The Father

Cassill, R. V. (Ronald Verlin)

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Dec-17-1997


A young farmer and father of three, Cory Johnson has cobbled together his own corn sheller with old parts and a new electric motor. His four-year-old son Bobby catches a hand in the gears, and Cory can only free him by amputating the hand with a hatchet. Over the next two decades, this accident haunts Cory as a violation of the one condition that had given meaning to his life--his fatherhood.

Although Bobby grows to normal adulthood and manages perfectly well with prosthetics, the fact that neither he nor others will blame Cory only compounds the father's depression. Cory slips inevitably toward madness and, in a gothic conclusion, re-enacts his crime in a way that will ensure punishment the second time.


The story stresses the way in which one defining event forever alters the lives and relationships of a family. For Cory, it doesn't matter that what happened was an accident, that he had to do what he did to save his son's life. Cassill's ability to express these emotions in the thoughts of ordinary people make it easy to translate this story to other kinds of tragedy and trauma, sad as they are, from which there can be no going back.

Primary Source

The Father and Other Stories


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



Page Count