The paterfamilias figure in post-Victorian fiction : The Forsyte Saga, A House and Its Head, and To the Lighthouse
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In the post-Victorian fiction written by John Galsworthy, Ivy Compton-Burnett and Virginia Woolf, there are several paterfamilias figures: Soames Forsyte and Old Jolyon in The Forsyte Saga (1906-1921), Duncan Edgeworth in A House and Its Head (1935) and Mr. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse (1927). The persona of the paterfamilias is defined by how he is perceived by himself and the societal institutions that empower him as a patriarch, such as marriage and the law. Filling the different roles that he has to adhere to as a benevolent head of the house, such as father, husband, protector, and patriarch can be difficult. The divide between how the paterfamilias might be perceived by society as a capable patriarch, and how his domestic life demonstrates a different picture is problematized in these post-Victorian novels. Furthermore, although one would imagine that the paterfamiliases are powerful and well-respected patriarchs, they can be obsessed with various desires that cripple them in their domestic relations. While searching for ways to be considered a proper paterfamilias, they are hampered by their ideas of possession, ownership, communication, and leadership.