Harpagon makes it clear early in The Miser that, for him, money always comes before family. His children want more money to live on, but he won't give it. His children also want to marry the people they love, but Harpagon is only interested in making them marry people with deep pockets.
For all that, the old man does (sort of) seem to love his children, but this love is totally dependent on them always doing everything he says. By the end of the play, Molière contrasts Harpagon directly with Anselme, showing that Anselme cares more about his family's happiness than anything else in the world. Harpagon remains unchanged, though, caring only about his money until the bitter end.
Questions About Family
- Do you think it's fair to say that Harpagon loves his children? Does he ever show any signs of this? Please use evidence from the text to support your answer.
- Does the play give us any evidence that suggests that Harpagon was a different kind of father before his wife passed away?
- How does Harpagon as a father compare to Anselme? What are some specific examples of differences in their parenting styles?
- Do you think Harpagon is a misunderstood character in this play, or does he deserve to be disliked by his children as much as he is?
Chew on This
In The Miser, Harpagon gives us an example of terrible parenting, as he values his own selfish desires over those of his children.
In The Miser, we are supposed to look at M. Anselme as the moral center of the play, since he's willing to spend as much money as it takes to buy his children's happiness.