Mommie Dearest: The Modern Guide To Fiction’s Worst Moms (A Top Ten List)

In honor of mother’s day, I have no doubt you will see many warm and fuzzy mom moments floating around the interwebs. This list is dedicated to the other mothers – the cold, calculating, and vindictive sort that make fiction so much more interesting. This list should start off with Joan Crawford, sadly, she was real…

Should you ever feel bad about your failings as a parent, just read this list. I am sure you are doing a stellar job.

Mommy with an axe

So who is the best of the bad mothers? In no particular order:

10. Helene McCready in Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. Who would think that kidnapping could be a blessing?

9. Zinnia Wormwood in Matilda by Roald Dahl. Zinnia’s bad, but Ms. Trunchbull was scarier.

8. Norma Bates in Psycho by Robert Bloch. Though Norman’s no prize, his mother made him that way…

7. Corinne in Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. It’s a tossup between Corinne and Olivia. What’s worse: abandonment or abuse?

6. Sophie Portnoy in Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth. This remains one of the funnier books I’ve read, though I didn’t find it shocking (which I imagine has to do with the fact that I born significantly after this novel was published).

5. Charlotte Haze in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  It’s the perennial question ‘How can you not know?’…

4. Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She’s not bad in the way Margaret or Helene is bad, she is just wholly too much.

3. Eleanor Shaw Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon. I’m not sure that she had her son’s best interests at heart.

2. Ingrid Magnusson in White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Some people should never be parents.

1. Margaret White in Carrie by Stephen King. She’s one scary Christian fundamentalist.

Honorable mention goes to Scarlett O’Hara. A few more fictional, but non-literary bad mothers: Mama Peacock in the X-Files, Mystique from X-Men, and Peg Bundy from Married with Children. Who’s you favorite bad mother? And don’t forget to wish your mother a happy mother’s day.

Painting by Kelly Reemsten via Pinterest

22 thoughts on “Mommie Dearest: The Modern Guide To Fiction’s Worst Moms (A Top Ten List)

    1. Apparently, very. Medea popped into my head too, but I feel like she always makes the bad mom list (rightly so) – I tried to switch it up a little…


    1. I think you’d like Carrie and Gone, Baby, Gone (Dennis Lehane is almost always good). The Manchurian Candidate is also good, though possibly plagiarized…


  1. Corinne stands out for me. An absolute nut. I wrote a blog post for my kids primary school last week and managed to get a reference to Flowers in the Attic in (for all of the parents who, like me, read it in the 80s). Of course it was totally inappropriate. Surprised it wasn’t edited out.


    1. It’s a blog post, it needs a little bit of fun. Just watch half the animated movies out now, they are only kid appropriate on the most superficial of levels…


    1. I almost choose minimalist image with a wire hanger for this list, then I worried people wouldn’t get it! Glad you know you would’ve known. 🙂


      1. I have no idea, I found it on Pinterest but I could not find the original source (I linked to the pin at the bottom).


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