Our Favorite Fathers in the St. John’s College Program

Similarly to what we did last month in honor of Mother’s Day, we had to give a shout out to a number of the iconic fathers which make up the St. John’s Program. Some are adventurers, some are warriors, some are just supportive regular ol’ Dads, but we appreciate all of them and all of the Dads in our St. John’s network. From all of us in Admissions, Happy Father’s Day! And without further ado, here are some of our favorites.

1. Odysseus

Perhaps this humble writer’s favorite in the Homeric canon. Odysseus is the protagonist of The Odyssey, the man from Ithaca who becomes lost at sea after the Trojan War, and spends ten years finding his way back to his home and beloved family. The relationship between Odysseus and Telemachus is among the most interesting in the book – it showcases that the bond between father and son is present even without the two being in the same place. Telemachus grew up entirely without Odysseus, and yet, his legacy influenced Telemachus’ own coming-of-age, into a strong, rational, and just warrior and citizen.

2. Hector

One of the the most tragic figures in The Iliad, Hector is one of the most powerful defenders of Troy during the Trojan War. He is characterized in the story as being a loving husband and father, but tragically dies in battle against Achilles as he defends his city of Troy. The passage towards the end of Book VI, in which he says goodbye to his wife and child for the last time, is some of the most moving text in the entirety of The Iliad:

(Hector) stretched his arms towards his child, but the boy cried and nestled in his nurse’s bosom, scared at the sight of his father’s armour, and at the horse-hair plume that nodded fiercely from his helmet. His father and mother laughed to see him, but Hector took the helmet from his head and laid it all gleaming upon the ground. Then he took his darling child, kissed him, and dandled him in his arms, praying over him the while to Jove and to all the gods. “Jove,” he cried, “grant that this my child may be even as myself, chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent in strength, and let him rule Ilius with his might. Then may one say of him as he comes from battle, ‘The son is far better than the father.’ May he bring back the blood-stained spoils of him whom he has laid low, and let his mother’s heart be glad.'”

The Iliad, Book VI of the Samuel Butler translation

3. Polonius, Hamlet

Councilor to King Claudius and father of Opehlia and Laertes, also dies tragically in one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays (though, who doesn’t?). He is found, in the play, to be an engaged father, offering advice to Laertes and connecting with Opehlia at multiple points, most famously perhaps through his “To thine own self be true” monologue. He seems to pretend to know what is best for both of his children, and while he can come across as a bit overbearing, it’s worth noting that he is invested in both Laertes and Ophelia’s happiness. Some of the most sound advice in the play comes from Polonius. “Never a lender nor a borrower be / for loan oft loses both self and friend”, “Give thy thoughts not tongue, / Nor any unproportioned thought his act.” and of course, the famous “To thine own self be true / and it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

4. King Lear, King Lear

Joy, George William; Cordelia Comforting Her Father, King Lear, in Prison; Leeds Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/cordelia-comforting-her-father-king-lear-in-prison-37515

Perhaps the most terrifying of Shakespeare’s father figures, King Lear is one of the most memorable characters in all of Shakespeare’s work. He is many things, but it’s important to remember that he is first and foremost a father to three daughters, and his imperfect attitudes towards his children are what set the tragic plot in motion. Narcissistic and flawed, though unabashedly truthful towards human nature, King Lear is an irreplaceable tragic figure, and we just had to include him in this list.

5. Mr. Bennett, Pride and Prejudice

The patriarch of the Bennett family and the heir to the Longbourne estate, Mr. Bennett is by no means a perfect parent. He is a distant from his family and seems keen on withdrawing from the world and use humor to distract himself from his own problems. He is an important character because he showcases the negative effect that passivity can have on a family dynamic – while starting out as someone amusing and sympathetic through his wit and demeanor, ultimately he becomes contemptuous to the reader, in a display of the effect that wealth and status can have on human nature.

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