The Shadow of the Wind portrays many pairs of fathers and sons, almost all of whom have troubled relationships. For the most part, sons struggle against domineering fathers who have a rigid idea of what a man should be, and who want to exercise undue influence over the direction of their sons’ lives. Misunderstanding and strife between fathers and sons precipitates many of the novel’s crises.
Most of the sons in the novel suffer due to traumatic relationships with fathers who can’t connect with them emotionally and who try to mold them without understanding their character. For example, Tomas Aguilar, a gifted inventor, remains cowed into silence by the unappreciative Mr. Aguilar, who would rather see his son develop into a soldier or a statesman. Jorge Aldaya is another minor character whose father explicitly disapproves of him; disgusted by his son’s decadence and lack of business acumen, Ricardo Aldaya publicly belittles him.
Carax has a horrible relationship with the man he believes to be his father, Antony Fortuny. Fortuny is dismayed to find that Carax is nothing like him, as it reminds him that his wife, Sophie, conceived Carax by another man. Out of spite, Fortuny tries to suppress Carax’s creativity and gift for storytelling. To free himself from his oppressive father, Carax plunges into the elite world of his private school and forms the relationships that eventually ruin his life and force him to flee the city. After discovering that Carax is actually his own illegitimate son, Mr. Aldaya finances his education and acts as his mentor. However, he does so not out of genuine love for Carax, but rather because he’s fed up with his other son, Jorge, and believes Carax may be more intelligent. Effectively pitting the two boys against each other, he does nothing to create closeness with his son. The inauthentic affection he shows toward Julian crumbles into shame and rage when he finds out that Carax has no interest in his business and is involved with Penelope, his own half-sister. Aldaya drives Carax out of the city violently.
Rather than loving their children unconditionally, both of Julian’s father figures reject him when he fails to become the kind of man they want him to be. Meanwhile, Daniel enjoys a comparatively tranquil and loving relationship with his own father, a humble widower and bookseller. In their case, it’s Daniel who sometimes finds Mr. Sempere inadequate and seeks other father figures. Daniel says his childhood home is defined by his father’s overwhelming grief for his dead wife. Daniel’s father is a gentle man, content to earn a living wage, raise his son, and nurse his broken heart.
Although Daniel loves his father, he often seeks out bonds with men who can introduce him to a world of adventure and power. He becomes very close to the well-connected and blustering Gustavo Barceló, and his greatest friend and mentor is Fermín, who becomes his partner in uncovering Carax’s history, as well as coaching him through the emotional crises of adolescence and introducing him to womanizing. While he shares everything with Fermín and seeks help from Barceló when he’s in too deep with Fumero, Daniel does everything possible to keep his father ignorant of his exploits, only explaining them at the very last minute when he has no choice. Daniel says he does this to protect his father, whom he describes as easily flustered and having no head for politics. However, given that Mr. Sempere is actually very intelligent and calm in times of crisis, it’s likely that Daniel desires to distance himself from his father and the dreary life he leads. Mr. Sempere is by far the novel’s least traditionally masculine man, and it’s also possible that Daniel wants to become a different sort of man, one whose identity is predicated on action and power rather than art and emotion.
However, Daniel eventually reconciles with his father and willingly steps into his shoes. In doing so, he adopts a less conventional image of masculinity. Daniel confides in his father, explaining his dangerous investigations into Carax’s past and his resulting enmity with Fumero. He finds his father much more capable and understanding than he expected, and realizes that men who don’t perform their masculinity through swaggering aggression can be competent and powerful allies in unexpected ways. In the epilogue, Daniel has taken over the bookshop and takes care of his ailing father. In other words, he’s chosen to pursue a life very similar to his father’s. The one difference is Daniel’s happy marriage to Bea, which shows that he can preserve his father’s values without needing to take on his sadness.
In the novel’s final scene, Daniel takes his young son, Julian, to pick out his own tome at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In doing so, he reproduces his own father’s action at the beginning of the novel, down to the very conversation he has with his son. While the novel’s other fathers and sons repeat the same patterns of negative filial behavior, Daniel manages to differentiate himself and to create a more positive pattern—one that is worth repeating.
Fathers, Sons, and Masculinity ThemeTracker
Fathers, Sons, and Masculinity Quotes in The Shadow of the Wind
I couldn’t help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking into an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.
Sophie refused to reveal the identity of the child’s father…Antoni Fortuny decided that it must be the devil, for that child was the child of sin, and sin had only one father: the One. Convinced in this manner that it had sneaked into his home and also between his wife’s thighs, the hatter took to hanging crucifixes everywhere…
I imagined Julián Carax at that age, holding that image in his hands…and for a moment I thought there were no more ghosts there than those of absence and loss, and that the light that smiled on me was borrowed light, real only as long as I could hold it in my eyes, second by second.
It didn’t occur to him for an instant that Julián secretly despised him, that his affection was a sham, only a pretext to be close to Penélope. To possess her wholly and utterly. They did resemble each other in that.
Fumero found old men revolting – as he did crippled men, Gypsies, and queers – whether or not they had muscle tone. Sometimes God made mistakes. It was the duty of every upright citizen to correct these small failings and keep the world looking presentable.
The hatter…had no doubt that Penélope was that love in his son’s life. Without realizing it, he thought that if he helped him recover her, perhaps he, too, would recover some part of what he had lost, that void that weighed on his bones like a curse.
Of all the things that Julián wrote, the one I have always felt closest to my heart is that so long as we are being remembered, we remain alive…Remember me, Daniel, even if it’s only in a corner and secretly. Don’t let me go.
I can’t remember his exact words, or the sound of his voice. I do know that he held my hand and I felt as if he were asking me to live for him, telling me I would never see him again. What I have not forgotten is what I told him. I told him to take that pen, which had always been his, and write again.