Today, Facebook is filled with tender tributes to Dad. But for those of us whose fathers were less than perfect, Jane Austen offers a refreshingly unsympathetic view of parenting.
So, if you are not in a sentimental mood today, I offer here a quick overview of flawed fathers.
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet’s delightfully ironic sense of humor is overshadowed by his selfishness. The estate is entailed, the five girls will be left destitute after their father’s death, and yet Mr. Bennet refuses to cut back on expenses. After all, nothing bad will happen until after he’s dead.
In Persuasion, the stupid and egotistical Sir Walter Elliot ignores and denigrates his gentle daughter, Anne. The little love Sir Walter has, other than his adoration of himself, he saves for Anne’s cold and grasping sister, Elizabeth.
In Emma, the title character’s father is a selfish, whining hypochondriac, whose total control over his daughter’s life keeps her a virtual, if willing, prisoner.
In Sense and Sensibility, Mr. Dashwood dies in the first chapter. He implores his son to take on a father’s role, and to care for his stepmother and his three half-sisters. And what happens? To borrow from a much later work, the four women are reduced to depending upon the kindness of strangers.
In Northanger Abbey, Catherine’s father is the genial Mr. Morland. But General Tilney, the father of Frederick, Henry, and Eleanor, is a grasping, nasty guy, who demonstrates his callous nature by forcing the innocent Catherine to undertake a 70 mile journey by herself.
So what’s the point? Well, on Father’s Day, if your dear old Dad wasn’t a font of fifties sitcom wisdom, Jane’s got your back.