With Mother’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking about the best and worst mothers in literature. I’ve got a pretty excellent mom if I do say so myself, but so many literary characters seem a bit lacking in that department.
By far the worst, in my estimation, is Beth Jarrett in Ordinary People. Poor Conrad Jarrett—I still can’t look at Mary Tyler Moore the same way after seeing her spot-on depiction of Beth in the film adaptation. You toss that hat in the air, Mary, like you’re a happy, warm-hearted person, but I know deep down inside you’re awful. I’m not buying it for a second.
There are many runners up, though. I think we can all agree that Flowers in the Attic’s Corinne is seriously failing her children. The mom in Carrie isn’t winning any prizes. And if we’re counting Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest, well, I think we all know about the wire hangers.
I’m hard pressed to come up with a best. Marmee from Little Women is close, but she did produce Amy, so that’s some points off for her. A recent entry into the canon might be Ma in Room—it’s hard to imagine better mothering under such circumstances. Plenty of mothers are much worse without such dire constraints. Caroline Ingalls is pretty great, as I recall, though I remember Pa better, frankly.
But I bet you all can come up with even better options. There must be some reallllllly lovable mom out there in the world of books, right? Who would you nominate for best and worst literary mom?
To all the mothers out there, including Jane, Miriam, Stacey, Jessica, and most especially the world’s greatest mother, mine, have a wonderful Mother’s Day on Sunday! If you’re in one of those countries where mother’s day has already passed or is yet to come, go ahead and have a great day anyway!