5 Terrible Motherly Figures in Literature

When we think of mothers, we often think of the loving, nurturing types who want nothing more than for their children to grow up healthy and successful. Unfortunately, there are mothers out there who are less than motherly and that can be said for mothers in literature. Look out for these terrible literary mothers, you probably wouldn’t want to leave your children with them.

Medea – Medea by Euripides

How far is too far? Euripides has shown us that this title character will stop at nothing in order to exact her revenge. When Medea’s husband, a king, dumps her for another woman, she decides to get back at him by killing the children they had together.

Mrs. Wormwood – Matilda by Roald Dahl

A lot of kids complain about their parents being too involved in their lives and not giving them enough privacy. Mrs. Wormwood takes the opposite extreme. She sits in front of the t.v. all day and only gets up when it’s time to heat up frozen dinners for the family which she brings back to eat in front of the television. If that’s not bad enough, when Matilda wants to be excused so she can read, Mrs. Wormwood punishes her. Add to that her general neglect in Matilda’s education and life in general gives way to a bad motherhood cocktail.

Corinne Dollanganger and the Grandmother – Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Corinne is probably the classic example of bad motherhood. She’s so enthralled with the possibility of inheriting her parents’ fortune that she’s willing to allow her children to be locked up in an attic for several years. And when they do escape, she obsessively searches for them in order to be involved in their lives. In my opinion, the grandmother is just as bad. She not only forces her child to lock up her children, she also enforces the idea that the sin of the mother is the sin of the children until they eventually succumb to the sin that she was accusing them of all along. Talk about a messed up family.

Petunia Dursley – the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

When I think of Petunia Dursley, I think of all the horrendous things she does to Harry as his surrogate mother. She locks him up in a small cupboard under the stairs, starves him, forgets his birthday, and punishes him for showing magical ability. But she is also a horrible mother to Dudley in a way. She overfeeds him, spoils him, and allows him to do horrible things that eventually backfires.

Mrs. White – Carrie by Stephen King

If you’re Mrs. White, just being a female is a sin and Carrie is unfortunate to be her daughter. I’m surprised Carrie went for as long as she did before she snapped. To be locked up in a room full of dark religious art as punishment is bad, to be punished for starting your period and developing breasts is even worse. Definitely not a mother I’d like to have.


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