Father Melancholy's Daughter Father Melancholy’s Daughter - Essay

Gail Godwin

Father Melancholy’s Daughter

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FATHER MELANCHOLY’S DAUGHTER begins with Margaret Gower’s statement that her childhood ended when she was six, the day on which her mother walked out without an explanation, leaving the child and her father, a kindly Anglican priest, to fend for themselves. This novel covers the next sixteen years of Margaret’s life. During her childhood, she attempts to assure herself that such abandonments are not unusual, meanwhile organizing her own life around her father rather than developing an independent identity. When he dies, Margaret is forced to find a direction for her own life. Realizing that she cannot do so without knowing the truth about her mother, Margaret contacts the woman whom she always held responsible for her mother’s leaving. What she learns frees her from the burdens of the past.

Such earlier novels by Gail Godwin as A SOUTHERN FAMILY and A MOTHER AND TWO DAUGHTERS stressed the same conflicts between duty and freedom, conformity and independence, which so trouble most of the women characters, including Margaret, in FATHER MELANCHOLY’S DAUGHTER. However, this novel differs in that both the problems presented and the solutions considered are religious, as well as practical. Except for that alteration in viewpoint, the book is much like earlier works, marked by vivid realistic detail, accurate dialogue, and superb characterization.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. March 19, 1991, XIV, p. 1.

Godwin, Gail. “A Dialogue with Gail Godwin.” Interview by Lihong Xie. Mississippi Quarterly 46 (Spring, 1993): 167-184. In this interview, conducted after...

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