Life with Father

by Clarence Day Jr.

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Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 272

The popularity of Life with Father can be demonstrated by the numerous reprintings of the work. First published a few years after the end of World War I, the book was viewed as an affectionate look at a past that would never be recovered but that had its own beauty: a stable family with devoted servants, a daily life with leisure for clubs and drives in the country, and family entertainment.

Contemporary readers of Life with Father will perceive the enormous imbalance of the roles of men and women. Mother has no official voice nor does she claim one, even though she manages Father coyly. Father sees himself as the center of his world and assumes with total serenity and self-assurance that everyone in it is there to attend him. What was initially read as affectionate satire is often a major obstacle for the contemporary reader.

Clarence Day, Jr., suffered for most of his life with acute arthritis. Unable to participate in an active social life, he nevertheless maintained a wide circle of friends with whom he corresponded. His writings for the major periodicals are characterized by the same wit, humor, and insight that mark Life with Father, God and My Father (1932), Life with Mother (1937), and his several other works. It is for this tone, as well as for his fine prose, that he will be remembered. Until fairly recently, in fact, sections from Life with Father or other works by Day were frequently anthologized in high school or college writing texts. The stereotyping found in this work, however, renders it difficult if not impossible for the contemporary reader to take seriously.

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Critical Evaluation