Life with Father

by Clarence Day Jr.

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Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 297

Much of the charm and humor of the recollections in LIFE WITH FATHER is derived from the precise and careful detail with which they are narrated, which brings to life a past era. The stories suggest that the Victorian world was a golden, tranquil age, far happier than aggressive modern society. Clarence Day skips over those aspects of life in America that were not so pleasant for the majority who were not as well off as the Day family.

The book represents an interesting documentation of the relative positions of men and women in Victorian society. Mrs. Day can only obtain what she wishes from her husband by subtly maneuvering him, playing tricks, or resorting to tears and other “feminine” devices. The patriarch rules the household; his rule is absolute, for if it were not, such wiles on the part of his wife would not be necessary. The boys in the family also feel the strong rule of their father, but they grow up secure in their place in the household and sure of the values that rule it. It is this security, above all else, which gives the Day household and the Victorian era such an appealing quality to the modern reader.

The powerful personality of Mr. Day provides the axis upon which the reminiscences turn; he is one of the striking figures in American literature. He is both a type and an individual and has come to represent the Victorian father, the stern parent, and the dominating husband. There is no plot to connect the episodes, but the personality of Mr. Day holds the book together. The style of the book is simple and unpretentious. More than anything else, LIFE WITH FATHER remains a delightful social document, a glimpse into attitudes of America’s past.

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Critical Context