Sunday, May 13, 2012

Top Ten Literary Moms

Last year, in honor of Father's Day, I put together my list of Top Ten Literary Dads.  Now it's time to honor all the great moms in literature -- and great aunts, stepmothers, and all around mother-figures.   Moms come in all incarnations; in fact, there are so many orphans in my favorite books, I've had to include quite a few surrogate mothers in order to come up with a list of ten.

In no particular order:

1.  Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter series.  She and her husband take Harry under their wings and show him what it's like to be part of a loving family, albeit a slightly wacky one.

2.  Lily Potter in the Harry Potter series.  Makes the ultimate sacrifice for her baby son.  Enough said.

3.  Marmee from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I haven't read this book in years, but I do remember her holding down the fort with grace while her husband is off fighting the Civil War.  Not too shabby if you consider she had four daughters!  I only have two daughters, and I know I couldn't have done it as well.  I think it's time for a re-read.

4.  Mrs. Hamley in Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. She loves her two sons unconditionally, and takes motherless Molly Gibson into her home.  Good thing too, as Molly's about to have the silliest stepmother in rural England.  (Note that the second Mrs. Gibson is not included in this list.)

5.  The second Mrs. Dombey in Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. When Florence Dombey is four years old, her mother dies in childbirth while bringing her brother Paul, the heir apparent, into the world.  (According to her sister-in-law, Mrs. Dombey dies because she has no backbone.  Riiight.)  Later, the cold and heartless Mr. Dombey marries the glamorous Edith, who's the best stepmother and one of the best mother figures in all of Dickens' works.  Despite her miserable marriage, Edith refuses to abandon poor Florence, who desperately needs someone to love her.  Now that's a good mother figure.

6.  Mrs. Rouncewell in Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  Her son runs away and doesn't come back for years, breaking her heart.  Then, when he's accused of murder, she sees him for the first time in years in a prison cell, to convince him not to give up hope.

7.  Mammy in Gone with the Wind.  Mammy is the moral center and the voice of reason in that entire book.  She's the heart and soul of Tara, and Scarlett couldn't survive without her.

8.   Topaz in I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  Another great stepmother.  She's artistic and flighty, but she genuinely loves her stepdaughters and tries to keep the family together.

9.  Lady Catelyn Stark in A Game of Thrones.  She bravely travels through a war-torn country to try and broker peace, and takes desperate measures to save her daughters who are held hostage in the capital.

10.  Charlotte in Charlotte's Web by E. B. White.  This book always makes me cry. Charlotte is motherly to both Wilber the pig and all her tiny eggs.  Best animal mom in juvenile literature, hands down.

I'm sure I've missed some.  Bloggers, which literary moms are your favorites?

And a happy Mother's Day to my own mom, who always encouraged my love of reading. Love you!

20 comments:

  1. I'd have to add The Dowager Duchess of Denver, Peter Wimsey's delightful mother, and I think Ma Ingalls of the Little House books.

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    1. I forgot about Ma Ingalls -- I loved the Little House books when I was young. I haven't read Peter Wimsey but she sounds like fun.

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    2. Yes, I would definitely include Ma Ingalls. How she coped I have no idea!

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    3. I would not do well on a wagon train. Of course, I can't cope without a real bed and modern plumbing. I have no desire to travel back in time, ever!

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  2. Wendy Darling, in Peter Pan. She shares a distain for growing up in the beginning of the book, but she becomes "mother" to all of the lost boys, when they can't remember their own. I think her journey of accepting the challenge of growing up is really extraordinary.

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    1. I've never read Peter Pan but it's on the list for my book group this year. I think we're going to read it around the holidays, should be a fun read. Great suggestion!

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  3. Oh yay to Topaz. That woman was a saint to put up with Cassandra's father!

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    1. Yes, she's one of my favorite characters in the book. Wacky but lovable.

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  4. That's a great list--you could consider Auntie Mame who was a surrogate mother of sorts--hugely unconventional though... so maybe not.

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    1. I forgot that was a book! I've seen the play but it's been years.

      I also forgot Aunt Betsy Trotwood from David Copperfield, another of my favorite Dickens characters.

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  5. What a fun idea! I'll have to get thinking about this... oddly, none spring to mind immediately.

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    1. It was harder than I thought. Especially in 19th century books. I guess there are just too many orphans as protagonists.

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  6. Fantastic list! I thought about doing this for Mother's Day but never quite got around to it. Marmee was the first to spring to mind, but I love seeing Topaz on this list. She is such a great character!

    I'd also add Helen Huntingdon from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The commitment she has to her son and the extremes she goes to to protect him from a horrible father really moved me when I read the novel.

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    1. Good suggestion!! I've read Tenant but mostly I remember her horrible husband.

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  7. I didn't read your literary dads post, but once when asked which literary figure I would most want to marry I replied immediately, Arthur Weasley, who has to be the best father figure going. So, while I'm with you on Molly Weasley I have to admit to a certain amount of jealousy where she is concerned.

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    1. I would love to have grown up a Weasley -- but I'm secretly in love with the Weasley twins, so maybe that wouldn't have worked after all. Maybe a childhood best friend who hangs out there all the time, but ends up marrying a Weasley (just not Percy).

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  8. I definitely agree with Marmee from Little Women and would certainly have to add Ma from the Little House books.

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  9. I'd definitley have to say Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite literary moms. She might also be on of the most annoying book characters ever with her incessent hysteria but her determination to marry her daughters,is truly admirable.

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  10. I agree with your list, Karen! :-) But it's definitely Marmee for me! She's a great portrayal of all mothers in literature. She offered guidance and unconditional love to her four girls. She influenced their lives and taught them to help others who had less. She wants all of them to follow what their hearts desire.

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