In The Father-Thing, a young boy named Charlie discovers that the man he has believed to be his father is actually not his real father. The man who comes home from work, kisses his mother, sits down to dinner, makes comments about his day and the like may look like the actual Mr. Walton, but Charlie knows better. Charlie alone knows the real and hideous secret--that his real father has been killed and that the being pretending to be his father is actually an alien that has taken over his body and usurped his father's life. It is no longer Charlie's father; instead, it is the "Father-Thing".
The Father-Thing is a familiar premise, especially popular in the 1950s, that continues to hold our interest. It expresses the fear that people are not what they appear to be on the surface. The idea is that something sinister may be lurking beneath the facade of suburban complacency. And here, Dick's story has a more personal focus than most.
This story focuses not on the invasion of a whole community but instead on the invasion of one particular family. The alien takeover serves as a metaphor for estrangement. The Father-Thing represents the seemingly inscrutable motives that can undermine and damage one family's household and stability. Dick's story, then, is both a chilling science fiction tale and an emotionally resonant work about a child's coming to terms with the turmoil within his own family. Where Charlie turns when he finds himself outcast from his own home is somewhat surprising and reveals a great deal about Dick's ideas about community and exile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philip K. Dick (December 16, 1928-March 2, 1982) was a well-known and respected science fiction writer with over forty novels to his credit. Dick had a somewhat traumatic and tumultuous early life with frequent upheaval and moves, which lead to Dick's suffering from agoraphobia and other psychological maladies later in life. Dick was enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley where he studied philosophy, but he did not complete the program.
After working for a brief time in a record store, Dick began to write short stories. In 1954 he finished his first novel, Solar Lottery, but it wasn't until the publication of The Man in the High Castle in 1963 that Dick's work began to be recognized. That novel won that year's Hugo award and would remain his most acclaimed work until 1974's Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, which won the John W. Campbell Award. Perhaps Dick’s most prominent word was 1968’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, his grim futuristic fantasy that inspired the breakthrough film and classic Blade Runner (1982).
About Philip K. Dick
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Published July 1, 2010
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.