Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
Room 52: Fathers, Prophets, Astronauts and Promises
[So you’ve read Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers. SPOILERS AHEAD! Beginning with this post, Caleb Coy will interview each of the 7 kidnapped characters in the novel and interrogate them on the book’s themes.]
—I’m glad you agreed to do this.
—I’m just glad you didn’t chain me to a post.
—You’re a fictional character and I’m a reader. I have full control of you life outside of what’s written.
—I’m an astronaut.
—Fair enough. Let’s talk about the title. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
—It’s a bit long, isn’t it? Maybe pretentious?
—You know what it is, right?
—Yes. It’s the kernel of the story, the cryptic text at the center of a lot of good stories. The riddle, the question. It’s what Don says when he goes nuts and gets killed, but the book doesn’t say it in the book. You have to get that form the title. Clever, Eggers.
—It’s also a Bible verse. You can’t forget that part. Zachary 1:5.
—Pretty obscure Bible passage.
—We don’t study the prophets enough.
—So what’s it mean?
—There’s a lot to mine it for. There are themes motifs in Zecharia that fit. It’s all about God promising to put the universe back together, and blaming a generation for screwing things up, breaking promises. There’s also Messianic prophecy that references Christ as a martyr.
—So Thomas thought himself some kind of prophet.
—He certainly fills a prophet role. Or anti-prophet. Depends on whether you view him innocent. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. He has “visions.” And he seriously demands justice from society. Like prophets, he is definitely misunderstood.
—But why fathers and prophets? Why not any other Old Testament prophetic passage?
—I think it goes back to theme. It’s a challenge: What happened to the good mentors who built us up and paved the way? And where did our dads mess up? The legends that we look up to—astronauts like you—what did they really accomplish? What legacy did they leave and where does that leave us?
—Hence why I am the ideal first character to introduce. It seems random at first, but an astronaut is like the premiere career a child chooses to aspire to. But something along the way changes our minds, destroys our imagination.
—And there’s the promise to Abraham, about how his children will number like the stars. Thomas thought you were promised the role of being an astronaut. “A kept promise is like a white whale.” When you’re a kid, somebody looks at you and says “you will be a _________ if you dream it.” There’s a responsibility to a previous generation to not screw that up. So an astronaut that never went into space is a great way to begin the questions, an ironic character that challenges all our deepest held beliefs, from an innocent child’s perspective. Almost makes Thomas relate-able. I mean, who hasn’t been frustrated by a world that shatters your childhood dreams?
—That’s deep. Can I go now?
—Yeah. Sorry. I think I’ll kidnap the pervert next. We’ll talk about morals.