In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to pay tribute to 3 awesome moms in fiction. Especially in YA fiction, moms with really deep connections to the heart of the story seem to be everywhere. We frequently run across loving, intelligent mom characters (although sometimes they are not – that’s a different blog post), but what makes them integral to the story?
In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Meg’s mom Mrs. Murry is brilliant and understanding and cooks dinner on her Bunsen burner. Although Mrs. Murry is not a main character by any stretch of the imagination, her presence in the story is a constant reminder to the characters, while lost on their journey, that they have something to come home to, something to strive for. The mother character plays a key role in thematically representing home.
In the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling masterfully uses Harry’s mother Lily to evoke certain emotions in him. We know very early on (so I don’t consider this a spoiler) that Lily died to protect Harry. As we get further into the series, we learn more bits and pieces about Harry’s mother as Harry learns them. Lily gradually becomes a more well-rounded character, and she comes to strongly represent love, something Professor Dumbledore is always bringing to Harry’s (reluctant) attention. Lily’s love for Harry becomes the key that helps him to unlock a variety of things that I won’t get into because they would involve spoilers. I would like to note that this is, of course, much clearer in the books than in the movies.
In Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (soon to be a super fun movie!), main character Clary finds out in short order that her mom, Jocelyn, was keeping some intense secrets – and that she was keeping some of those secrets to protect Clary from a seriously unpleasant fate. Though Jocelyn has quite a bit more going on, story-wise, than the moms mentioned above, she wants to protect Clary above all else. Even as a secondary character, her relationship with Clary helps drive the plot. Her guardedness about her past acts as a foil to Clary’s openness and naiveté about the Shadowhunter world. In addition to this, despite all the secrets, Clary still loves her mother dearly, and her mother still represents home to her in this new existence.
To sum up, what makes these awesome moms integral to their respective stories? These moms help create some fantastic thematic depth to each of these stories. Now, done poorly, mommy characters can be flat as Kansas, but done well, mother characters help their kiddos to shine as main characters.
What are some other well-written mom characters you’ve come across? How did they affect their kids story-wise?