Toxic and Non-Toxic Fathers in Classic Literature

Father’s Day is approaching, and I reflect on the characters’ fathers or father figures in the classic novels that I have read. I am amazed at how these fathers have greatly affected the plot of the novels whether these fathers were major or minor characters. Some of the fathers’ selfish and short-sighted decisions have made trainwrecks of their children’s lives, and the love and support of some of the fathers contributed to the novels’ optimistic endings.  

Read my friendly suggestions that I would have given the bad dads before they made their regrettable decisions and my praising statements to the fathers and father figures who shaped their children’s lives in a positive way. See if you can match the statements with the title and author of the classic novels. The first three statements are for the Bad Dads and the second set are for my Fathers of the Year candidates. Check the correct answers at the end of the quiz.

I. The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dads

  1. When you have personal reasons for rejecting a gift that your child offers you, never use their siblings’ gift to you as a suggestion. Your rejection of the gift will injure your child, and they will most likely inflict their pain on the sibling who gave the gift that pleased you.
  2. When you bring home your adopted child, don’t forget about your existing biological children. Your biological children will most likely notice your favoritism, and deeply resent the adopted child. The adopted child will retaliate the ill feelings and grow into a vengeful adult.
  3. If you are anxious about supporting your child for the rest of your life, please at least give them a change to meet various people for potential lifetime partners. Don’t push the first person on your child who shows an interest in them. This hasty decision could be a recipe for a tragic marriage.

A. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

B. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

C. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

II. Angels in Dad Bodies

  1. This father’s employee refused to pay reasonable wages, so his family had limited resources. This family was nevertheless one of the happiest families in classic literature. The mere ritual of sitting around the dinner table gave them joy.
  2. This father figure treated the main character as his own son. This person always gave ethical and practical advice, and supported the main character in spite of the various slights that he received during the course of the novel.
  3. This father figure is the main character of the novel, and faced betrayal from his fellow village residents. He overcame his bitterness when he decided to raise a child in spite of having no idea of the child’s origins.

A. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

B. Silas Marner by George Elliot

C. Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Madame Bovary

East of Eden

Wuthering Heights

Great Expectations

Silas Marner

A Christmas Carol


I. Bad Dads

  1. B
  2. C
  3. A

II. Good Dads

  1. C
  2. A
  3. B