Mothers have it hard in literature. They’re the strict ones that form a sense of rules and obligations, whereas the dads are the heroes, the safe harbours in storms, the ones who gently guide children without being pushy or overbearing. The Atticus’ of the world have often been a source of inspiration and admiration – but where is the female equivalent?
The clue’s in the title with ‘Little Women’ – it’s all about the girls. And as such, Mrs March delivers more than her absentee husband, so much so that I think – after years of searching – I’ve finally found a literary mother who is a heroine for her children and readers alike.
1) She’s approachable: Her children talk to her about everything, and she never judges them, only listens and gives her sage advice.
2) She’s devoted to them alone: She’s not a career woman (insofar as she could be in the period), she’s not a socialiser or so devoted to charity she forgets it starts at home. They are her sole reason for living, and every child needs to know that their parents see them as a key component to the world to stop them from feeling alone.
3) Her advice isn’t preaching: Her daughters accuse her of nearly sermonising to them at points, but her intentions prevent this from being true. Wellbeing, peace and happiness are all that matter to Mrs March – there’s a key difference between teachers and lecturers, and she’s got it nailed.
4) She accepts all: A male going around unescorted with four females?! A young lady who wants to run away to the big city and sell her writing?! Scandal! Not in the March household – she lets things run their course, protecting yet not preventing until lessons are learned through experience rather than the aforementioned lecturing.
5) She’s brave: She loses a daughter and perseveres for the others and her grandchildren. She teaches Meg that family loyalty doesn’t always mean you’re in the right where a mother’s concerned – not always easy where family’s concerned. She faces hardships stoically in order to show her girls what a woman is capable of when she wants to protect the things she loves.
I could go on, but ironically I’d end up preaching myself. Mrs March goes right along Mrs Weasley in the motherhood hall of fame, and proves that not all books have to be centred around doting fathers who make us go ‘n’awww’.