Fathers of classic literature tend to be men of few words: think Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, or any of the rugged American dads of John Steinbeck. They may love their children with a deep and abiding passion, but that doesn't change the fact that they probably won't say so.
Though the fathers of literature may prefer enigmatically chewing on a piece of hay while staring with a furrowed brow at the storm gathering on the horizon to talking about their feelings, there's still something terribly tender about the subject of fatherhood. Thankfully, writers aren't afraid to paint nuanced portraits of these stoic men. In fact, some of these quotes might just be emotional enough to bring a tear to the most closed-off father's eye.
1. Manon Lescaut by Antoine François Prévost
“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.”
2. The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
“...alas, raising a young lady is a mystery even beyond an enchanter's skill.”
3. Tenth of December by George Saunders
“He was a father. That’s what a father does.Eases the burdens of those he loves.Saves the ones he loves from painful last images that might endure for a lifetime.”
4. Cup of Gold by John Steinbeck
“Why do men like me want sons?" he wondered. "It must be because they hope in their poor beaten souls that these new men, who are their blood, will do the things they were not strong enough nor wise enough nor brave enough to do. It is rather like another chance at life; like a new bag of coins at a table of luck after your fortune is gone.”
5. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
6. These Colors Don't Run by Andrew Galasetti
“Papas should be loving their children so much that they cry when they gone. That’s what papas is supposed to do.”
7. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
“Any father…must finally give his child up to the wilderness and trust to the providence of God. It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents’ love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness.”
8. File No. 113 by Émile Gaboriau
“A father is the one friend upon whom we can always rely. In the hour of need, when all else fails, we remember him upon whose knees we sat when children, and who soothed our sorrows; and even though he may be unable to assist us, his mere presence serves to comfort and strengthen us.”
9. Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald
“Father said conflict develops the character.”
10. Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“A father acts on behalf of his children by working, providing, intervening, struggling, and suffering for them. In so doing, he really stands in their place. He is not an isolated individual, but incorporates the selves of several people in his own self."
11. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
“Fathers always thought their youngest daughters were rather special."
12. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
“Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.”
13. Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown
"There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself."
14. "The Gift" by Li-Young Lee
"To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from."