Ah, the wonder of fatherhood. Noble men who have set their happy children on the joyful road of life. Well - maybe not. Here is a list of those fathers found in literature who left so much to be desired
Oddly - or not, since it is not really fiction - Franz Kafka's father is not counted in this paternal order. Yet Hermann had a whole letter/book devoted to him. Not that he ever read it. [DE]
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The 10 Worst Dads in Books
By Fiona Maazel
As a sort-of companion piece to Jennifer Gilmore's Worst Mothers in Books, here are the 10 Worst Fathers in Books, selected by Fiona Maazel, author of Woke Up Lonely--a novel that not only features some father failures, but also some of the finest writing in 2013.
Interestingly enough—or should I say: predictably enough—Bad Dads turn up less in fiction than Bad Moms. Bad Moms are easy to depict and dramatize because they don’t have to work very hard to disappoint what is expected of them. Everything is expected of a mom. Certainly that she be good and loving and generous and there. Dads, on the other hand, are cut more slack. They are expected to be disengaged, self-absorbed, and unavailable. A mom in fiction has only to forget making her kid’s lunch a few days a week before she gets a bad rap. Dad probably has to molest his kid before anyone even raises an eyebrow. Such, in any case, is often what makes a Bad Dad in literature memorable. And so, a list of Bad Dads (how pleasing is the assonance of those words!), who have done so much wrong, it’s astonishing how much we like them. How much we pity them. We can’t stand a Bad Mom; we revile her with glee. But such is the seduction of the Bad Dad, it his prerogative to be complicated; he can’t help himself; he is shot through with remorse, and on many levels, he is forgiven.
1. Humbert Humbert - Okay, let’s just get it over with: Humbert Humbert! Worst stepdad ever! We find him in Nabokov’s Lolita, contriving to marry one Charlotte Haze so that he can get close to her twelve-year-old daughter. When Charlotte dies (as if in penance for having discovered Humbert’s lust), he has his way with Dolores. But not without recording his transgressions in such gorgeous prose, you almost don’t care that he’s a pedophile. For instance: “You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs—the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limbs, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate—the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”