• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #150: Tevye


Do you love me?

My favorite stage production is 1776, but those characters are based on real people, so don't qualify for inclusion here. Otherwise John Adams as portrayed by William Daniels would be among my absolute favorites. So we turn instead to another musical I love, Fiddler on the Roof, and its charismatic protagonist, Tevye.

There's a great West Wing episode where President Bartlet tells a story about Egyptian bedouins calling him Abu el Banat, or Father of Daughters. That's Tevye, blessed with as many as seven daughters in the original source material. He's a deeply spiritual man, a traditionalist with strong roots in the community of Anatevka that he loves. But that world is changing, and the love he feels for his daughters, his town, and his faith are challenged by those changes.

At turns comic, intimidating, and pitiable, Tevye is an inherently good man, one who wants desperately to lead a godly life and to provide for his family. Events intervene, as tensions rise between the imperial Russian forces and the Jews of Anatevka, giving an ominous backdrop to the sometimes farcical storyline about his daughters' romances. Despite his goodness and godliness, Tevye does not win. He and his family leave their home, his daughters he lives so much scattering to the winds, and not always on good terms with their father. Fiddler is a tragic tale, though not one without hope. Tevye struggles, and he suffers, yet he leans on faith and love as staffs to support him. In the end, Tevye always was a wealthy man.

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