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Andre Dubus—A Father’s Story

Before picking up Eyes to See, I had never heard of Andre Dubus, a Louisiana product and yet another in the outflow of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. “A Father’s Story” did not suffice to make me rush out to buy all of Dubus’ books, but it is a story worth reading. The narrator of the story is Luke Ripley, a divorced Catholic father, struggling to balance the demands of his faith with the calls of his flesh.
After a very long lead-in—roughly half the story’s length—Dubus finally arrives at the central concern of this narrative. Luke’s daughter, now a young woman, during the course of a visit, comes home late one night having struck a pedestrian with her car after a bit of drinking with friends. The conflicting calls of justice, truth, fatherly protection, and fear play out over the remaining pages of the story. It’s not brilliant stuff, but the last page or so, in which Luke relates a conversation with God regarding this event, is worth the price of admission, worth the time invested in the story’s thirty pages.
Rather than analyzing this discourse myself, I’d rather leave it to you with a couple of questions. Does Dubus, through Ripley, rationalize his choices in the wake of the accident? In other words, is the voice that he ascribes to God really a God-worthy voice or is it more a self-justifying version of his own voice? I’ve always taken the Socratic dialogues of Plato with a bit of skepticism. After all, it is rather easy to win an argument when you’re responsible for both sides of it.
How often do we, as thoughtful believers, generate a pseudo-God voice in order to justify the actions that we intended to take all along? Is that what Luke Ripley is doing here? I don’t think that is the intention with which Dubus presents him, which may explain that apparently overlong exposition in the story’s first half.

Posted in American Literature.

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