Top Ten Most Memorable Mothers in Literature

Happy belated Mother’s Day, Mums! Hopefully your kids remembered that Saturday was the big day, and bought you lots of nice presents and didn’t forget, like Steve always does. Nice job, Steve.

(Full disclosure: I did forget.)

So to make up for it, Mum, here are ten memorable mothers from literature for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. Thank you for having all the qualities of the good ones and none of the qualities of the bad ones.

Top Ten Most Memorable Mothers in Literature

1. Mrs Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Mrs Bennet is famous for wanting to marry off her five daughters to wealthy men, which is objectionable in the twenty-first century, but remember – it might actually have been a very good thing in the nineteenth, where poor women’s life choices aside from marriage were pretty much a) teaching a bunch of snotty rich people’s kids how to macramé or whatever the hell it was rich people did with their time back then; and b) death. Mrs Bennet isn’t sounding like such a bad person now, is she?

Mrs Bennet and Daughters

2. Bridget’s Mum, from Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding: Mrs Bennet’s twentieth-century counterpart is even brasher, nosier, and more embarrassing than her Austenian counterpart. Still, there’s a grain of truth in this character, and at the end of the day Bridget’s life would not be the same without her. Maybe we should heed her sage advice: “Don’t say ‘what,’ say ‘pardon,’ darling, and do as your mother tells you”. Beetroot cube, anyone?

3. Molly Weasley, from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: I’m pretty sure that if I fell into a coma and ended up in the Harry Potter universe, I’d want to be adopted by Molly Weasley. It would do terrible things for my waistline, but at least I’d know that if I ever had to face Bellatrix Lestrange in a duel, someone would have my back.

4. Medea, from Medea by Euripides: Medea is the badass, and terrifying, wife of the Argonaut Jason in Euripides’ play. She ends up murdering her kids in order to get back at her hubby for leaving her. Definitely not getting a ‘World’s Best Mum’ mug for Mother’s Day this year.

5. Lady Macbeth, from Macbeth by William Shakespeare: If Medea had a younger, and meaner, sister, it would probably be Lady Macbeth. She (may have) killed her baby by bashing its head into the wall. Erm… yeah, I’m not going to try and make a joke about that. But admit it – it is memorable, right?

6. Marmee, from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: America’s feel-good smushy-wushy novel has always been Little Women, and Marmee is the core of this little literary family.

7. Irene Pollock, from 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith: Irene Pollock is the pushy mother of little Bertie Pollock, who just wants to be a normal boy. McCall Smith writes her as a monster of the liberal parenting approach, a stay-at-home mother who forces her kids to go to Italian classes, eat organic food, and spend hours hanging out at the floatarium. I kind of feel like Irene’s given a bit of a raw deal, because everyone thinks she’s a terrible mother, but honestly, isn’t she really just doing what most mothers do, which is the best that she knows? After reading eight novels about Irene Pollock, though, the biggest mystery has yet to be solved; viz., what the hell is a floatarium?!

8. Cinderella’s Stepmother, from Cinderella: When the Prince comes to try the slipper on her daughters, she convinces her daughters to chop off their toes so they’ll fit in the slippers. Pretty chilling, right?

9. Lady Bracknell, from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: “A handbag?!”

10. Grusha, from The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht: Grusha adopts a baby belonging to rich lady Natella Abashvili, and ends up being a better mother than Natella. Surprise surprise, Natella does not take this lying down. There’s a long bit about a baby potentially being chopped in half, but the gist is: Grusha’s a better mother, so just can it, rich lady.

Which literary mums do you find the most memorable?

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22 thoughts on “Top Ten Most Memorable Mothers in Literature

  1. Fab list! You made me laugh :)
    It’s funny, I’d always thought of Mrs Bennett as the slightly ridiculous parent and Mr Bennett as the more practical, but if they weren’t characters in a book, Mrs Bennett’s focus on marriage is actually probably the more sensible. I never noticed before. Great point.
    ~My Mother’d Day List

  2. Marmee didn’t make my list, but she was a runner-up! She basically raised the Civil War-era Kardashians on her own. Plus she valued education and didn’t want her daughters to marry for money. Marmee was pretty hardcore at the end of the day :)

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