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Essay on A Father Figure In Hugh Garner’s Short Story, The Father

“That anyone could father a child, but a real man chooses to be a dad,” – J. Sterling. Hugh Garner’s short story, ‘The Father’, can closely relate to this quote with the protagonist John Purcell who chooses to dismay his fatherly duties of relating to and taking care of his only child, Johnny, and instead pursues in his drinking habit which has destroyed his home and social life. A father figure is an important aspect of every child’s life, and without one people can often be left emotionally unstable and damaged.

In the case of the short story, ‘The Father’, Johnny is without a father figure in his life, and when his father tries to be one he ends up embarrassing and disgracing him in front of all of his friends and fellow scouts. John tries to be the Dad that his son needs, but sadly his inattentiveness, selfishness, and alcoholism get in the way of the connection they once shared. John’s inexcusable absence from his son’s life has caused a barrier between him and his son that can never be cured or destroyed.

He shows multiple signs that he doesn’t take any interest in his son’s life, but the most obvious example is when the other parents and scoutmasters know more about Johnny than he does. Upon arrival to the scout meeting, John is greeted by a scoutmaster who tells him about how excellent of a swimmer Johnny is and how he’s going to “… be a great swimmer someday,” this caught John off guard seeing as he wasn’t aware his son was in swimming lessons.

John’s second display of his inattentiveness is how he refuses to take responsibility for his sons disconnection from him and instead blames it on his son who he tells himself is “… only a twelve year old boy who wants to be left alone. ” John constantly tells himself that he isn’t the cause of the barrier between them to clear his conscious and make himself feel better about the mistakes he’s made that have corrupted the great relationship he and his son once had.

John’s final act of impermissible uncaringness and inattentiveness is the event that sparked the barrier that exists between him and his son. Johnny’s principle requested to speak to John about his son’s slowness in school and when she recommended that Johnny should stay in the same grade for a second year, he immediately accepted the offer, only wanting to escape his “professional father” duties. John displays many signs of being an irresponsible and callous father, but the his biggest manifestation of irresponsibility is also connected with his inability to control his addiction.

John has a harmful addiction to alcohol that has destroyed his close connections he once had to his family, and his constant need to be in a drunken state has created an indestructible barrier between him and his son. John’s most clear sign of being a drunk and uncaring father is when he becomes intoxicated at his son’s scout meeting despite his wife’s pleas to be on his best behaviour. John meets a fellow scout’s father who’s in his exact situation, and when the other father offers him a drink his addiction takes over and he accepts, leaving him in a drunken state to which embarasses Johnny in front of all of his scout masters and friends.

Secondly, John has not only ruined his life with his addiction, but endangers others lives with his drinking by, on many occasions, driving while intoxicated and putting other people’s lives in danger. Before John takes Johnny to his scout meeting he “… pours himself a tall one for the road,” putting his, Johnny’s, and other citizens lives in danger with his reckless and irresponsible ways. Lastly, John’s defensiveness about his addiction causes him to inadvertently get mad at his family causing them to distant themselves from him in fear of exacerbating the situation.

Before the scout meeting, his wife suggests John eats food to put off the drunken edge he had from having a couple of drinks with a client, John then lashed out at her saying that after a couple of drinks she’s”… ready to shove [him] in an institution. ” Along with being inattentive and an alcoholic, John demonstrates an irrational sense of selfishness that often results in him hurting the people he loves, and Johnny is a clear example of how John’s selfishness can affect those he loves.

Johnny has been so traumatized by his father’s selfish ways that he was too afraid to ask his father for the full scout uniform after his father had bought him hockey pads and a rifle the last Christmas. John didn’t like spending money on Johnny and John was scared to ask him to in fear that he would aggravate his father and cause him to get angry at him. John’s second most straightforward example of selfishness is how he worries that the scoutmasters will think that he’s “too cheap” to buy Johnny a Scout uniform.

John constantly tries to make a good impression on other people think rather than trying to make a good impression on his son and strengthen the relationship to the former glory it once was. Lastly, John shows the epitome of selfishness by getting drunk at his son’s scout meeting despite being fully aware of how much the meeting means to the boy. John lets his selfishness overcome his will to regain their relationship and decides to become intoxicated and embarrass the boy, ruining any chance they had of regaining their relationship.

John shows many characteristics of being an unhealthy example of a father to his son, and often people with abusive and alcoholic fathers result in them being the same with their children. Although he tries to change his ways, his absence in his son’s life has caused emotional damage and distress that cannot be fixed. Garner does an excellent job of giving the reader the realization that a father figure in a child’s can affect them not only emotionally, but physically and educationally as well.

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