Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Father is often seen as a tragedy in which larger-than-life characters engage in a life-or-death struggle centered on a family conflict. Like a Greek tragedy, The Father has a tight plot structure, a narrow time frame of twenty-four hours, one locale, and a hint of the fatalistic forces at work behind the scenes. It has often been compared to the story of Agamemnon, who was trapped and killed by his wife Clytemnestra because he had sacrificed their daughter. The Father is also similar to Euripides’ Bakchai (405 b.c.e.; The Bacchae, 1781). In The Bacchae, Pentheus rejects the god Dionysus and his women worshipers the Maenads, only to be torn to pieces by them. In The Father, the Captain rejects feminine forces, both spiritual and physical. Thus, a household of women turns against him and figuratively tears him to pieces. An evil or fatalistic force seems to haunt the house. The Captain senses the web of fate that is being spun around him. His daughter, Bertha, hears maternal ghosts in the attic mourning over a cradle. Bertha’s grandmother, who is antagonistic to her father, warns her that spirits who are ignored seek vengeance.
The Father not only examines the battle of the sexes but questions the patriarchy, the male power structure, by casting doubts on paternity or fatherhood. The Captain wishes to assert his rights as father and husband. He...
(The entire section is 721 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Nöjd gets a servant girl named Emma in trouble, the captain sends an orderly to bring Nöjd to face the pastor. The culprit is vague about his affair and hints that the paternity of the child is uncertain and that it is possible that Ludwig is the real father. The pastor tells Nöjd that he will have to support the child, but the soldier claims that Ludwig should contribute also. The captain declares angrily that the case will go to court. After Nöjd leaves, the captain, who is married to the pastor’s sister Laura, berates the pastor for his gentleness. The pastor says he thinks it a pity to saddle Nöjd with the support of a child if he is not the real father.
In his house, complains the captain, there are too many women: his mother-in-law, a governess, old nurse Margaret, and his daughter Bertha. The captain, worried about his daughter’s education, which is being influenced in all different directions by the people around her, deplores the incessant struggle between men and women.
After the pastor leaves, Laura enters to collect her household money. Because his affairs are near bankruptcy, the captain asks her to keep an account of the money she spends. Laura asks what he has decided about Bertha’s education. Laura objects when he announces his intention to send her to town to board with Auditor Safberg, a freethinker, but the captain reminds her that a father has the sole control of his children. When Laura brings up the...
(The entire section is 1083 words.)