Details About The Father

Some readers enjoy tracking character and plot details down to year and month of events in the story. Given that The Father is closely attached to real historical events, this kind of reader analysis serves as a plausibility test. It can also be a lot of work. If you’d rather figure all that out without assistance (or, you don’t care), don’t read the notes below. If you are one of those detail-digging readers, you might want to check your results against those listed. To these ends, we compile dates and associated events or background happenings. Some are intentionally excised to preserve the story experience for first-time readers. Notice that in Part 3 a number of topics are broached that can sound implausible, but they all come from today’s news. Every attempt was made to maintain historical accuracy, down to the moon’s location in the sky and its lunar phase at different times over the four generations. There are, however, several anachronisms that artistic license commits as noted below.

• John Whitaker is born on the summer solstice, 1926 in the state of Illinois, in the USA. Charles Lindbergh delivers mail from St Louis to Chicago, starting in 1926 after 4 years as a pilot. Lindbergh flies the Atlantic in 1927. John has a sister, Helen, two years older. John’s father Joseph is never explicitly dated, but given he fought in WWI, he must have been born on or before 1900 as the war ended November, 1918. But Joseph also remembers Grandmama’s son Orville Clem and his excursion in 1898. In addition, while not explicitly stated, it is implied that Joseph is older than his wife Claire, so we place Joseph’s birth at 1891 making him 35 years old at the time of his son John’s birth.

• After the Great Depression hits, the Whitaker family – including almost 5 year old twins, Thomas and Rachel - heads west to Iowa in 1933. John is 6 years old, soon to be 7.

• In 1933 John turns seven years old when he starts work on his uncle’s farm.

• John is 9 in 1935 when America’s National Anthem is four years old after its ratification in March 1931, 117 years after Francis Scott Key wrote in in 1814. The words "under God" are noted in the Pledge of Allegiance, but these words were not added until Flag Day, 1954, and remain as an emphasis of differing perspectives between periods in the book (this was discovered by a reader in Waco Texas after publication). John’s siblings, the twins, Rachel and Thomas, are then 7 and sister Helen is 11.

• John is noted in Part 1 of the story to attend a one room school house. Early in the 20th century, schools in the Midwest were often “winter schools,” with schedules avoiding interference on the farm during planting and harvest. Information on these schools is sparse but a Christmas break was still employed as noted in the story. Compulsory public education in rural areas first gained traction in the US in the 1920’s but wasn’t firmly established until after World War Two (WWII).

• Edward R. Murrow reports from Manchuria when Japan attacks China to start the war in 1937. John is 11 as America experiences the “Roosevelt Recession” said to have been caused by reduced government spending and initiation of Social Security taxes.

• John is shipped off to WWII late in 1944 at age 18 (he’s not 18 until late June of ’44).

• Grandmama dies in late 1947 at age 78 (born in 1868). Her son Orville was 15 during the Spanish American War in 1898, born 1883 when Grandmama was just 15 years old. Grandmama had other children starting at age 17. Grandmama’s husband was 10 years older, born in 1858.

• John returns from WWII, late in 1947. He’s 21 years old.

• Junior and Elder are born to Candice and John in 1948. Candice is approximately the same age as John.

• The capitalized “royal He” is used by religious believers in Part 1, but no longer applied in parts 2 or 3 as a representation of changed perspectives by all parties. The lower case use of the royal pronoun in parts 2 & 3 is intended as a demotion for some who apply it in modernity (compared to past use), while for others it represents a difference from past perspectives but not a demotion.

• Morgan is born to Candice and John in 1959.

• The film Marry Poppins is released in 1964 when John and his sons go fishing. Morgan is 5 in Kindergarten. John is noted to have his 15 year Marion Manufacturing tie clasp mentioned in the story. Meaning he started there by 1949 (he actually started in 1947). Junior and Elder are 16 years old at this point. Mister von Schiller is approximately Joseph’s age at 72.

• The Whitaker family travels west during summer vacation for California on Route 66 in 1967 during the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Jordan in June of that year. Morgan is 8 years old. Artistic license is employed here by letting Morgan sing Otis Redding’s Sittin’ On The Dock A The Bay in the summer of 1967 when the song was not recorded until December 1967 just days before Redding’s death at age 26 in a plane crash on the way to Madison Wisconsin in bad weather.

• The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. (April), Robert F. Kennedy (June), and North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive (January) - which failed but was a media success for the North - all occurred in 1968, as did a variety of protests, riots and civil unrest. John has been at Marion Manufacturing for nearly 21 years. Junior and Elder are both 20 years old. Morgan is 9.

• Richard Nixon is President in 1969. Apollo 11 launches July 16 and lands on the moon on July 20, 1969 after a four day trip, just three days longer than it took Lindbergh to cross the Atlantic. Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic took 33.5 hours. Morgan is 10 years old.

• A reference to astronaut salaries finds disagreement on the web. A search shows amounts from $30k/yr for Armstrong and $18k noted in The Father for Aldrin, to as low as $17k/yr for all of them including Collins.

• When John, Candace and Morgan leave their house to look for the moon on the morning of the Apollo 11 launch, there is no moon because new moon (when the moon goes dark) was on July 14 and the reemerging crescent moon would only be seen at night. This crescent phase was desired for moon landing to create pronounced shadows for astronauts to steer by.

• The Watergate burglary was committed on June 17, 1972. In March 30,000 North Vietnamese troops and 150,000 PRG fighters cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the Easter Offensive. Nixon begins sustained bombing of North Vietnam, mines Haiphong harbor, and launches over 40,000 sorties on North Vietnam.

• Just five days after Lyndon Johnson’s death on January 22, 1973, the Paris Peace Treaty is signed, ending America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Morgan is 14 years old, John is 47. This reference was later deleted from the story.

• In 1973 reference is made to the B.T. Express hit single, Do It' (‘Til Your Satisfied). However, this song was not released until August 1974.

• Morgan’s college experience commences in 1977 at age 18, but he graduates at age 23. Iowa’s Old Capitol is noted here with reference to the year 1842. This is actually the year the building was constructed. Iowa joined the Union on December 28, 1846 as the 29th state.

• Morgan states that “...every atom was forged in the heart of a star.” This is license to avoid detailed remarks about the approximate 70% hydrogen and 30% helium present after the Big Bang.

• Morgan is married at approximately 25 years of age.

• John dies at age 67 on September 2, 1993. Morgan is 34 years old.

• Kip’s reference to the Super Conducting Collider in the chapter Challenge The Myth comes just after John’s death. The Collider was cancelled by Congress in October 1993 because costs were expected to exceed $10 billion.

• In 1994 Morgan is 35. Twelve years after graduation he leaves the working world. He’s back on Route 66, approximately 27 years after he first passed this way in 1967 when he was 8 years old. Notice he comments that the Otis Redding tune Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay has been on the radio for 27 years. But the last time he was here it was not on the radio, he sang it.

• Membranes mentioned several times in the text – also known as “branes” – are a glancing reference to recent theoretical work in speculative cosmological theory; as are passing references to multiple universes, also known as “multi-verses” or the “many-worlds theory.” More can be found on Wikipedia here, here, and here.

• In the timeframe that Morgan moves to Hollywood, Grauman’s Chinese Theater was named Mann’s Chinese Theater. The later name was used to remain consistent with its reference later in the story after the name had in reality changed back and forth. In January of 2013 the real life theater changed names once again to TCL Chinese Theater.

• After 2 years in Hollywood it’s 1996, Morgan is approximately 37 years old. He turns to filmmaking.

• Morgan is 52 when he meets Ne Shoul on the Ruta Maya (Mayan Route), she is 31.

• The Mayan moon goddess, Ixchel was originally associated with the moon but this was revised with more recent archeology to be represented as a jaguar. She is also associated with rain and war.

• Just how old are Morgan’s cats? This is where a slight of artistic license allowed them to reach 22 years. This is (according to Wikipedia) generally the max for house cats (kept inside, avoiding short lives of outdoor cats), though 16-18 is more like it. However, the site also notes a verified cat age of 38. (The author’s oldest cat was 18.) There were opposing demands between the limits of just how long the cats could remain in the story and desires to push The Quake downstream in time.

• Ne Shoul and Morgan have a son, John, named after Morgan’s father at an intentionally unspecified date, though the year can be inferred from later references.

• Morgan and his son, John, rake their yard when Morgan is 67 years old in 2026. Morgan’s father, John, died 33 years before.

• John comes back from college after first semester when Morgan is 72 in 2031.

• Morgan is 75 years old in 2034 when he visits John at the U and returns for a visit to his old church in Marion.

• John graduates with a Masters degree in 2038. Morgan is now 79.

• John is 6 years in Alaska until 2044, when Morgan is 85.

• John missionizes for at least 11 years. His father Morgan is a physically failing but mentally acute 98 year old in 2057.

• A fictional character named Callimachus appears in Part 3 as a salute to the real Callimachus (310/305 – 240 BCE). A Greek scholar, poet and intellect, Callimachus was born in Libya, educated in Athens, and is said to have created the first library catalog of none other than the Library of Alexandria. Callimachus is the name of one of John’s friends and sparing partners in Part 3. He and Vivekananda play prominent roles in the second book of the trilogy. For more on the real Callimachus see Wikipedia.

• A fictional character named Vivekananda appears in Part 3 as a salute to the real Vivekananda (1863 – 1902). An Indian Hindu monk and student of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda was known for exposing the West to eastern philosophies and elevating Hinduism to worldwide distinction. He and Callimachus play prominent roles in the second book of the trilogy. For more on the real Vivekananda see Wikipedia.

• In the Library of Congress debate, Morgan uses the “ship of state” analogy. This is one of several used to describe social structure and engagement options. For a ship at sea, all work together for a common cause. For the ship at port all are dispersed to peruse their separate paths. Morgan performs a twist on the idea by giving the ship at sea no direction which he claims is, “safe.”

• Where do the numbers for earth’s landmass argument come from in Part 3? Approximate values are given here. Earth has a radius of 6378 km. Thus the surface area is 4*pi*r^2 = 4*pi*6378^2 = 511e6 km^2. Land covers 150e6 km^2, or 29% of earth’s surface, and water thus covers 71%. If an estimated 10% of the planet is also unusable land (Sahara desert, Antarctic, etc.), then 10% of 511e6 km^2 = 51e6 km^2. 150e6 - 51e6 = 99e6 km^2. Convert this to square miles (1km = 0.6 mile, so 1km^2 = 0.36 mile^2) then 99e6 km^2 = 36e6 mile^2. This is the value of usable landmass on earth. Next if 10e9 humans each possess a 2000ft^2 home, then this is 20e12/((5280ft/mile) 2) = 717,000 mile^2. Texas is 270,000 mile^2, so 10e9 humans would occupy approximately 2.7 times the size of Texas. However, if each human employs 2 acres per year for all forms of use then this is 10e9 * 2 acres * 45,000ft^2/acre / ((5280ft/mile) 2) = 28e6 mile^2. This means that land used vs. land available is 28M miles^2/36M miles^2 = 78%. Values for Earth's total size, land used, available and percent values are all rounded to smooth out the story.