A Father’s Story by Andre Dubus is a riveting tale of Luke Ripley, a fifty-four-year-old divorced father to four children in Massachusetts, who struggles to manage his Catholic faith with the reality of his broken human nature. Arriving at the central conflict of the narrative, we find that Luke’s daughter, on a summer visit, returns home one evening after striking a pedestrian along the street after a night out drinking with some of her childhood friends. Caught in a moment of indecision, Luke decides to protect his daughter against persecution by physically hiding the crime and becoming a partner in her guilt. In the short story, we are confronted with the themes of truth, paternal protection, sexuality, relationship, and faith with a quick glimpse into the brilliance of Dubus and his progression of thought via Luke Ripley’s character. In this analysis, I will explore the character development and resolution of Luke Ripley, through the conflict of appearances versus reality, in an attempt to clarify the power behind fatherhood, love, and religious constructs.
Opening the story, Dubus writes, “My name is Luke Ripley, and here is what I call my life.” In this opening phrase, we are introduced to the duality of Ripley’s character. Ripley chooses to distinguish his true identity as separate from how others perceive his life. Dubus uses this as a clear indication that Ripley refuses to adhere to the designation, and social norms, that others have given him in favor of rebelling by acknowledging that there is more to his being than initial appearances. Dubus leaves the reader suspenseful of what is to come and builds tension for his impending trial. Moving forward, Ripley continues with “…and here is what I call my life”, hinting at the idea that he is not yet solidified in his stature, religion, or sense of self-being despite his devout insistence of his religious rituals, such as regularly attending mass and meeting often with his friend Father Paul.