Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Role of Fathers in 20th Century Literature Essay Example for Free

The Role of Fathers in 20th Century Literature Essay There is a very common trend in 20th century literature, and it is the lack of fathers and/or father figures in the literature. Throughout the course of this class, the readings featured often followed this trend and over half of the stories did not include a father or father figure. In the story Recitatif by Toni Morrison, there are two young girls who are living in a boarding home because their mothers cannot take care of them. In this story, like many others of 20th century literature, there is an obvious absence of fathers and there is not even a single mention of either of the girls’ fathers. This trend is also found in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use and in Conversion of the Jews by Phillip Roth. In a stark contrast to the common trend of lack of fathers in 20th century literature, much of the literature we read was from the perspective of the father or focusing on the father. This paper will explore the differences between the stories that featured an absence of fathers/father figures and the stories that were told from the perspective of the father or focused on the father. In Phillip Roth’s Conversion of the Jews, there is only one passage, a very small mention, of Ozzie’s father; â€Å"†¦ and when Mrs. Freedman came through the door she tossed off her coat, kissed Ozzie quickly on the face, and went to the kitchen table to light the three yellow candles, two for the Sabbath and one for Ozzie’s father†¦ Even when his father was alive Ozzie remembered that her eyes had gotten glassy, so it didn’t have anything to do with his dying. It had something to do with lighting the candles. † This small passage acts as a great exception to the all-too-common trend in 20th century literature where there is a lack of fathers/father figures. In Conversion of the Jews, this explanation of the absence of Ozzie’s father adds a lot to the story. Oftentimes, the lack of a father/father figure added a lot to the story even if the reader did not explicitly notice. The absence of fathers is often a very good discussion topic, because it is easy to imagine how much differently the story would be if the father had been in the family’s lives. In another reading where the father has died, Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World by Sherman Alexie, the story is told from the perspective of the son, who is a grown man that simply forgot that his father has passed nearly a year before this poem takes place. The death of his father in this poem, and the fact that he still thought of his father every day, shows that they had a good relationship before his passing and that the now-absence of his father is nothing that he is resentful about, but that the son is simply sad and misses his father. This poem highlights the good relationship that a father can have with his son, because even after his father’s death, the son still thought of his father when he needed something or had a problem and wished that he was still around. This poem is a refreshing contrast to the other stories that had an absent father. In a story relatively different from the above two, Love Dad by Joseph Heller, is a short-story written from the perspective of Nately, a young man who is away at war in the Air Corps (now known as the Air Force) during World War II. He writes about his experiences growing up and going to Harvard before joining the Air Corps to avoid being drafted into the Infantry during World War II. Throughout the story you can see how naive Nately’s parents are about life during war through the letters written to Nately by his father. His father obviously does not understand the seriousness of war and this makes the end of the story even more shocking than I believe it would have been had Nately’s father actually understood that there was a very real chance of losing Nately to the war. The last line of the story reads â€Å"The letter was returned to [Nately’s father] stamped killed in action. † This comes after Nately’s father writes a remotely frivolous letter where he concludes the letter by joking that he wishes he were in Nately’s shoes and Italy, enjoying the Italian â€Å"oregano† (code word for sex). This story was much different from the rest of the stories we read because the father was, in my opinion, the main character because he was the one that Nately was focusing on throughout the whole story. Another story that does not follow the common trend of 20th century literature that the majority of the other ones follow, where there is an absence of a father or father figure, is Fathers and Sons by Ernest Hemingway. This story focuses on three generations of men within a family and the relationships between Nick, Nick’s father, and Nick’s son. The story eflects on the poor relationship that the Nick and his father had, but also on how Nick want his son to remember his father. I feel like this is a normal thing that happens in real life, that parents do not want their children to remember their parents in a negative way even if they had a bad relationship with their parents. This story breaks the trend of the other stories that were featured because there were two generations of present fathers, even if Nick and his father did not have the best relationship. Although Nick did not appear to have the best relationship with his father, he does reflect on him fondly to his own son. This is a trait that I think is common in America today-making your parents look better to your own children than they do to you. Toni Morrison’s Recitatif features two main characters, Twyla and Roberta, who live in a boarding home for mostly orphaned children. However, these two girls have living mothers who are unable to take care of them, thus the reason they are living in the boarding home. The fact that neither of their fathers are ever mentioned makes the reader wonder where the fathers are and why they are not able to take care of their daughters. It is even stated in the story that Twyla wishes that she was an orphan. She states that â€Å"[Roberta and I] didn’t like each other all that much at first, but nobody else wanted to play with us because we weren’t real orphans with beautiful dead parents in the sky. We were dumped. † (Walker, 2) This statement alone makes you believe that Twyla’s father is not dead, but this is once again left up to the imagination of the reader because it is never revealed whether or not her father is alive or dead. The absence of Roberta and Twyla’s fathers obviously weighs heavily on the girls throughout the story. An optimistic reader would think that if their fathers had been in their lives then maybe the girls would not have ended up in the group home and that their lives have been different. Throughout the story, the girls turn into two very different people and even become parents themselves. I believe that the girls, and the story, would have been very different if they had their fathers in their lives, and not have ended up in the group home. The story Everyday Use by Alice Walker features a family consisting of one mother and two daughters. The story focuses on the relationship between the wo sisters and the argument between the two of them over a set of quilts that the girls’ grandmother had made by hand. However, throughout the story, there is never even so much as a mention of Dee or Maggie’s father. The absence of the girls’ father has had an obviously strong effect on the women that the girls had become. In my opinion, the absence of their father had turned Maggie into a very shy woman who practically lets her sister, Dee, walk all over her. Dee has turned into an outspoken and overbearing woman who treats her sister more like a servant than a friend. The lack of the girls’ father has also had an obvious effect on their mother, who is never named in the story because the story is told from the mother’s perspective. The fact that Dee and Maggie’s mother does not have a husband around the house has turned her into not only a mother, but a father as well. It is Dee and Maggie’s mother’s responsibility to keep up on the farm and provide for the family-traditionally a role reserved for the father. Dee and Maggie’s mother even admits that she â€Å"can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. If Dee and Maggie’s father was in their lives then their mother would not have these responsibilities. The typical role of the father is not present in virtually any of the readings featured throughout this course. The traditional role of the father, according to http://www. pioneerthinking. com/fathercare. html, are â€Å"the Wallet,† â€Å"the Rock,† and â€Å"the Friend. † This means that it is traditionally the father’s job to provide the financial and emotional support to his family while acting as a friend to his wife/girlfriend and children. These roles are obviously different than the roles provided by the fathers in the readings we read in class. In Love, Dad by Joseph Heller, Nately’s father does not completely conform to these traditional fatherly roles. During the course of the story, the only traditional role that Nately’s father seems to fit into is the role of the friend, and he does not even do that all too well. I feel that, throughout the story, Nately’s father was trying to be more of a friend to Nately than a father. I cannot imagine that Nately’s father was ever a good â€Å"Rock† because he seems to be too focused on the unimportant things, and he is obviously too naive for his own good. The fact that he does not comprehend that he very well may lose his son during the war practically voids out any attempts he may have made to be Nately’s â€Å"Rock. † One story that gave me the impression that the father did actually fill the three traditional roles of a father is Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World by Sherman Alexie. I feel like the fact that his son was able to look back on his father with such admiration, even saying â€Å"Who is most among us and most deserves The first call? I choose my father. † I feel like this sentence itself shows how much admiration the son has for his father, seeing him as the first person to call simply because he is astounded by bathroom phones. I think that the simple things in life are what makes a man or woman a good mother or father, and this sentence highlights this simplicity. I also think that the fact he forgot that his father had passed away shows how much love and admiration he has for his father, although it is in an unusual way. However, in contrast to the traditional role of the father that is shown in some of the 20th century literature we read, there is also the absence of fathers and/or father-figures. This absence that was also prevalent in our readings of 20th century literature has captured, and possibly reflected, current day demographics. Unfortunately today, it is almost common and even acceptable to see a family with only one parent, and oftentimes this parent is the mother. The fact that it has become acceptable for a child to be raised without his or her father in a one person home is absolutely depressing. Throughout the course of our semester, approximately half of the stories we read did not have a father present and the fact that this has become a sort of reflection on current day demographics is quite disheartening. According to fatherhood. org, in current day demographics, approximately 24 million children (or one out of three children) live in a home where there is no father or father-figure. When looking at current day demographics and then at 20th century literature, the commonalities and reflections between the two is remarkable. I believe that the role of the father in 20th century literature ranges from being overly present (like in Love, Dad by Joseph Heller) to being completely absent to the point where a father is not even mentioned (such as that in Everyday Use by Alice Walker or Recitatif by Toni Morrison). This wide variations in the role of the fathers and the presence of the fathers makes the reading each unique in their own way because the fathers (or lack thereof) add their own influences nto the story. I believe that if there had been any fathers in Everyday Use by Alice Walker or Recitatif by Toni Morrison, the stories would not have been as interesting and as well liked as they are. I believe that the absence of fathers shows realism in these two stories because they are both situations that would be easily found in current day demographics. I also believe that the overly present father in Love, Dad by Joseph Heller helped make the story what it was. If the father had not been portrayed in the way that he was in the story, I do not believe that the story would have had much else for readers to relate to. In conclusion, I believe that the role of fathers in 20th century literature is very important and oftentimes made the story into what it was. Without this strong feature in 20th century literature, I do not believe that stories would not have been as well-liked nor would readers have been as easily able to adapt as they were. The stark contrast in the role of the father in 20th century literature kept the readings interesting and kept them easy throughout the course of the semester.

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