So, Mother’s Day has just come to a close in the UK and, after celebrating the lives of mums of past and present and appreciating parents from all walks of life, I’ve decided it’s time to send some love in a literary direction. That is, I want to celebrate the fierce and fabulous Mothers existing between the pages. In particular (a little self indulgently) I will be listing my own favourite mother characters based on very little other than how much I liked reading about them.
I’m very lucky, my mum is pretty awesome. Here’s a few other-mothers who also deserve some recognition this Spring season…
I feel like this one is hard to get fully if you’ve only seen the Divergent films. I don’t mean this in a derogatory or pretentious way (I liked the films just fine) you just don’t see an awful lot of Natalie on-screen. Actually, I feel like even in the books she’s underrated. There’s so much about her we never get to know. A lot of it has to do with the sacrifices she makes for Beatrice and Caleb – sacrifices only a mother would make. We needed to know her better for her to top the list, but she still deserves some credit – she was a secretly powerful woman, restricting herself to help make the world a better place for her kids.
 – Mrs Bennett
Now, she doesn’t join this list for being the most caring, understanding, or polite but you have to admit, she’s a feisty one. The strong-willed Mrs Bennett, “a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper”, is one of the most interesting mother characters I’ve ever read. She is such a good reflection of the cultural and social expectations that defined the entire time period. It was considered unfeminine for women to enter the public sphere and write like Austen did (hence her anonymity upon publishing) and these boundaries are something that Mrs Bennett’s character brings forward in the narrative. This is done with the kind of subtlety that the character herself couldn’t have convened in a million years and is only one of many of Pride and Prejudice’s wonderful qualities.
Known better by a pet-name (given to her by her daughters) it’s not hard to see how caring and supportive the mother of Little Women‘s March girls actually is. Her values are so closely aligned with the happiness of her children – she emphasises the principles of respect and loyalty and consoles her daughters without ever getting a temper. She tells them ‘I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace’, could you imagine Mrs Bennet coming out with that? Me either. But don’t hold it against her, Marmee was pretty progressive for a nineteenth century mamma, and her perfection of character is almost hard to believe! This is definitely a book I want to re-read this year and I’d recommend it to you too.
Or, Miss Honey, to her students is the eventually empowered, honest and caring adopted mother of the talented Matilda. In Roald Dahl’s famous tale she features as the secondary main character (alongside Matilda herself) and there’s something so inherently ‘mumsy’ about her character.
“Miss Jennifer Honey was a mild and quiet person who never raised her voice and was seldom seen to smile, but there is no doubt she possessed that rare gift for being adored by every small child under her care.” Her understanding nature is something that all mothers need. She’s both maternal and determined and teams up with Matilda to rescue them both from their own ‘big-bads.’ This Mama’s a hero – and if that’s not the definition of Mum then I don’t know what is!
It’s impossible to write a list like this, in this day and age, without thinking immediately
of Molly. Unless of course you’re not a Potter fan. I, however, am a Potter fan and an ardent admirer of Molly Weasley’s fierce and unrelenting love for her children. Her mothering, as well, of Harry and Hermione shows such a deep warmth of character and a love that transcends the boundaries of genetic family. And, who can forget that powerful scene where she takes on the crazy and fearsome Bellatrix, seemingly without fear, to defend her daughter’s life.
“A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.”
― Erin Kelly, The Burning Air
Which fictional mothers would you have on your list?
– Cat –