‘Lars Farf, Excessively Fearful Father And Husband’ by George Saunders

Lars Farf, Excessively Fearful Father And Husband by George Saunders, 2005

The magic trick:

Using comedy to tell a morality tale and doing it in a simple way so that the message can be received by younger readers

Saunders shows himself a master of knowing his audience; in this case, young adults. He still uses his trademarked blend of the funny and the weird. But he relies on clichés and tropes that might bore the more seasoned SSMT reader. Lars Farf’s trip into excessive fearfulness is a predictable regression of an increasingly ridiculous behavior. That’s a pretty standard comedy note to strike, but if I’m reading this in junior high (or, hell, five years ago, before I started reading for this blog), I’d love it – simply because nothing in literature was yet predictable to me.

Even if you’re put off by Lars’s cliché decline, how can you argue with its thematic significance? Lars demonstrates to kids and all readers that fear of love is the same as hate. Love is bravery. Love is selflessness. These are wonderful lessons, and if your little morality tale is able to teach those and throw in some comedic science fiction, well, then I’d say you have a pretty good story. And that’s quite a trick on Saunders’s part.

The selection:

Soon, entire days passed where he didn’t worry about his family at all. For the first time since his marriage, Farf felt almost completely free from fear.

Then, one morning, the verification specialist rushed in to report that Gwen was dying.

Who? said Farf. Who’s dying?

Gwen, said the verification specialist. Pod No. 4.

I don’t know any Gwen, said Farf.

But the verification specialist saw that Farf’s eyes were full of tears.

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