After years of copping abuse from all the hopelessly romantic bookworm friends out there who put their hand over their heart and proclaim Gone with the Wind ‘one of the BEST love stories EVER!!’, I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. I’m loving it so far for its wonderful depictions of the ‘Deep South’ in the 1800s, Rhett Butler’s wit and dashing sarcasm, and the gorge descriptions of all the bonnets, petticoats and dresses *fashion swoon*. Scarlett O’Hara is definitely someone I can relate to, and I love her honesty and fiery antics – no wonder famed ’70s astrologer Linda Goodman referred to her as ‘the epitome of the Aries female’ – this girl is S-T-U-B-B-O-R-N, thank you very much.
One thing that troubles me about Scarlett’s character though, and it’s something that I don’t like being troubled by because I don’t like judging these sorts of things myself considering I don’t have children, but she is an absolutely abominable mother. I am only 300 pages in (about a third of the way through), so I’m not sure whether she has an epiphany later on and develops a maternal instinct, but my goodness, right now Scarlett O’Hara would not be winning Mother of the Year. Not even close.
Yet at the same time as I am shaking my head at this character’s utter egocentricity and supreme vanity, I am kinda fascinated too. I can’t remember where I saw it, but someone not so long ago compiled a list of ‘The Most Evil Uncles in Literature’ somewhere on the internet, and I loved the idea. So I figured I’d discuss a few prize picks of my own for the most evil (or at least, amoral) mums in fiction.
Number one on the list is the lovely mother from the Grimm brothers’ fairytale Hansel and Gretel. It would be hard to top this fine woman who deserts the kiddies by leading them into the woods to perish not once, twice but three times. In a strange twist of revenge towards their mother, young Hansel and his sister Gretel end up pushing the old lady who wants to eat them into the over herself. This maternal cannibalism is interesting because in the earlier editions of Hansel and Gretel, both the father and mother were the evil ones to abandon the children. Then, in later editions, the father becomes a reluctant accomplice in leaving Hansel and Gretel in the woods, and is reunited with the kidlets when their ordeal with the gingerbread house is over.
[My picks for The Worst Mothers in Literature continues tomorrow].