Who would you nominate for the worst mother in fiction list?
Here’s just a few candidates:
Evelyn Waugh‘s Brenda Last (in the 1934 novel Handful of Dust) takes some kind of prize: her lover and her child are both called John, and when she is told “John is dead” she is relieved that it is the child.
Charles Dickens thought his parents were feckless, and had let him down, so mothers come off badly. Nicholas Nickleby’s mum is ‘incompetent, foolish, and no good in a sickroom’ while David Copperfield’s mum fails to protect him from his fairly horrible stepfather.
Jeanette Winterson‘s fictional mother in ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ beats her daughter and is a bit psychotic. And for more psychos, how about Norma Bates in ‘Psycho’ by Robert Bloch.
There’s Corinne Dollanganger in ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by V C Andrews which must be on the shortlist. She keeps her kids in an attic for years where they are ignored, malnourished, delusional, incestuous …. She also tries to kill them off!
In Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’, her mother Margaret is a religious fanatic who believes everything is sinful and is abusive to her daughter, another locker in the closet mum.
The mother in The Brothers Grimm‘s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ gets her woodcutter husband to take the children into the forest to die, then even further into the forest when they make it back home. Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice is nominated in a few lists .. but she’s not so bad, just a bit annoying and trying to get husbands for her daughters.
Mrs Sucksby from Fingersmith by Sarah Waters who has a way with babies. And then in Nabokov‘s Lolita there’s her mother Charlotte Haze, who doesn’t seem very clued up as to the motives of Humbert Humbert.