A Beautiful Life Story

I was struck by this sentence in Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil.

Henry decided that his son would become his pen and by force of being a good, loving father he would write a beautiful life story with him. If Theo was the only pen Henry ever wielded again, so be it.

It’s a compelling metaphor, the child as a work in progress, the father as an author. I admit it’s one I toyed with myself as I tend to my infant son. But I’m not sure how Martel meant it: as a lovely testament to Henry’s commitment, foregoing his own ambitions to focus on being a loving an dutiful father, or an ominous decision by a failed author (though Henry is not truly a failure, just a one hit wonder) to self-actualize through his son. “Run, Theo!” one reviewer warns, predicting that Henry will be the sort of dad to bully baseball coaches. Another reviewer caps the review with the first sentence, with a note that it’s a beautiful passage.

I just keep scratching my head over it, particularly the word “force,” in the first sentence.

Does it matter if we trade in other professions for Henry?

Henry decided that his son would become his investment portfolio and by force of being a good, loving father he would create a beautiful fortune with him.

Henry decided that his son would become his programming language and by force of being a good, loving father he would create a beautiful piece of software with him.

Henry decided that his son would become his eggs and by force of being a good, loving father he would create a beautiful soufflé with him.

Hm. It’s hard to find one that doesn’t make you want to call a good psychologist for Henry and child protection for Theo, isn’t it? What do you think?

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