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 tells his wife that when she married she bartered her rights in exchange for his financial support of her. Marriage, according to the societal order, is an exchange in which the woman agrees to be mastered in order to be supported. Thus, masculine law gives the father the sole right to determine the...
(The entire section is 721 words.)