Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Father Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Yes, I am crying although I am a man. But has not a man eyes! Has not a man hands, limbs, senses, thoughts, passions? Is he not fed with the same food, hurt by the same weapons, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter as a woman? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? And if you poison us, do we not die? Why shouldn't a man complain, a soldier weep? Because it is unmanly? Why is it unmanly?

The captain is a symbol of patriarchy and masculinity, but in the above quote he doubts he is the father of his daughter, Bertha, and he cries, an "unmanly" act. If patriarchy is defined by the ability to father children and pass your name on through them--to achieve a certain immortality through children--and masculinity a set of emotionally repressed and stoic behaviors, then the captain's patriarchy is undermined by his thoughts he is raising another man's child, and his masculinity undermined by his crying. He here questions conventional notions patriarchy, asking why it is unmanly to cry? We note too that he echoes Shakespeare's Shylock --"If you prick us, do we not bleed?" Like Shylock, the "Other" surrounded by Christians, the Captain has become the "Other" surrounded by women, who feels compelled to explain his humanity to his wife.

I do not believe in a hereafter; the child was my future life. That was my conception of immortality, and perhaps the only one that has any analogy in reality. If you take that away from me, you cut off my life.

Bertha's paternity is vitally important to the captain because he sees her as his "immortality." He can only attain this immortality if she is his biological child. Shortly after saying this, he will accuse Laura of having an affair while he was sick and bearing the child of another man. He says she did this is a calculating way, because if she had no children she would not be able to inherit his money if he died. She insists Bertha is his.

But unfortunately, I am a man, and there is nothing for me to do but, like a Roman, fold my arms across my breast and hold my breath till I die.

The captain, in conversation with the doctor, listens to the doctor tell him his thoughts are too "morbid" and that he is (mentally) ill. He now back to adopted completely masculine behavior as his society defines and is determined to behave stoically, like a "Roman."