Table of Content
2.1 Henry Stanfield - The Spurned Father
2.2 Francis Gilroy - The Concerned Father
2.3 James Fenton - The Childless Father
2.4 Danny - The Father-To-Be
David Park's novel The Truth Commissioner is acclaimed to be an outstanding story about the making up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has never and probably will never take place in the war-torn country of Northern Ireland. It therefore is entirely fictitious but it orientates on similar proceedings in South Africa or Chile (Grandin & Miller Klubock, 2007, p.5). Since the novel is not only dealing with political issues it focuses rather on the narration of four main characters who apparently have nothing in common. But when taking a closer look upon these four foundation pillars, each of them is a father figure in his own way. Fatherhood is undoubtedly a big issue in the book considering how different all four men live with the consciousness of being a father, being a father soon or never being a father at all. Thereupon, this paper makes an attempt to elaborate, evaluate and compare all four characters and their father-child-relations. In the first four chapters, that could also be standalone portraits, these four men try to come to terms with their own brokenness, their shadowy past and their current situations. That is why the paper concentrates strictly on them in the main part. It is going to examine on details of each of the men's family relations by analysing the psychological motivations for their actions with additionally showing their location in the main plot line, since the stories of the characters are to be seen as the framework of Park's novel. The second part of the paper's main body is dedicated to emphasise how they actually manage their complex relations and how the characters are intervowen regarding the case of a murdered child.
2.1 Henry Stanfield - The Spurned Father
Henry Stanfield is the first of the four main characters who is introduced in the novel. When the chapter about him begins he is participating in a trip with other members of the truth commission and he is located in South Africa. Over the first pages the reader gets to know him as a man who is in love with a woman called Laura. Laura is a member of the truth commission as well and in reality she is engaged with an other man. Stanfield knows that and is envying this person of whom he thinks to be a rugby playing buffoon (Park, 2009, p.13) and a Neanderthal fianc é (Park, 2009, p.26). Above all, he holds that this man does not deserve his lovely Laura (Park, 2009, p.14) because in his fantasies he, Henry Stanfield, is the one to marry her. It fires his imagination to experience her asking him personally (Park,2009, p.8) or, at a later point in the narrative, to pop the question to her (Holding court - that was what he had imagined, Park, 2009, p.9). Being far from reality in his thoughts he does not recognise her ignoring him and talking with him about banalities and superficialities. Stanfield is on the lam and he seeks refuge in flight. His daydreams concerning Laura, his prudently attitude to replace his work and efforts with pleasantness and comfortability and most of all the whole journey to South Africa is an escape. Stanfield flees from the truth, from the past of which he knows that it will catch up with him sooner or later. His past is epitomised in his part of the novel as the fact that he has a daughter [ … ] in the North whom he has not seen for five years (Park, 2009, p. 19/20). Stanfields regret about also not having talked to her and not being a part of her life anymore is coupled with his longing for someone to care for. The latter is his way of subconsciously compensating his twinges of remorse. This is, for instance, shown in the passage where the author tells about what opinion Stanfield holds regarding his colleagues who all are much younger than him. He sees himself as a kind of teacher who explains the world for them and who shares his life experience with them, probably because he had missed to tell his own child, Emma, about such things (Park, 2009, p.13). In terms of giving his comfort to somebody else there is a passage where he wishes that Laura would be in need for him: Let her be shaken. Let her need something solid to lean against (Park, 2009, p. 15). In another passage he warms his thoughts by thinking about watching Laura fall asleep just like a father watches his child:
Then the salted bitterness of air is rendered a little sweeter by the conjured image of her resting her head on his shoulder and as she slips into sleep he imagines the warmth of her breath on his cheek, the way her mouth will be opened slightly and raised towards him like a child's (Park, 2009, p. 16/17).
Another evidence for his self-developed strategy of distraction is that he seeks to balance his longings for human warmth and sympathy in company with a prostitute called Kristal. Just like Laura, she fulfills the same scheme for him but this time it is happening in reality and not just in his fantasy. He demands nothing more than receiving human sympathy and tenderness for cash no matter if it is sincere or not. Bringing Kristal to his flat he experiences her walking around the room and examining his belongings and Stanfield compares the way she is doing that with a child in a toy shop which brings the memory of his daughter back into his mind again (Park, 2009, p.51).
With regard to his daughter Emma his frame of mind changes from bitter regret into insensibleness. From time to time he seems to be almost accepting the situation between them as fixed, as something on what he does not possess the power to change it: [ … ] the type of coincidence that life inevitably throws up (Park, 2009, p.20). Indeed, the relationship between father and daughter got stuck but there is something inside him that makes him think of her, for instance, he is catching himself glancing at his mobile in expectation of a call from her, when he is back in Belfast again (Park, 2009, p.26). When realising that she has not called him he frets because of have not calling her himself, but in the next moment he tells himself that life goes on, that perhaps it's better in the long run to live unencumbered (Park, 2009, p.26). He constantly dispels the thought of regret until the moment when he is conducting a conversation in his position as the Truth Commissioner. Due to his responsibilty for the bereaved of the victims of the troubles he meets a mother and her daughter that are seeking to find any signs of life from their brother and son Connor Walshe and stating their request for support from the commission. Stanfield struggles to smother his surprise when he is told by the daughter, who is a colleague of his daughter Emma, that the latter is expecting a baby. Stanfield, however, when receiving a note from her on his answering machine that she needs to talk to him feels concerned about the urgence in her voice. He tries to make his mind up about what she could want, whether it is money or just to deliver the news. Meeting her in a small café becomes not as delightful as he imagined. Their conversation seems shallow at the beginning until the point when Emma misses to introduce her father to the waitress who is obviously a friend of her. Stanfield confronts her and she reacts by withdrawing the topic: I don't want any trouble (Park, 2009, p. 60). Emma, who is still holding her father guilty mistreating her mother Martine and for letting her down before she died, seems to have accepted the relationship to her father as fixed in her own way, does not demand any proof of love from her father anymore but his promise to help the Walshes by finding their boy, Connor. For Stanfield it is a new chance to win her back by keeping the promise through an act of a service (Park, 2009, p. 66).
2.2 Francis Gilroy - The Concerned Father
Gilroy, who was appointed recently as Minister for Children and Culture, is a man who struggles not only with the signs of aging but also with his new function as the bride's father. His wife, Marie, is constantly concerned about his physical condition and therefore seems to behave more like a mother that a wife, even though she acts as his first advisor in professional and personal issues. Due to his concern about his aging and aching body and his daughter who he feels is slipping away from him in a fast and incontrollable way his occupation as well as his overshadowed past become secondary.
His chapter begins with the morning when he gets up and prepares for work. His personal assistant Sweeney and his driver Micky arrive and Marie reminds him not to forget the important fitting in the wedding shop of which he is not really fond of because it means one step further in the process of giving away his only daughter to a man he does not know very well and he does not like. Generally spoken, the feelings that Francis Gilroy is experiencing particularily with regard to his daughter Christine's wedding are not unusual. Almost every father who has a special relationship with his daughter notices a change in personal connections with such a huge step. This can be described as a feeling of panic or regret for not having spent enough time with the child or not given the child enough attention up to a strong sentimentality about being not a good father. All in all this is mostly owing to the perception of time. Many fathers may come to the point when they think that time has gone too fast, that the woman who has once been a little girl has grown out of childhood and going her own ways regardless if this ways agree with those the father had once imagined for his daughter. This feelings, however, may culminate finally in the bitter thought that the daughter is to be giving away out of her father's hands and out of her father's control to another man which then becomes her husband just like it is symbolised in the wedding tradition in which the father accompanies his daughter down the aisle right up to the alter to literally exchange her and to give her out of his protecting hands. In quiet moments, for instance in the changing cubicle of the wedding shop, Francis Gilroy is having that picture in front of his inner eye. The thought of Christine's wedding and the notion about that there is something not quite right with his health make him feel old and he seems to have lost his naturalness.
- Quote paper
- Diana Kiesinger (Author), 2010, Truth Matters. Father Figures in David Park's "The Truth Commissioner", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/296331