Genre(s): short story; Short stories; Satires; Novels; Children's literature; Essays; Experimental fiction; Parodies
Like other Barthelme protagonists, the unnamed narrator is---at least within the story's contemporary segments---bewildered, disoriented, and isolated in his struggle to gather and synthesize information about his father. In the segments narrated in the style of a nineteenth-century novel, the son adopts the cool, detached tone of a detective as he attempts to uncover the facts of his father's death. The "views" of the father weeping and performing other acts, however, give the reader a broader view of the son's strong but ambiguous, contradictory feelings of guilt, sorrow, resentment, hostility, and love. Critics have interpreted the story in various ways: some maintained that the realistic narrative about the carriage accident does not record an actual event---it is, rather, the narrator's wish or fantasy about his father's death or a reflection of his own fear of death. No clear vision of the father ever emerges from the story; different fragments portray him as clownish, childish, stern, and drunken. Reviews have noticed that, despite the narrator's attempts to learn the facts about his father, language can never adequately convey personality, relationships, and emotions. The word "Etc." at the story's end also underscores this inconclusiveness.
The segments of the story written in the style of nineteenth-century writers introduce only a few notable characters. Lars Bang is the coachman driving the carriage that killed the narrator's father, and he provides an orderly version of the incident. Described as helpful but vaguely malicious, Bang relates the details of the accident "as if he were telling a tavern story," characterizing the father as a brutal, irresponsible drunkard who caused his own death. Bang asserts that this account is the true one, but the beautiful girl who is listening with the narrator contradicts him and claims that "Bang is an absolute bloody liar." The narrator notes that the coachman' s name is "not unlike my own name," which hints that Bang may be the narrator' s double and that both are liars trying to hide their involvement in the father's death. In any case, the story offers no resolution or confirmation. Its final "Etc." implies that Bang's story may or may not be true and that these events and processes will continue indefinitely. The eleven- or twelve-year-old little girl who witnesses part of the accident later goes to the narrator' s room to offer new information (the coachman's name) in exchange for some promised candy; it may or may not be significant that the narrator has previously claimed that he "could be out in the streets feeling up eleven-year-old girls in their soldier drag, there are thousands, as alike as pennies...."
Source: "Donald Barthelme: "Views of My Father Weeping"," in Characters in Twentieth-Century Literature, Book Two, Gale Research, 1995.