Inspired by the resurgence of V.C. Andrews in my life thanks to Lifetime I’ve found myself dwelling on the theme of terrible parents in literature. Sprinkled throughout book history are evil, awful, questionable or simply giant failures of parental examples from Queen Jocasta from the three Theban plays to Christian-crazy Margaret White from Carrie.
So please sit back and enjoy this list of god-awful parents brought to you by the minds of your friendly, neighbourhood authors.
*This list is weighed on a scale of Bambi’s mum to a V.C. Andrews book parent*
Corrine Dollanganger -Foxworth, (Or any parent in the V.C. Andrews canon of borderline sociopathic parental units) Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews
What’s worst than a girl-child mother? A girl-child, lazy, kind of slutty, definitely selfish, self-involved, obviously lazy because really she could have attempted to get a job or just marry rich for the sake of her children mother. Oh did I mention she shows shades of the crazy her psycho mom definitely called dibs on years earlier? Cause she totes does. There’s also that whole thing where she married her half-uncle/half-brother, agrees to lock up her four children in her crazy mother’s attic, then tries to poison them to death with arsenic laced doughnuts. Can you say evil?
Obviously a V.C. Andrews parent. The original to boot.
Eleanor’s Parents, Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
Poor Eleanor, she gets dealt a pretty rough hand as a teen – quirky, with red hair and a bit of extra weight she stands out like the proverbial sore thumb of lore before. Lucky for her she has Park to act as her port in the storm (this post is just littered with lame sayings, let’s see how long I can keep it up.) With a mother more concerned about pleasing her abusive, alcoholic second husband, a father more concerned with being cool, reliving his youth and shucking all parental responsibility, oh and again that alcoholic, abusive stepfather, who kicked her out of her own home, let her come back and then haunts her with crude sexual messages and on occasion beats her mother is it any wonder they make it on this list?
Definitely leaning towards the V.C. standard of parents (but with far less cheese.)
Marisa Coulter – His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman
In the words of Damien from Mean Girls “She’s fabulous but she’s evil.” Marisa Coulter, mother of Lyra, one of two children enlisted to *spoiler* basically kill God works for the Magesterium, and uses her position and influence to manipulate the church into giving her the money to fund her evil schemes. Her Daemon is nameless which suggests she may be lacking in the love gene. Yet she’s curiously kind to Lyra. A greater parental oxymoron has there never been.
“She’s fabulous but she’s evil.”
On a scale of Bambi’s mum to a V.C. Andrews adult, let’s place her in the middle beside Katniss’ mum from The Hunger Games.
Uncle Vernon & Aunt Petunia, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
The best worst guardians ever, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were so concerned with keeping up appearances (another saying! Also a delightful British comedy from the 1990s FYI) that they locked poor Harry in a closet under the stairs, told him lies about his parents and pretended to send him to St Brutus’s Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys (best fake school name of all time) all to save face. The brilliance of J.K. Rowling eventually reveals that at least for Aunt Petunia there was jealousy and envy on her part that led to her behaviour. Uncle Vernon however, is just a jerk.
Why this clip? I don’t know.
On the Bambi-V.C. Andrews Scale they’re a solid Uncle Vernon & Aunt Petunia.
Marcus Eaton, Divergent series, Veronica Roth
Allegiant controversy aside – one thing Veronica Roth did well was bad parents, especially in the form of Poppa Don’t Preach preaching poppa (seriously my verbosity knows no bounds) Marcus Eaton. Leader of the Abnegation, a group that is meant to be selfless, controlled and understanding, is instead manipulative, power hungry and abusive (a common theme on the bad parent scale.) Tobias “Four” Eaton got his nickname because his fear landscaped showed he only had four fears to master – the biggest, scariest of them all? You got it, Poppa Marcus. Oh and Mama Evelyn? Well she ain’t no walk in the park either.
Not quite V.C.A but definitely a head above the Dursley’s.
Stepmothers the literary world over, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretl, Snow White
Lady Tremaine with her big bouffant and hideous daughters, the evil Queen with her desire for hearts ripped straight from the cavity (or in the original a meal of freshly procured virgin lungs), H&G’s mommy dearest with her super awful “the world revolves around me” mentality that leads her to demand her husband take his children to the woods and lose them. *Cough bitch cough* Is it any wonder that children with divorced parents fear remarriage? Thanks for that Hans Christian Andersen. Thanks a bunch.
Time for vicious practical jokes. Perhaps we can put it to better use. Now let me see… There’s the large carpet in the main hall; clean it! And the windows, upstairs and down; wash them! Oh yes, and the tapestries and the draperies—-
The Bambi-V.C.A. Scale goes something like Bambi, mediocre parents, Evil Stepmothers, V.C.A parents.
The Wormwoods, Matilda, Roald Dahl
My personal favourite book in the Roald Dalh oeuvre, Matilda herself is strong, smart, a lover of art and books, all around a real classy kid. Her parents however are dimwitted, lowbrow trash who wouldn’t know their daughters worth if it bit them in the butt. As a child I remember being nothing but disgusted by these two, and feeling a sense of great satisfaction when Matilda went on to live with Miss Honey.
No doubt somewhere along the lines the Woormwoods and the Dursley’s share some genetic makeup.
What other fictional parents are out there I’ve no doubt overlooked?