Mothers In The Stephen King Universe

Do you have a favorite mother from the Stephen King universe?  I wrote down a few special ladies. . . but tell me, who’s your favorite?

Here are a few mothers King has given us:

  • Margaret White.  Like her or not, you’ve got to admit she was a powerful force in Carrie’s life and one of the driving characters in the plot of Carrie.  She is abusive, crazy and a religious nut.  The lady has the crazy idea that it was because Adam and Eve  had sex that they got thrown out the garden.  Wow!  I guess she missed the part where they were married!  We watch with interest as Carrie stands up to her mother and seeks to stretch her wings, even if it brings discipline and disapproval.  It is that Carrie is finally moving away from Mama that makes it so heartbreaking when her "friends" humiliate her.  
  • Wendy Torrance.  It’s hard for me to get a handle on this character.  Partly because both times she was portrayed on screen, it was very different.  Also, there is the book, which added another layer of complexity to her character.  She makes an appearance, if mostly passing, in Doctor Sleep.  She is for the most part pretty passive.  She takes Jack’s abuse until it is unbearable.  Notice how many King novels deal with violence in the home.  Also  think of those sad little swiped Wendy takes a Jack on the steps, hoping he'll back away.
  • Rachel Creed.  Traumatized by the death of her sister, and the dark events that surround the novel, Rachel Creed spends a lot of time balancing between pleasing her father and her husband.  She is caught in the middle of a small family feud. when her son Gage dies.
  • Donna Trenton.  When we first meet Donna she is involved in an affair, but is soon fighting for her life and the life of her son.   
  • Rose Madder.  This book also deals with abuse, but I haven't read it yet.  

Dolores Claiborne

So who gets mother of the year?  My mother, of course.  Oh wait, in the Stephen King universe. . . I nominate Dolores Claiborne.

She is feisty, strong willed, something of a country bumpkin – I think she’s great!  Here’s why:

Dolores Claiborne is the picture of a mothers love.  It is powerful!  This independent lady did what she had to in order to protect her child.  Dolores worked hard to earn money for her daughter, hoping to give her something she herself never got.  When she discovers her abusive drunk of a husband has been stealing from the account and molesting her daughter, she lays plans to do him in.  How she carries out her plot is brilliant!

Did Joe get what he deserved?  You bet!  And through it’s outright murder, the reader spends the book rooting for Dolores.
Often when women show a strong or determined side of themselves, they are misunderstood by men.  “There she goes…,”  “Must be that time of month,” and so on. Dolores Claiborne is told from a woman’s point of view. Dolores is tough as nails—or so you would think.  But that strength comes because at heart she is a mama bear. She is ready to do whatever she has to in order to protect her daughter. She can’t physically win a fight with him, so she lays a brilliant trap.  (From: Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters)

In this book, King takes on the difficult subject of child abuse.  He does it skillfully – brilliantly.  Dolores doesn't ignore the issue, as some spouses of abusers are known to do.  Sally Mahout in Gerald's Game figures out that her husband is acting inappropriately with her daughter -- but does not do anything about it.  Dolores is made of a different cloth!  When she fully realizes what is going on, she takes matters into her own hands.

One person who indicated this was their favorite novel because they also had been abused, wrote on Stephen King’s message board:
I so wish my mother had dispatched my abuser the way Dolores took care of Joe. As it was, she did the best she could after she found out what happened, but the person who abused me did not end up paying a price for it. I asked my parents not to tell anyone, and since I hadn't been raped ("Has he f$%^ed her yet, Dolores?") they agreed. Now that I'm older and wiser I wish I had pursued it further. I have no idea how many other girls were victims after me, and that thought torments me now. 
I just wanted to post this because I find it remarkable that Stephen King could so perfectly depict that relationship between Dolores and Selina, and that he could so accurately show what happens to children who are molested. I've watched the movie several times, and I never get tired of the scene where Selina tells Dolores "I don't know how I feel about what you did, but I know you did it for me."
The picture of Dolores “mothering” goes on as she cares for icky Vera.  She becomes more than a house keeper, she becomes Vera’s friend.  Her strong mothering skills kick in even when doing what is best for Vera.

So, who do you think should make mother of the year from the Stephen King universe?


  1. Dolores would probably get my vote, too. There aren't actually all that many good mothers in King's fictions; lots of bad ones, lots of decent ones, but few that are out-and-out good.

  2. I think Amanda's mother in Cat's eye. She rocked!!! A very disciplined, but very caring mother, so funny and mean at the same time. Loved that actress. But I'll also give a special star to Dolores Claiborne and a mention to Rachel in Pet Semetary. Those are the one I remember the most. :)

  3. Still haven't read Rose Madder? You're in for a treat cuz it's a GREAT book (not to mention it's also a Dark Tower-related novel)!

  4. King has inserted his own mother into his texts on several occasions. The first time I ever met a fictionalized version of Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King is in the middle sequence of Hearts in Atlantis when the narrator describes his homecoming.

    The most prominent appearance King's mother makes is in Riding the Bullet, where she's presented in the way I think only a son can tell.

    As for Wendy Torrance, I remember listening to King's commentary on my DVD copy of the Garris mini-series (stands back and waits for all the Garris bashing is over with) where he said he wanted to portray her as a strong woman and voiced his dislike for Shelley Duvall's portrayal.

    He also however, and I remember this very clearly, said he wanted to convey the sense of Wendy as the kind of woman who, if she hadn't ad a child with her would have let the husband kill her. Uh, I'm still kind of scratching my head at that one.

    Whatever the author's intentions however, I always felt that Wendy in the Shining (yes, Garris version included) was always stronger than people imagine or that she herself ever knew.

    Just my take anyway. Boy what a cozy conversation to have for Mother's Day.


    1. Good call on "Riding the Bullet" -- I'd forgotten that one.

      I'm not a fan of the Mick Garris version of "The Shining," but I've got no issues with Rebecca DeMornay's performance. She's really good. However, I don't entirely understand why so many people think her version of the character comes off as being so much stronger than Shelley Duvall's version of the character.

      Do the two versions of the character do all that much that is fundamentally different? If so, I don't remember it. The main difference I remember is that Shelley Duvall plays Wendy as being scared to death, whereas DeMornay plays Wendy as being a bit more composed. But both take action when action needs to be taken, and Duvall's fear seems more realistic to me, in some ways.

      My theory: people are harder on Duvall's Wendy for no better reason than because she has big eyes and weird teeth and bad hair and cries a lot. But despite that, she keeps Danny just as safe as DeMornay's Wendy does.

      In my book, advantage Duvall.

    2. Well, I believe the reason people criticise Duvall has to do with the belief that she portrays Wendy as a fundamentally weak willed character, which is not the way she's portrayed in the story.

      Another matter (this is from the DVD commentary again) is that King said for Wendy Torrance he had this idea of a high school cheerleader who married right out of high school and that meant someone who, well, looked the cheerleader part. In that sense, the medal goes to Demornay.

    3. But that's my point: I don't think the character, as she plays her, actually IS weak-willed. She is able to knock Jack out, move him into the freezer, and then hold him off long enough for her and Danny to escape. What's weak about that?

      I think people THINK her version of the character is weak simply because she looks scared all of the time. Being scared seems like a perfectly rational response to that situation, though, and the fact that she does what she does despite obviously being terrified actually makes her MORE heroic, not less.

  5. Dolores clairborne is the best for sure. I mean the entire book was about her and her struggles and she was the most developed of them all!