Today being National Aunts and Uncles Day (who knew, right?), here‚Äôs a shout-out to some of the most memorable aunts in both literature and pop culture– the sweet and the sour, the doting and the demanding, the over-indulgent and the overbearing‚ÄĒwith, in literature at least, the unfortunate majority being the more domineering.
Especially in Victorian literature, with its plethora of poor orphans, aunts would often step in as surrogate moms.¬† Unfortunately, some of the more notable ones¬†are known to us by their surnames only.
Here are some of the most memorable, from sources as varied as from novels to comics.
Ada‚ÄĒAunt Ada Doom, in Cold Comfort Farm, who very much lives up to her surname.
Agatha‚ÄĒIn P.G. Wodehouse‚Äôs Jeeves stories fearsome Aunt Agatha is Bertie Wooster‚Äôs demeaning and demanding nemesis, known as ‚Äėthe nephew crusher.‚Äô¬† Batman‚Äôs Bruce Wayne also has an Aunt Agatha, who is equally overbearing.
Alexandra‚ÄĒIn To Kill a Mockingbird Scout and Jem‚Äôs Aunt Alexandra Hancock, the sister of Atticus Finch, is another somewhat opinionated and judgmental aunt, who moves in with the Finch family.
Augusta‚ÄĒ(Yet another common Aunt name beginning and ending in ‚Äėa‚Äô.) In Oscar Wilde‚Äôs play The Importance of Being Earnest, Aunt Augusta, aka Lady Bracknell, is Algernon‚Äôs ‚Äďonce again‚ÄĒsnobbish and domineering aunt, whereas the eponymous Aunt Augusta featured in Graham Greene‚Äôs Travels With My Aunt is a dynamic romantic
Beatrice‚ÄĒBeverly Cleary‚Äôs character Ramona Quimby has an Aunt Beatrice, nn Bea, who is the namesake of Ramona‘s sister, nicknamed Beezus–Beatrice in baby talk.
Bee‚ÄĒBeatrice Taylor is everybody‚Äôs Aunt (pron. ain’t) Bee on The Andy Griffith Show/Mayberry RFD–busy¬†cooking, pickling and offering sage advice. More and more modern parents are beginning to opt for the Bee spelling over Bea.
Beru‚ÄĒThis may be a little off target, but in Star Wars, Beru Whitesun Lars is the aunt who raised Luke Skywalker after the fall of the Galactic Republic.
Betsey ‚ÄďIn David Copperfield, Betsey Trotwood is David‘s eccentric great-aunt, who takes him in when he runs away from his factory job. This is the more unusual spelling of Betsy.
Catherine‚ÄĒLady Catherine de Bourgh is Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy‚Äôs snobbish and meddlesome aunt in Jane Austen‚Äôs Pride and Prejudice.
Clara‚ÄĒAunt Clara is a kindly, absent-minded character on Bewitched; Samantha‚Äôs less visible other aunts were Entrantra and Hagatha.
Dahlia‚ÄĒThe opposite of her sister Agatha in the¬†Jeeves stories is Bertie Wooster‚Äôs beloved Aunt Dahlia, described as being constructed along the lines of Mae West.
Edna‚ÄĒCrochety old Aunt Edna is foisted upon the Griswald family in National Lampoon‚Äôs Vacation.¬†It was Aunt Bethany who appeared in National Lampoon‚Äôs Christmas Vacation.
Em/Emily‚ÄĒDorothy Gale‚Äôs Aunty Em is her surrogate mother on the Kansas farm in the Oz books, one of the people she misses most on her adventures‚ÄĒin fact her command to the magical Silver Shoes is “Take me home to Aunt Em!”
Esther‚ÄĒOn Sanford & Son, the Bible-toting Aunt Esther Anderson is the bane of Fred Sanford‚Äôs existence”
Harriet‚ÄĒIn Batman, Dick Grayson‚Äôs Aunt Harriet Cooper first appears on the scene upon the death of Bruce Wayne‘s butler Alfred, announcing her intention to move into Wayne Manor and take care of Bruce and Dick.
Hilda‚ÄĒIn Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Aunt Hildegarde Antoinette “Hilda‚ÄĚ Spellman is a 642-year-old European witch who is a bit of a worrywart.
Lavinia‚ÄĒAunt Lavinia Penniman, Henry James‚Äôs Washington Square, is another of literature‚Äôs eccentric, meddlesome, melodramatic aunts.
L√©onie‚ÄĒIn Marcel Proust‚Äôs Swann‚Äôs Way, the religious, bedridden Aunt L√©onie, based on the author‚Äôs own Aunt √Člisabeth, figures largely in his remembrances of things past.
Lydia‚ÄĒIn Henry James‚Äôs Portrait of a Lady,¬†Isabel Archer is taken under the wing of her maternal Aunt Lydia Touchett after her father‚Äôs death, and is taken by her to Europe.
Mame‚ÄĒPatrick Dennis‚Äôs Auntie Mame is the personification of the word ‚Äėmadcap,‚Äô her expacades seen on the printed page, the movie screen and the Broadway stage.
Matilda‚ÄĒAunt Matilda Crawley is a favorite, very wealthy, aunt of the Crawley family in Thackeray‚Äôs Vanity Fair.
Maud–In Henry James‚Äôs Wings of the Dove, Maud Lowder is Kate Croy‚Äôs domineering aunt.
May‚ÄĒIn the story of Spiderman, Peter Parker‚Äôs Aunt May takes him in, becoming like a parent to him, a source of strength and wisdom.
Patty and Selma Bouvier are Marge Simpson‘s’s cigarette smoking, raspy voiced, older twin sisters, who treat poor brother-in-law Homer with total hostility and disdain.
Petunia‚ÄĒHarry Potter‚Äôs Aunt Petunia Dursley¬†is essentially an outsider, with little knowledge of the wizarding world.
Pittypat‚ÄĒAunt Pittypat Hamilton in GWTW, born Sarah Jane Hamilton, acquired her childhood nickname from the way she walked on her tiny feet. She raised niece and nephew Melanie and Charles Hamilton after their father died, and provided a refuge for Scarlett O‚ÄôHara as well.
Polly‚ÄĒTom Sawyer‚Äôs Aunt Polly is one of the quintessential American fictional aunts, a caring but disciplined, na√Įve but generous mother figure.¬† Also, in the eponymous children‚Äôs classic Pollyanna, the young orphan girl goes to live with her stern Aunt Polly.
Vivian‚ÄĒIn Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Professor Vivian Banks is the wealthy (she does live in Bel Air, after all), no-nonsense, career-minded aunt of streetwise nephew Will Smith.
Zerelda,¬†aka Zelda‚ÄĒIn Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Zelda Spellman is Sabrina‘s brainy aunt who is continually engaged in new scientific experiments. (Sabrina also had Great Aunts Irma, Beulah and Dorma.)
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Which other aunts‚Äô names would you add?¬† Do you have a favorite fictional aunt‚ÄĒeither character or name?