In The Father-Thing, a young boy named Charlie discovers that the man he has believed to be his father is actually not his real father. The man who comes home from work, kisses his mother, sits down to dinner, makes comments about his day and the like may look like the actual Mr. Walton, but Charlie knows better. Charlie alone knows the real and hideous secret--that his real father has been killed and that the being pretending to be his father is actually an alien that has taken over his body and usurped his father’s life. It is no longer Charlie’s father; instead, it is the “Father-Thing”.
The Father-Thing is a familiar premise, especially popular in the 1950s, that continues to hold our interest. It expresses the fear that people are not what they appear to be on the surface. The idea is that something sinister may be lurking beneath the facade of suburban complacency. And here, Dick’s story has a more personal focus than most.
This story focuses not on the invasion of a whole community but instead on the invasion of one particular family. The alien takeover serves as a metaphor for estrangement. The Father-Thing represents the seemingly inscrutable motives that can undermine and damage one family’s household and stability. Dick’s story, then, is both a chilling science fiction tale and an emotionally resonant work about a child’s coming to terms with the turmoil within his own family. Where Charlie turns when he finds himself outcast from his own home is somewhat surprising and reveals a great deal about Dick’s ideas about community and exile.