Miss Havisham (Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens)
There are plenty of admirable mothers in books: Molly Weasley, Marmee from Little Women — but this Mother’s Day, let’s look to the opposite end of the spectrum, at the women whose maternal instinct seemed a little less nuturing and a little more satanic.
First up, Miss Havisham: Estella’s adopted mother trained her to break men’s hearts. (Eh, there are worse jobs out there.)
Mrs. Wormwood (Matilda, by Roald Dahl)
Matilda’s mother didn’t understand her brilliant daughter and verged on negligent.
Margaret White (Carrie, by Stephen King)
Is there anything more horrifying than a controlling, obsessed religious zealot coming at you with a knife?
Cersei Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin)
Sure she’s not evil to her own children, but the murderous, ambitious (not to mention incestuous) Cersei definitely qualifies for this list.
Queen Gertrude (Hamlet, by William Shakespeare)
Marrying the man who killed your husband — and your husband’s brother — is low.
Mary (Push, by Sapphire)
Mary is the classic example of an abusive, manipulative monster of a mother.
Charlotte Haze (Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov)
Charlotte definitely should have realized something creepy was going on a lot sooner.
Janice Angstrom (Rabbit Run, by John Updike)
No one is saying Janice had an easy life, and it sucks to be chained to a husband like Rabbit, but even so …
Eva Khatchadourian (We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver)
At times you feel sorry for Eva, mother of a murderer, but her coldness toward her son from the start might have helped lead Kevin down a dark path.
Sophie Portnoy (Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth)
The mother of all overbearing Jewish mothers, Sophie gave Portnoy plenty to complain about.
Eleanor Melrose (The Patrick Melrose novels, by Edward St. Aubyn)
Distant and dismissive, Eleanor is every stereotype of a terrible WASP mother. She becomes downright evil when you realize she might have been covering up her husband’s assault.
Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Did you forget that Daisy had a baby? Exactly.
The Other Mother (Coraline, by Neil Gaiman)
Black buttons will haunt our nightmares forever thanks to the Other Mother.
Eleanor Iselin (The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon)
It’s the first thing they teach you when you become a new mother: Don’t brainwash your child into becoming a political pawn.
Grendel's mother (Beowulf)
She definitely had protective instincts when it came to her baby, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a monster (whether or not she looks like Angelina Jolie).