This post was originally published on June 19, 2015 on The Biblio-Files.
Hello everybody! With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, I thought it was only appropriate that this second edition of Fridays on Five be devoted to talking about some of the worst fathers in all of literature. Stay tuned to read about some disastrous dads who will really make you appreciate your old man this Sunday.
Let’s face it, Heathcliff is pretty awful to all the characters in Wuthering Heights, bar a few scenes at the end of the novel where we see a glimpse of humanity in his character. This malicious attitude is, unsurprisngly, also extended towards his only child, Linton, the sickly son who comes to live with Heathcliff after his mother, Isabella Linton, dies. As far as parenting skills, Heathcliff is pretty much the antithesis of a loving father. Not only is he horrendously insulting to Linton at every available moment, but he forces Linton to marry the younger Catherine Earnshaw so he can control Thrushcross Grange after the death of Catherine’s father and Heathcliff’s ultimate rival, Edgar Linton. Charming, huh?
2. Claudius from Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Claudius may only be Hamlet’s stepfather and not his biological father, however he is still just as awful a parental figure. Not only does he kill Hamlet’s father and marry his widowed mother, he spies on Hamlet’s conversations with Opehlia and secretly plans his death not once but twice throughout the course of the play. Oh, and did I mention he lets his wife drink poisoned wine, knowingly very well that it will kill her? Pretty great guy, that Claudius.
The tacky, sleazy Mr. Wormwood is the fictional father we all despised growing up. Most of the time he completely ignores his daughter Matilda because she is not a boy, however when he shows her some attention, Mr. Wormwood refers to Matilda with endearing terms such as “ignorant little twit.” Perhaps his worst action as a parent is when Mr. Wormwood destroys Matilda’s library book, an action that still crushes the hearts of book-lovers far and wide, including my own. I’ll take comfort in the fact that you are universally despised by all, Mr. Wormood.
Ah, what do I even need to say about the dreadful Vernon Dursely, father to Dudley and uncle (as well of sort-of father figure for a while) to Harry Potter? While Mr. Dursely spoils the unbearable Dudley with massive piles of presents and loads of pampering, Harry is forced to live in a cramped cupboard under the stairs and work as a glorified servant for the rest of the house. Never mind the fact that Mr. Dursley almost ruins Harry’s chances of ever attending Hogwarts by boarding up the entire house and then moving the family to a rocky outcropping in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and his wife, Petunia, isn’t much better. Poor Harry.
If there was an award for worst literary father of all time, Cronus would, without a doubt, take the cake. In Greek Mythology, Cronus (also known as Saturn) is the ruler of the Titans and he and his wife, Rhea, are the parents of the Greek Olympians. In order to protect himself from a prophecy that he will one day be overthrown by his son, Cronus eats each of his children as they are born, and this continues until Rhea tricks him into eating a rock instead of a baby, Zeus kills his father, and then frees all of his siblings. Talk about a complicated family dynamic! So, next time you’re angry with your dad, be thankful he didn’t eat you when you were born, or something like that anyways.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and remember to tell all your fathers (who I am sure are 10,000 times more lovely than those mentioned in this post) that you love them on Father’s Day and every other day of the year!