Mother Archetype

What is a Mother Archetype?

A mother archetype character is a mother who takes care of children/kids, nurtures them, and minds their growth and evolution until they reach a reasonable age to take care of themselves. This archetype is an ideal of the character of a mother who takes care of human evolution on this earth. That is why even the earth is sometimes called the mother earth. This archetype character shows what a mother should have and how she should behave in a universal setting for generalizations.

Types of Mother Archetype Characters

A mother archetype does not mean that the character is ideal, and it is the same in every literary piece. It could be an ideal mother in one literary representation but could not be the same in all literary pieces. Therefore, there are types of mother archetype characters as follows.

  • Career Mother Archetype
  • Virgin Mother Archetype
  • Adopted Mother Archetype
  • Abusive Mother Archetype
  • Helicopter Mother Archetype
  • Best Mother Archetype
  • Tiger Mother Archetype

Character Traits of Mother Archetype Characters

A mother archetype is a mother who has all the motherly qualities, specifically in its ideal representation. She is kind, strong, focused, and passionate. She takes care of all of her siblings, feels the pain when any of them is in trouble, and runs after her siblings until they reach the age of adulthood. She not only feels but also makes her siblings feel for others. The most positive trait that she exhibits during her motherly role is her persistence and altruism. She does not demand or expect something from her siblings. However, she always sacrifices herself and her belongings for them. Even in her adoptive role, she becomes a mother archetype only when she displays these positive traits.

Negative Traits of Mother Archetype Characters

Despite these positive traits, sometimes a mother archetype is not an ideal that the public expects. She could be stubborn, short-tempered, and selfish. Yet, in most cases, it turns out that she is stubborn only when it comes to the growth of her siblings, while at times, she could have this negative trait that turns into fury and anger when she sees her siblings doing things in a wrong way. In fact, several of her positive traits become negative when it comes to her siblings and their protection.

Mother Archetype Examples in Literature

Example #1

Cinderella by Grimms’ Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

This version of the story presents the character of Cinderella having a godmother and a stepmother. However, the character of the godmother is mostly absent as she dies shortly after the story opens, and the stepmother enters the scene to cause suffering for Cinderella through her maltreatment vis-à-vis her real daughters. This suffering of Cinderella, though, lessens when she marries, it demonstrates how the godmother’s character presents a good mother archetype and the stepmother’s character presents a bad mother archetype. Overall, these have typical archetype features due to the historical significance of the story.

Example #2

Penelope in Odyssey by Homer

Although Penelope poses as a loyal wife to Odysseus as she continues weaving a parchment to delay the suitors until Odysseus himself arrives and stops them, she becomes a very good mother as she takes care of the kingdom in the absence of her husband, takes care of Telemachus to become a new king and takes care of Odysseus’s household. She presents a good example of a good mother archetype character in this epic. In one sense, her role spans a long time, yet she proves her loyalty as a wife and her love as a mother.

Example #3

Seth in Beloved by Toni Morrison

Although Seth suffers as her mother leaves, she tries to become a good mother to her children. She rather takes the risk to reach out to her children as they might have reverted to slavery. Therefore, her choice is to immediately extend support to her children to free them from slavery and even put them to death if it comes to slavery. That is why she kills Beloved, which haunts her later. Yet, her good intentions put her in the place of good mother archetype characters though her mother could not become a good mother.

Example #4

Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

As a mother, Ma Joad is not only loving and caring but also determined and emerges as the center of the family to take care of everybody, proving a citadel of support. She heals, comforts, and supports her family members and soothes them when any of them is in pain. Despite her loving and supportive nature, she does not open her heart to others as she knows that she has to become a model of grace and dignity. She teaches her children to face suffering and oppression with dignity and grace.