>>I wonder why sick mother's are more appealing than sick fathers? Fathers tend to me abroad working or something, rather than ill. I can think of Gwen's father in Mallory Towers but not any others - there must be SOME, surely?
Noel Streatfeild does sick/injured fathers, in fact several plots hinge on them: Painted Garden, Caldicott Place & the father in Gemma not being able to play the violin but I forget if that was car crash or illness. I'm pretty sure EB has a few as well. The father In Jean Little's Mama's Going to Buy You a Mocking Bird is also ill.
In the conclusion of her interesting paper, Barbara said: >>The one constant is that most girls love their mothers, however inadequate they may be, and that the fear of loss of a parent is one of childhood's greatest dreads. Illness will therefore always be a staple plot tool for writers who want to stir the reader's emotions<<
The removal of *parents* is, IMO, one of the chief features of kidlit, whether this allows children to enjoy a greater freedom than they would have under the normal restraints of family life, or it sets them on a quest to find their parents, or it simply allows them to experience the world away from the family. As a literary device, the illness or disappearance of one or both parents often serves as a catalyst for change. Usually the children have to rise to the occasion and grow up quickly; often the family has to relocate or a child has to sacrifice her career/wishes for the good of the family/health of the mother. Barbara has pointed out a number of these, but a few more came to mind. (As you have all discovered by now, none of the F&LLs are in any of these...)
AoGG gives up her plans for University because of Marilla's failing eyesite. (I think one could say the Anne saw Marilla as a mother, no?)
The mother's illness in the Railway Children is the introduction to The Old Gentleman
One sick mother that has not been mentioned (in this context) is Mrs Linton. Her illness drives the plot in The CS & the LIntons. Other CS pupils' mothers who are also suffering/breathing their last at the San, not merely mentioned in passing include Princess Balbini & Audrey whatsits mum. And what about Margot Venables, tho she doesn't do a lot of visible languishing, but dies neatly off-stage, as it were?
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