April 23, 2013
The Influential Fathers
Many people underestimate the significance of a father in a child’s life. The father has some of the most prevalent influences on a child, especially while the child is young. A child’s happiness while growing up is largely influenced by the type of father he has and the relationship they bare. Some children will end up resenting their father more than anything because their father fails to really get to know them. On the other hand, some children will have such a close bond with their father that they have trouble letting go. There are many different qualities or personality traits that can make a dad a “bad father” or prevent him from truly understanding and appreciating his children. Both Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart and Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice give impeccable examples of fathers failing to know their children. In these literary selections, the three things that interfere with the fathers' relationships with their children are being overly protective and extra restrictive, being neglectful and selfish, and setting impossible and unrealistic expectations.
The first example of how fathers can sometimes fail to know their child is in The Merchant of Venice involving Jessica and her father Shylock. The reason he fails to really know her is because Shylock is very protective over Jessica and wants to have complete control over her. A parent cannot make the living environment of their children hostile or resemble a prison because it will not only make the child resent their home but it will make them resent their parent (Thomsen 77). Shylock does this because of his selfish lack of understanding and pushes Jessica away. Not only does Shylock have his priorities wrong, but according to Jessica he also creates a home filled with negativity and hostility: She tells Lancelet, “Our house is hell and thou, a merry devil” (2.3.2). He makes it seem as if their home is a fort against the world, where everyone is some kind of enemy to them. Because Jessica is forced to grow up in this kind of environment, this changes the way she thinks about her relationship with her father. She does everything in her power to be the exact opposite of her father, which makes it virtually impossible to have any kind of relationship with Shylock since she wants nothing to do with him. Despite her best efforts, Jessica still shows some signs of her father’s influences: “I am never merry when I hear sweet music” (5.1.77). She is so unhappy with her father that she ends up running away with her lover, Lorenzo. After running away, she further demonstrates her resentment toward him by converting to Christianity and abandoning her Jewish upbringing:
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father’s child?
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners. O Lorenz,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife. (3.5.18-19).
When she runs away, she takes Shylock’s money with her. Shylock is in complete shock, but he still manages to scream what he really cares about: “Stol’n by my daughter! Justice! / Find the girl! She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats.” (2.8.22-23). This is when Shylock’s true priorities are revealed because he orders the people to get his money back before he says anything about getting his daughter back to him safely. Your children should always be your number one priority no matter what the situation is, they are your responsibility and your job to make sure they are safe and happy (Warner 69). Shylock had all of his priorities in the wrong order which ended up really showing Jessica that he did not care about her as much as he should have which ultimately pushed her away for good.
The next relationship that is used to...