The reluctant role model
Will in About a Boy by Nick Hornby Cynical Will stumbles on his role as a proxy father while attending a single parents’ support group – a rouse he uses as a way to meet potential female friends. A 36-yearold layabout, Will has never had to work a day in his life, and his days are full of shallow, superficial pursuits. Until he meets Marcus, that is. The unworldly 12-year-old quickly discovers the truth about Will’s supposed singled parenthood, but keeps it a secret so Will stays on his side. In return Will teaches Marcus about trainers, trends and bands, becoming a reluctant mentor in the process. Unenthusiastic as he begins, Will evolves into a pretty cool father figure to the boy and they teach each other a lot in the process.
The neglectful nurturer
Mr Wormwood in Matilda by Roald Dahl Roald Dahl’s oeuvre is full of positive paternal role models, from the kindly dad in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to the gentle giant in The BFG. But the dim-witted MrWormwood, father of Matilda, is nothing of the sort. A crooked second-hand-car salesman, he’s boorish and blind to his daughter’s many gifts. The lonely Matilda seeks solace in the form of her teacher, Miss Honey, and exacts revenge on her dad with a range of pranks, such as pouring Superglue into his hat. When Matilda’s parents are forced to run from the police because of her father’s underhand automotive dealings, they give her permission to stay with Miss Honey and the two live happily ever after.
The criminal carer
Fagin in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens He’s not really a father, but the grotesque Fagin is the only paternal figure that the poor orphans in Oliver Twist have. A dastardly villain, Fagin recruits unfortunate children to become pickpockets in exchange for food and shelter, caring less for their welfare than he does about them not ‘peaching’ on him and his criminal ring. Nevertheless, the treatment Oliver receives while in the thieving enclave is better than he did at the baby farm and, perverse as it is, fellow children such as Jack Dawkins, aka the Artful Dodger, have great respect for the advice of the old man. Dickens knew what he was talking about – he took the name Fagin from a friend he’d known when he worked at a boot-blacking factory in his childhood and based the character on Ikey Solomon, a criminal at the centre of a highly publicised arrest, escape, recapture, and trial in Victorian London.
Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult star in
About a Boy