I saw a blog opening up the floor to celebrate great motherly characters in literature for Mother’s Day. I scanned my shelves for a bit, because the only one that was jumping to my mind was Mrs. Weasley. I tried to think of books not on my shelves, and still wasn’t coming up with much.
Meanwhile, I noticed just how many books involved orphans, or characters with very little familial contact. Or if they do, it tends to be a negative family dynamic, especially with parents.
And it made me wonder why?
The last book I can remember that I would say had a truly positive depiction of Mom and Dad was If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Or maybe Tris’s parents in Divergent, but again: they all die.
Harry Potter’s parents are dead. Katniss Everdeen’s father is dead, and her mother is a wreck who can’t provide for her kids physically or emotionally. Lisbeth Salander’s mother is a whore and her father is a psycho kingpin.
I am not quite sure why this is so common, to be honest. I mean a lot of people have dead parents and a lot of people have really crappy parents. But a lot of people have really great parents too. My parents weren’t perfect, but they are pretty great, really. The older I get, the more I realize that they made a lot fewer mistakes than I ragged on them for when I was younger, and I see more things I want to emulate as I become a parent.
I think this bad or missing or dead parent thing provides tension in a story for sure. That is probably part of the reason we write it so much. I find that I do this a lot too.
But perhaps we are overusing it a bit. Perhaps we should be looking for some other tension somewhere, and let the mothers and fathers of literature be alive and well and kind now and again. I would like to see it a bit more I think. Not too much, just more.
*What do you think? Is the dead or absent parent trope overused?*
*What are some other positive parent figures in books you’re reading?*