Saturday, 13 October 2012

The heart of a father

Theodore Dereiser

The heart of a father! The world wanders into many strange by-paths of affection. The love of a mother for her children is dominant, leonine, selfish, and unselfish. It is concentric. The love of a husband for his wife, or of a lover for his sweetheart, is a sweet bond of agreement and exchange trade in a lovely contest. 

The love of a father for his son or daughter, where it is love at all, is a broad, generous, sad, contemplative giving without thought of return, a hail and farewell to a troubled traveler whom he would do much to guard, a balanced judgment of weakness and strength, with pity for failure and pride in achievement. It is a lovely, generous, philosophic blossom which rarely asks too much, and seeks only to give wisely and plentifully.

"That my boy may succeed! That my daughter may be happy!" Who has not heard and dwelt upon these twin fervors of fatherly wisdom and tenderness?

The Financier isn't as great a read as I hoped, but quite quotable - at least this quote appeals to me. But the book itself is very mixed with long, dull descriptions of the main character's financial dealings. I enjoyed Dreiser's Sister Carrie and The Financier has been on my must-read list for some years, but on the whole I prefer Sister Carrie.

However there are some good points, particularly the character of the financier himself, Frank Cowperwood, included in an earlier post. The flavour of nineteenth century financial machinations are good, but spoiled by excessive and long-winded detail in my view. Sometimes I thought I was reading a textbook. One is certainly left wondering whether things have really changed though.
Frank Cowperwood is unstoppable:-

That thing conscience, which obsesses and rides some people to destruction, did not trouble him at all. He had no consciousness of what is currently known as sin. There were just two faces to the shield of life from the point of view of his peculiar mind - strength and weakness. 

Right and wrong? He did not know about those. They were bound up in metaphysical abstrusities about which he did not care to bother. Good and evil? Those were toys of clerics, by which they made money. And as for social favor or social ostracism which, on occasion, so quickly followed upon the heels of disaster of any kind, well, what was social ostracism? Had either he or his parents been of the best society as yet? And since not, and despite this present mix-up, might not the future hold social restoration and position for him? It might. Morality and immorality? He never considered them. 

But strength and weakness--oh, yes! If you had strength you could protect yourself always and be something. If you were weak--pass quickly to the rear and get out of the range of the guns.


James Higham said...

You don't find Dreiser a bit too densely packed?

A K Haart said...

James - The Financier certainly is. Sister Carrie I found easier to read, but yes, it is a little dense.