Are There Limits To A Father’s Love?

Will McDavid considers the relationship between love and justice in Andre Dubus’ brilliant short story, “A Father’s Story,” in which the main character, Luke Ripley, refuses to divulge that his daughter killed a pedestrian in a car accident:

[T]he movement of atonement comes to its highest pitch in relation to the father’s betrayal of ethics. Ethics is rational, clear and defined, but the aesthetic is turbulent, unpredictable – “she woke what had flowed dormant in my blood since her birth.” Our aesthetic hero sacrifices himself, sacrifices ethics and justice, throws it all out on account of love. Luke Ripley’s arguments with God about whether or not he had done the right things raise the question of whether ethics can ever be suspended by love, and this cuts, in the most concrete way, to the struggle of faith – Jacob’s wrestling with God in the wilderness (the question of whether a deceiver can receive blessing), the question of love suspending ethics.

And it does, because love trumping truth is weakness to the world (“foolishness to the Greeks”), but it’s the one and only place where the gap can be bridged. The impossibility of communication is ever-present in the sphere of abstract truth, but in action united with emotion – i.e. fatherly love – something is communicated, and whatever it is fulfills the promise of the “awful solitude of the heart,’ that is, the promise of solitude’s negation, that the difference, in some way, can be annulled, and the disparate joined:

So, He says, you love her more than you love Me.
I love her more than I love truth.
Then you love in weakness, He says.
As You love me, I say, and I go with an apple or carrot out to the barn.