Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Men of L'Engle #3: Wally Austin

Yup, the L'Engle dads get their turn in this series. (In other words, Alex Murry is next.)

Wally Austin is a mild-mannered country doctor with a large, active family -- and just a touch of a Clark Kent-mystique vibe, thanks to this line that gets thrown out in The Moon by Night and then never developed:
"Daddy was a black belt in Judo before any of us was ever born."
There's also the bit where he trades in GP-ing for a year in New York, doing research that turns out to have huge organized crime/international/moral/biological implications, but that doesn't actually get much attention outside The Young Unicorns.

Leading characteristics:
  • Bears a passing resemblance to Ward Cleaver. To be fair, the Austin books were written over a period of 30 or 40 years, and his more objectionable attitudes aren't around in the later books. That said, he still doesn't get a pass for objecting to women who wear pants.
  • Excellent sense of humor. Because how can you not admire a guy who'll dress up as his own (nonexistent) butler just for the purpose of messing with his brother's girlfriend?
  • Serious family values. This is a guy who will relocate the whole family for the summer to be with his ailing father-in-law. It's not just the nuclear family that matters here.
Pull quote(s):
  • "He was old-fashioned enough to have given his seat to an elderly woman and modern enough to make sure that it was she and not somebody else who got it."
  • "... could always concentrate better with a pencil or pen in his fingers"


aquafortis said...

I don't remember the women who wear pants thing at all!! But then, it's been several years since I've read any of these. Clearly I have to go back and reacquaint myself!

Sarah Rettger said...

It's in Moon by Night, almost more of a throwaway line than anything else -- but my women's-college-trained eyes notice these things!