Father by Bharati Mukherjee

Father

Culture clash -- a generational and cultural clash between father and daughter

Culture clashes are usually thought of as occurring between foreigners, but a culture clash can also occur within the context of a family. The Indian novelist Bharati Mukherjee's short story "The Father" depicts a culture clash that occurs between two related Indians, a father and daughter. Both individuals have very different ethical standards about procreation and the meaning of fatherhood. "A Father" features a conservative, traditional Hindu Indian father named Mr. Bhowmick who dreams that his daughter Babli will have a family life similar to the one he had, growing up in India. Instead, he learns that his daughter is pregnant and unmarried -- by choice.

Babli has had artificial insemination because she wants to be a parent. But she does not want to become beholden to a husband or even a boyfriend. She wishes to give birth to the next generation independently. Her child will never know a father, only a mother. This is an explicit rejection of her father's culture, in Mr. Bhowmick's eyes. He sees his own child, and his future grandchild corrupted by the alien values of America.

This story depicts a cultural clash that exists on several levels -- generational, gender-based, ethical, and personal. First and foremost, Babli's decision is a rejection of her father's cultural valuation of marriage. Mukherjee's young female protagonist rejects the need for a stable family structure to nurture a child. Babli's stance is a rejection of the way of life her Hindu father believes is right. In his culture, the family always was very important in determining who a child should marry and have children with, even arranging marriages in many instances.

Babli's father still regards his daughter as a baby, young and naive, even though he also feels she should have settled down long ago. Even her name "Babli" suggests this babyishness in his eyes, but the woman she has become is capable, nurturing and independent, in the true American spirit. The daughter defiantly creates her own family structure, alone, without her father's consent. She embraces the modern American ethic of individual choice, where the beliefs of the past generation are critically examined and discarded by the young if they are deemed lacking. Her action is also an explicit rejection of patriarchy -- of her father's values and the need for men in general.

Babli's father comes from a culture that is a patriarchal culture in terms of its explicitly stated values, for, as Mr. Bhowmick sees it, male authority and wisdom should rule the household. Now the father's daughter will raise her child in a household with no male presence. Of course, this sense of patriarchal dominance is fictional to some degree. Mr. Bhowmick came to the U.S. from Ranchi because his wife, a professional in her own right insisted upon this move. But he still believes the pretence of male dominance should be protected in principle. In fact, because he feels forced to stay in the U.S. due to his wife, seeing his daughter flagrantly deny her need for a man even to father a child,…