I Never Sang For My Father An

I Never Sang For My Father: An Essential Emotion Essay, Research Paper

An Essential Emotion

Obstacles appear whenever an individuals attempts to accomplish any goal. The majority

of these obstacles can be overcome; nevertheless, there are some hurdles in life which are now

and will never be able to be mastered. Gene Garrison from Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang for

My Father strives to conquer his innate inability to love his father Tom, however, is constantly

impeded by his ambivalent feelings towards this domineering “old man(689).” Trapped in an

emotional obligation to uphold his roll as the “dutiful son (690),” Gene is forced to show false

affection. The figure Gene has been seduced to play, feels he must serve and appreciate his

father, yet the magnitude of his resentment towards this man forbids him to ever develop a true

love for him. This enveloping emotion of indignation pushes Gene into an unconquerable “static

emotional impasse.”

The relationship between father and son assumed to be sacred. This appellation is

supposed to indicate a loving relationship created and endured by choice, a pure affection. Gene,

as the dutiful son, feels the necessity to love his father, but is unable to force the feeling of this

deep emotional sentiment upon himself with the sole excuse of obligation. He compares the

feelings he holds for his mother to the ones holds for his father. Never will he be able to say

they are the same or even close to equal. “Mothers are soft and yielding. Fathers are hard and

rough to teach…the way of the world (689).” He tried time and again to win his father’s affection

and make him realize the possibility of the emergence from the hard and rough world fathers

supposedly live within to a world filled with open emotion and devotion. This apathetic

relationship was not the first time in Garrison history which lack of love was a problem, perhaps

this solitude was all that Tom knew. Tom’s father was his “mortal enemy (692)” and the

thought of his presence within his early life always disturbed his childhood memories. People

only know what they have been taught by others. Tom learned not to feel any compassion

towards the father he loathed; yet, still acquired the behavioral traits he had despised. With

these traits it was impossible for Gene to ever overcome his bitterness for Tom and ultimately

love him, the same pattern Tom and his father had followed. Tom felt to show any type of

sensitivity would show weakness, therefore, never once did he express to Gene any type of

tenderness. Without these small expressions of love, Gene never believed his father loved him,

only tolerated him for his mother’s happiness. Gene “loved his mother [and] wanted to love

[his] father. (652)”

“A son is not supposed to make his [parents] life,(681)” only be there to receive love and

give love, to bring happiness, solidity, and unity to a family through devotion, not to be

depended upon. After the death of his mother Gene needed more than ever to feel his father’s

love. Gene whole-heartedly felt “the absence of his father, “ he felt “incomplete, deprived” and

did “not want to let [his] father die a stranger, (689)” yet, “from the moment [Gene] was born a

boy, [he was] a threat to this man and his enemy (689).” Tom needed to feel bigger and better at

every thing than Gene was. He had to feel superior. Tom constantly mentioned the things Gene

valued in contempt. The only time he was proud of Gene was when his son “gave him an

extension of himself he could boast about, with his phony set of values (689).” Tom merely

brought Gene up the same callous way he was raised, as a man, a man who had to be the best at

everything in order to prove himself. Even the inconsequential fact that Gene had hair on his

chest and Tom never did, bothered him. Out of duty, Gene stayed around and tried to help his

father. Almost his entire life Gene was too scared to stand up to his father because the moment

he did, Tom would “lash out at [him] with his sarcasm, and that [would] kill [the] lovely,

necessary image [Gene had of himself] as the good son. (688)”

Gene did not know why the love of his father was so important to him. Tom claimed that

he “never wanted to be a burden to [his]children (687)” yet the dependency and lack of love

deeply burdened Gene, perhaps more than if Tom would have showed his emotion. A child

Reichman 3

cannot grow with out love. There was a hole in Gene’s life which could only be filled Tom’s

love. The devoted son “in [Gene ] want[ed] to extend some kind of mercy to [his] old man.

[Gene] never had a father. [He] ran away from him. [Tom] ran away from [Gene] (689),” and

depressingly they were never able to find each other. “Death ends a life, but it does not end a

relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some final resolution, some clear

meaning, which it perhaps never finds (652).” Tom’s death left Gene with a great void always to

be felt in his life and with the knowledge that the accomplishment of his lifelong goal to love his

father was unobtainable.


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