about the wicked? Elphaba’s father—the Wizard or the Governor of Munchkinland, take your pick. Shakespeare’s King Lear?

Having just finished All the King’s Men, three very different types of fathers are on my mind: Judge Irwin, the Scholarly Attorney and, of course, Willie Stark.

So, who’s your favorite father in literature? I’m narrowing it down to King Lear or Atticus Finch…cast your vote!


  1. No contest. Atticus Finch. “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets” said his housekeeper Calpurnia.

  2. I have to go with King Lear. He was an awful father, but it’s really a vote for Shakespeare who should win the prize for creating more fathers than any other writer I can think of. Examples: Juliet’s father, Ophelia’s father (Polonius), not to mention Hamlet’s own father (the ghost), and my favorite Baptista, the father of Katherina (the Shrew) and Bianca.

  3. I have to vote Atticus Finch. He was strong, caring, and relevant – traits that are often not present in the fathers of childhood literature. Most of the time the fathers are in the background are never mentioned at all; Atticus is a refreshing instance of a father who cares.

  4. John Wycliff Shawnessy gets my vote, even at it is his friend the U. S. Senator whose perpetual politicking is the anchor for the marvelous revelations offered in the book RAINTREE COUNTY by Ross Lockridge, Jr.

    This book was suggested to me by friends, but I put it off for some years and finally only approached it— with reluctance—when I found it in audio format at the Central Library during its ‘Babylonian Captivity’ in the old Indianapolis City Hall building. I saw that this audio book was in a box of ten cassettes and so I wondered if I’d ever make it all the way through. Looking further on the library bookshelf, I saw two more volumes each of ten cassettes—what was I getting into?!

    Back in my bookbinding studio, I put in the first cassette and found it slow going, and listened on anyway as I worked on treating an old book. Like Melville’s MOBY DICK, this one starts with preliminary material that made me wonder how I could ever find the narrative engaging.

    Then when narrative finally began, something caught my ear and I listened with growing care until all of the sudden the story simply TOOK OFF! Twenty-nine cassettes later I was wishing for another volume as the people in the book had became companions to me. Their lives touched mine in a family way so that when the book came to a close I felt a wistful wonder. I saw I’d never know now what happened next after the story in this astonishing book ended.

    I did get a glimpse again, however, when I obtained a matched pair of late 19th century photographs at a flea market last year. These show a married couple in pendant pictures. Both are well dressed and must have been prominent citizens as they pose here in early middle age. I don’t know who they are, but I want to think that they might magically be Mr. and Mrs. John Wycliff Shawnessy.

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