5 Fictional Single Fathers in Literature


finchSince father’s day is here I thought it would be a great time to celebrate some of the complex fictional fathers in literature. This particular set of books focuses on those fathers who have the added challenge of going it alone.


  1. Atticus Finch To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee’s novel takes place in the South during the 1930’s. Atticus Finch is a widower left raising his two kids Jem and Scout. Along with his job as a single dad, Atticus also is a lawyer who is handed a case where a black man is accused of raping a white woman. The dimension of race as narrated through the eyes of a child proves for a narrative that has lasting power. Plus the example of Finch as a father that teaches his kids moral integrity and courage in the face of adversity is a lesson that still resonates with readers today.

Fatherly moment spotlight:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


2.  Ed Boone Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime by Mark Haddon

Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime is not the typical father son dynamic, and that only adds to the appeal. Christopher Boone faces challenges with his disability (his condition isn’t referenced specifically) and unique way of looking at the world. Meanwhile his dad Ed deals with the absence of Christopher’s mother while trying to understand his son’s way of thinking. Their relationship is examined as part of a bigger story that stems from the nighttime murder of a dog named Wellington.

Fatherly moment spotlight:

“It’s bloody hard telling the truth all the time. Sometimes it’s impossible. And I want to know that I’m trying, I really am. And perhaps this is not a very good time to say this, and I know you’re not going to like it, but… You have to know that I am going to tell you the truth from now on. About everything. Because… if you don’t tell the truth now, then later on… later on it hurts even more.”


3.  “Man” The Road by Cormac McCarthy

No list would be complete without a feel good dystopic novel. The Road is a journey of a man and his son travelling through a post-apocalyptic landscape fighting for survival. Through the unnamed man and boy’s story, readers get a sense of their father son bond in the most desperate of circumstances. It is literally a case of them against the world.

Fatherly moment spotlight:

“Okay. This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up.”


4.  Baptista The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s plays provide plenty of single fathers and the choices range from the comedic to the tragic. Baptista is a father dealing with arranging marriages for his two daughters, one difficult daughter and one less difficult daughter. While the task proves difficult and Baptista is not the main character or the best father (he plays favorites blatantly), he has a general care and love for his daughters. He is more hapless than heartless.

Fatherly moment spotlight:

From Taming of the Shrew Baptista to Petruchio when referring to arranging Katherine’s marriage

“Ay, when the special thing is well obtained,

That is, her love, for that is all in all.”


5.  Marc Seldman No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

While a thriller is an unconventional choice for a feel good example of a paternal role model, Dr. Marc Seldman fits the role when he is put in the position of asking how far would you go to save your child? This is a nightmare question that most parents never want to face and exactly the problem Dr. Marc Seldman is forced into. Seldman wakes up in the hospital to find his wife dead and his 6 month old baby kidnapped. The book follows his journey into the mystery of finding his daughter while also fighting off suspicions that he orchestrated the murder/kidnapping himself.

Fatherly moment spotlight:

“I was the first to see my daughter. We all know about life’s forks in the road. We all know about opening one door and closing another, life cycles, the changes in seasons. But the moment your child is born… it’s beyond surreal.”


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