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Celebrating Mother’s Day with iconic mothers in literature

Celebrating Mother's Day, Marian Hermez discusses iconic literary mothers and their influences.

By Marian Hermez, Second Year International Business Management

A mother’s love is often an indescribable, complex bond that a mother has with her child, no matter how different their journey to motherhood is. Many artists have paid tribute to mothers and mother-figures in their work and among these are authors who introduced unforgettable mums in their books. In this article, I’m going to present some well-known and iconic book mums in celebration of Mother’s Day.

A mother’s love is a recurring theme in the well-loved fantasy series Harry Potter, starting with Lily Potter’s sacrifice for her son, Harry, which made him the Boy Who Lived, and continuing with Molly Weasley’s support for him throughout the series. Moreover, the last novel The Deathly Hallows presents this theme through the controversial character Narcissa Malfoy, Draco Malfoy’s mother.

Draco Malfoy is known as Harry’s nemesis throughout their years at Hogwarts, making him and his family controversial characters in the fandom. However, a beautiful moment towards the end of the book showed that Narcissa Malfoy would do anything for her family, like any other mother. She lies to Voldemort and tells him Harry is dead, just so that she can go and find her son.

Courtesy of Unsplash, Madalyn Cox

These three women play a significant role in Harry’s life, and in Lily and Narcissa’s case, they save his life. The most prominent mother-figure in the series remains Molly Weasley. From the moment Mrs. Weasley meets Harry at Platform 9 ¾ , she instantly helps him, telling him how to access the platform and get to Hogwarts Express. Let’s also not forget how she shows up to support him for his final task in the Triwizard Championship in The Goblet of Fire, and how she never fails to make him feel included in the Weasley family, especially when she sends him his annual Weasley sweater and mince pie for Christmas. All these moments show that Mrs. Weasley deserves her iconic status in the Harry Potter fandom as a mother-figure who took Harry in and treated him like her son in every sense of the word.

Next, we have Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Motherly love might not spring to mind when you think of Mrs. Bennet, due to her constant accusations of her family getting on her nerves and her eagerness to get all five of her daughters married. However, all her actions stem from a place of love.

Mrs. Bennet knows that her daughters are not going to inherit anything when their father passes away, so she wants to secure their futures by getting them married. While her expression of love and her methods of matchmaking may be unconventional -- we all remember how she forces Jane to ride on horseback in the rain so she can fall ill and stay at Mr. Bingley’s house -- all she does is for the sake of her daughters. Therefore, Mrs Bennet is not so different from Mrs. Weasley, Lily Potter or Narcissa Malfoy. They all have the same goal of ensuring their children’s safety and happiness.

Courtesy of Unsplash, Elaine Howlin

Lastly, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng showcases two opposing parenting styles from mums Mia Warren and Elena Richardson in the small town of Shaker Heights, Ohio. While Mia is a free-spirited artist who believes in letting her daughter explore her hobbies and roam around the town freely with her friends, Elena is an organised and schedule-following journalist who has her children’s life planned down to the hour. The author beautifully represents the relationships of these characters with their children and with one another.

Ng also illustrates how societal expectations in a small town like Shaker Heights affects one’s relationship with their family, as Elena conforms to the town’s standards to fit in and Mia doesn’t. My favourite part about this book, though, is how Mia’s daughter admires Elena’s parenting style and how Elena’s children admire Mia’s parenting style. Two similar moments in the book present this idea. Firstly, Mia’s daughter starts to admire Elena when she discovers Elena is a journalist, which is something she wants to do when is older, so Elena starts giving her tips to succeed.

Courtesy of Unsplash, Cassidy Dickens 

Another moment is when Mia makes Elena’s youngest daughter some dessert and talks to her after her bad day at school. The simultaneous similarity of these moments and the dichotomy in which Elena and Mia handle each situation further proves how motherhood is a unique journey for each mother.

These iconic book mums are among various other mother-figure characters in literature. They highlight what it is to be a mother and how a mother can be a selfless being who puts her child’s needs before her own. Moreover, these characters also highlight the beauty of the differences in their journeys to motherhood, as no two mothers are the same.

Lastly, some other books that explore themes of motherhood are For One More Day by Mitch Albom and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Unsplash, Mitchell Luo

Who is your favourite literary mother?