14 June 2012

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Mothers

From Dwight Garner’s review in the New York Times of Colm Tóibín’s New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families:
His essential point, driven home in an essay about all the motherless heroes and heroines in the novels of Henry James and Jane Austen, is that “mothers get in the way of fiction; they take up the space that is better filled by indecision, by hope, by the slow growth of a personality.” To put it another way, he writes, “The novel is a ripe form for orphans.”
That’s long been true of children’s fiction, where even young heroes who leave the protection of home (e.g., Dorothy Gale, Huckleberry Finn, Harry Potter) don’t have living mothers to begin with. Of course, there are also many classic and popular children’s novels in which mothers are a strong presence (Little Women, the Little House books, and Harry Potter again).

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