(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Strike the Father Dead is the story of a son’s rebellion against the moral values and way of life represented by his father and his assertion of his right to determine his own destiny. It covers a period of approximately seventeen years, from the time that Jeremy Coleman, as a seventeen-year-old boy, runs away from home to live his own life. The novel is told principally from three different first-person points of view, those of the father, Alfred Coleman, his sister Eleanor, and the son.

The novel opens with Alfred reflecting on the humiliating situation of having a son who has rejected him. His colleagues have been kind, but he feels the odor of scandal settling about him and the family name. The narrative is then taken up by Eleanor, as she recalls the fateful Sunday when an article appeared in a cheap newspaper, showing Jeremy playing the piano in what the paper described as a den of vice in London.

The narrative now passes to Jeremy, looking back as a mature man on his feelings and his actions just before he ran away from home. He tells of one eventful evening in which he made his first visit to a dance hall, became drunk for the first time, attempted to seduce a woman, and got involved in a fight. He came home late, bruised, to his aunt’s sympathy and his father’s stern but reasoned disapproval. The rift between them had for some time been wide: Alfred lived according to strict standards of duty, hard work, and service to others and could not understand his son’s waywardness. After this episode, Jeremy goes through a temporary phase of self-pity and self-disgust, coupled with intense religious emotion.

His decision to run away from home is precipitated by an adventure at a local farm, where he had cycled one summer afternoon while playing...

(The entire section is 735 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Allen, Walter. Review in The New York Times Book Review. XLVI (September 23, 1962), p. 4.

Burgess, Anthony. The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction, 1967.

Mellown, Elgin W. “Steps Toward Vision: The Development of Technique in John Wain’s First Seven Novels,” in South Atlantic Quarterly. XVII (Summer, 1969), pp. 330-342.

Price, Martin. Review in Yale Review. LII (December, 1962), p. 266.

Rogers, W. G. Review in Saturday Review. XLV (December 29, 1962), p. 39.

Salwak, Dale. John Wain, 1981.