Graham Swift: Father Figures and Forgiveness

Barry J. Fishman '89

The reconciliation of fathers with their children is not unique to Shuttlecock and Out of This World. It is also a central theme of many of Swift's short stories including "The Son," "Gabor," and "The Watch." The question is often one of heroism. Prentis in Shuttlecock fears that his children will admire the Bionic Man more himself, and he questions throughout much of the novel the true heroism of his own, now mute, father.

A similar question of heroism is called into play in Out of This World, where Harry Beech, recalling that his father lost an arm while throwing a stray grenade out of the trenches in WWI, is also reminded that many men did the same thing without receiving a Victoria Cross: "My father was a hero. I didn't worship my father." (OoTW p.46) What Harry tries to understand about his father is the same thing Sophie tries to understand about Harry. Just what kind of a man is her father? Is he a father or a photojournalist? Where was he during her childhood? All of Swift's characters need a father figure, and Sophie finds hers in Dr. Klein, "Old enough to be my --." (p.25) When the real thing is not available to them Swift's characters make adjustments. Some are even willing to substitute television for parenting.

United Kingdom