Short summary - The Father - August Strindberg

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The Father
August Strindberg

Events unfold over the course of one day in the living room of a military house in the 80s. 19th century

The captain and Pastor are sorting out the case of Private Noid. He received a complaint - he does not want to give money for the maintenance of his illegitimate child. Noid makes excuses, nodding at another soldier - Ludwig: who knows, maybe he is the father of the child? Emma walked with both of them. If Noid was sure that he was the father, he would have married. But how can he be sure of this? And all my life with someone else's child, messing around is not so hot, how interesting. The bosses chase Noid out of the room. Really, what can you prove!

The Captain and Pastor, the brother of the Captain's wife Laura, did not meet about Noid; they discuss what to do with the upbringing of Berta, the daughter of the Captain. The fact is that in the views on her upbringing, the husband and wife sharply diverge: Laura discovered artistic talent in her daughter, and the Captain believes that it is better to give Berta the profession of a teacher. Then, if she does not marry, she will have a well-paid job, and if she does, she will be able to properly raise her own children. Laura, however, stands her ground. She does not want her daughter to be sent to study in the city, where she will have to live with an acquaintance, Captain Smedberg, who, according to Laura, is known to be a freethinker and troublemaker. The captain does not want to leave Berta at home, where everyone brings her up in their own way: her mother-in-law prepares her to become a spiritualist, Laura dreams that she becomes an actress, the governess tries to turn her into a Methodist, the old woman Margret, the captain's nurse, converts her to Baptism, and the maids drafted into the Salvation Army.

According to Pastor, the Captain dismissed his women altogether. Let her be more careful with Laura, she has a strong temper, in her childhood she achieved everything - she pretended to be paralyzed and lay like that until her desires were fulfilled. In general, the Captain has not been looking well lately. Does he know that a new doctor is coming to see them?

Laura comes to the Captain. She needs money for the household. What happened to Noid? Oh, it's business! But the whole house knows about it! Has Noida been released? Just because the child is illegitimate and it is impossible to prove who his father is? And in marriage, according to Rotmistra, is it possible?

The first to meet the new doctor is Laura. Is everyone in the family healthy? Thank God, there are no acute diseases. But not all is well. The doctor knows certain circumstances... She thinks her husband is sick. He orders books by cases, but does not read them. And yet, looking through a microscope, he claims to see other planets. Does he often change his mind? Over the past twenty years, there was probably no order that he would not cancel ... Yes, of course, she will not excite her husband with unexpected ideas. In a heated brain, any idea can turn into an obsession, into a mania. So, there is no need to arouse suspicion in him?

The captain welcomes the newcomer cordially. Had the Doctor really read his works on mineralogy? Right now he's on his way to a big discovery. Investigations of meteorite matter using a spectroscope gave amazing results. He found traces of coal in it - organic life! Unfortunately, the ordered literature still does not arrive. Will the doctor live here, in the wing, or will he occupy a state-owned apartment? Does he not care? Let him know in advance. The captain does not like indifferent people!

The Nurse comes to the Captain. He would calm down and make peace with his wife! Let's leave the girl at home! The mother has only joy that the child! The captain is outraged. How, and his old nurse is also on the side of his wife? Old Margrethe, dearer to him than his mother! Traitor! Yes, he agrees with Margrethe, learning in family matters is no help. As they say, to live with wolves is to howl like a wolf!.. Well, now there is no true faith in him! Why is it with the Nurse, when she starts talking about her God, her eyes become angry?

With his daughter Berta, whom the Captain loves dearly, his relationship does not work out to the end either. The daughter agrees to go to the city if only her father persuades her mother. Bertha does not want to engage in spiritism with her grandmother. My grandmother also says that although my father looks at other planets through a telescope, in ordinary life he does not understand anything.

On the same evening, another explanation takes place between the Captain and Laura. Did the captain firmly decide to send the girl to the city? Laura won't let that happen! She, like a mother, has more rights to a girl! After all, it is impossible to know exactly who the father of the child is, while he has only one mother. What does this mean in this case? - And the fact that Laura can announce: Berta is her daughter, not his! Then the power of the Captain over the child is over! By the way, why is he so sure of his paternity?

The captain leaves the house, promising to return no earlier than midnight. At this time, Laura is talking with the Doctor. He believes that the Captain is absolutely healthy: studies in science are more evidence of clarity of mind than of his disorder. The non-receipt of books by the Rotmistress, as it seems, is explained by the wife's increased concern for her husband's peace of mind? Yes, but today my husband again embarked on the most unbridled fantasies. He imagined that he was not the father of his own daughter, and before that, examining the case of one soldier, he stated that no man could say with complete certainty that he was the father of his child. This is not the first time this has happened to him. Six years ago, in a similar situation, he admitted in a letter to a doctor that he feared for his mind.

The doctor suggests: we must wait for the Captain. So that he does not suspect anything, let him be told that the doctor was called because of his mother-in-law's indisposition.

The captain is back. Having met the Nurse, he asks her who was the father of her child? Of course, her husband. Is she sure? Besides her husband, she had no men. Did the husband believe in his paternity? Forced!

The Doctor enters the living room. What is the Doctor doing here at this late hour? He was called: the mistress's mother sprained her leg. Weird! The nurse a minute ago said that the mother-in-law caught a cold. By the way, what does the Doctor think: after all, paternity cannot be established with absolute certainty? Yes, but there are women. Well, who believes women! So many spicy stories happened to Rotmister when he was younger! No, he would not trust even the most virtuous woman! But this is not true! The Doctor tries to reason with him. The captain starts talking, his thoughts generally take a painful direction.

As soon as the Doctor has time to leave, the Captain calls his wife! He knows she's eavesdropping on their conversation outside the door. And he wants to talk to her. He went to the post office. His suspicions were confirmed: Laura intercepts all his orders. And he, in turn, printed out all the letters addressed to her and learned from them that his wife had been suggesting to all his friends and colleagues for a long time that he was mentally ill. But he still offers Laura the world! He will forgive her everything! Let him just say: who is really the father of their Bertha? This thought torments him, he can really go crazy!

Between the spouses there is a stormy explanation: from the aggressiveness and denunciation of Laura in all sorts of vices, the captain proceeds to self-abasement and praise of her maternal virtues: she supported him, weak, at the most critical moments! Yes, only at such moments she liked him, - Laura admits. She hates the man in him. Which of the two is right? the Captain asks, and he himself answers his own question: the one in whose hands the power is. Then victory is hers! Laura announces. Why? Because tomorrow morning he will be placed under guardianship! But on what grounds? Based on his own letter to the doctor confessing his insanity. Has he forgotten? Enraged, the captain throws a lit table lamp at Laura. His wife dodges and runs away.

The captain is locked in one of the rooms. He tries to break down the door from the inside. Laura tells her brother: her husband went crazy and threw a burning lamp at her, they had to lock him up. But is it her own fault? - More affirming than asking, says the brother. The Doctor enters the living room. What is better for them? he asks bluntly. If you sentence the Captain to a fine, he still will not calm down. If you put him in jail, he'll be out of it soon. It remains to recognize him as crazy. The straitjacket is ready. Who will put it on the Captain? There are no hunters present. Private Noyd is called to help. Only now the Nurse agrees to dress the patient. She doesn't want Noid to hurt her big boy.

Finally the Captain breaks down the door and goes outside. He argues with himself: his case has been repeatedly described in the literature. Telemachus told Athena: it’s really impossible to know who the father of a person is. The same is true of Ezekiel. Alexander Pushkin also became a victim - not so much a fatal bullet as rumors about his wife's infidelity. Fool, even on his deathbed he believed in her innocence!

The captain insults the Pastor and the Doctor, calling them cuckolds. He knows something about them and can whisper in the Doctor's ear. Has he faded? That's it! In general, there is only one way to bring clarity to family relationships: you need to get married, divorce, become the lover of your ex-wife and adopt your own child. Then the relationship will be indicated with absolute precision! What does Berta tell him? That he mistreated his mother by throwing a lamp at her? And that after that he is not her father? Understandably! Where is his revolver? The ammo has already been taken out of it! Alas! And the Nurse? What is the Nurse doing with him now? Does Adolf remember how in her childhood she deceived him with a dangerous toy - a knife? Give, they say, a snake, otherwise it will sting! This is how she is wearing it now. Let him lie down on the sofa now! Bye Bye!

No, the Captain is positively unlucky with women! They are all against him: his mother was afraid to give birth to him, his sister demanded submission from him, the first woman awarded him with a bad disease, his daughter, forced to choose between him and her mother, became his enemy, and his wife became an adversary who pursued him until he collapsed. dead!

But Laura was not going to ruin him! Maybe somewhere in the back streets of her soul she had a desire to get rid of him, but she first of all defended her interests. So, if she is guilty before him, before God and conscience Laura is clean. As for his suspicions about Bertha, they are ridiculous.

The captain demands to be covered with a marching uniform. He curses the women (“Mighty power fell before low cunning, and damn you, witch, damn all you women!”), But then he calls for the help of a mother woman. He calls the Nurse. His last words are: "Cuddle me, I'm tired, I'm so tired! Good night, Margrethe, blessed are you in wives." The captain dies, as the Doctor determined, from apoplexy.