Strike the Father Dead Characters

John Wain

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The technique of having four first-person narrators alternating with one another (the fourth is Percy Brett, who briefly has his say toward the end of the novel) gives multiple perspectives on each character and reveals some carefully balanced structural motifs.

Jeremy consciously shapes his life in opposition to his father’s values. He views himself as a rebel, deliberately experimenting with a new way of life. Yet occasionally he realizes that he is closer to his father than he thought: “I saw the right path, and therefore I must follow it.... I suppose I’m the son of my father, deep down.” When he is in Paris, working devotedly at his music, he comments, looking back: “And all the time it never struck me that I was providing a copy-book example of one of the old man’s maxims. I was happy because I was working hard and forgetting about myself.” Like his father, he was rigorously pursuing an ideal. Even his girlfriend Diana reminds him (to his irritation) how much he remains influenced by the very values that he claims to have renounced.

It is Tim, not Jeremy, who is Alfred’s true opposite. Tim is the pleasure-seeker, always “fast-talking, full of gags, the ideal person to make a party go.” Jeremy admires him at first because he “seemed to enjoy life so much, and to live so vividly from one minute to the next.” In spite of his charm, however, Tim is selfish and without deep feeling. Jeremy observes that he seemed only two-dimensional, not like a complete person (“you couldn’t imagine him working, or doing any of the routine things that make up two-thirds of life”), and indeed, Tom soon turns out to be both a liar and a sponger....

(The entire section is 688 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Alfred Coleman

Alfred Coleman, a middle-aged professor of the classics. The son of a minister, Alfred has inherited his father’s sense of duty, if not his faith. Except for his wife, Mary, who died after ten years of marriage, Alfred has never permitted himself to become close to anyone. Although he is secretly troubled by the memory of his own wartime weakness, he projects an image of certainty, insisting that everyone accept his values, which are chiefly the suppression of emotion and dedication to learning, particularly to the classics. It is his inflexibility that drives his son, Jeremy Coleman, from home and causes a seventeen-year break in their relationship. Finally, while visiting his son in a hospital, Alfred admits his own vulnerability, enabling father and son to be reconciled.

Jeremy Coleman

Jeremy Coleman, the only son of Alfred Coleman and his dead wife. Of average stature, Jeremy is healthy but not athletic. He is bright but not scholarly, tending to drift into daydreams or toward the piano, his chief source of pleasure. Jeremy has always tried to please his father, but at the age of seventeen he realizes that he can find no happiness in Greek books, only in jazz. After running away from school, he eventually becomes a jazz pianist, first in London, then in Paris. After a ten-year period of stagnation, Jeremy once again meets his friend Percy Brett and is inspired to return to his music. Defending Percy in a fight against racist thugs, Jeremy is injured and taken to a hospital. There he and his father are reconciled. At the end of...

(The entire section is 653 words.)