Today being National Aunts and Uncles Day (who knew, right?), here’s 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—with, 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—Aunt Ada Doom, in Cold Comfort Farm, who very much lives up to her surname.
Agatha—In P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories fearsome Aunt Agatha is Bertie Wooster’s demeaning and demanding nemesis, known as ‘the nephew crusher.’ Batman’s BruceWayne also has an Aunt Agatha, who is equally overbearing.
Augusta—(Yet another common Aunt name beginning and ending in ‘a’.) In Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, Aunt Augusta, aka Lady Bracknell, is Algernon’s –once again—snobbish and domineering aunt, whereas the eponymous Aunt Augusta featured in GrahamGreene’s Travels With My Aunt is a dynamic romantic
Clara—Aunt Clara is a kindly, absent-minded character on Bewitched; Samantha’s less visible other aunts were Entrantra and Hagatha.
Dahlia—The opposite of her sister Agatha in the Jeeves stories is Bertie Wooster’s beloved Aunt Dahlia, described as being constructed along the lines of MaeWest.
Edna—Crochety old Aunt Edna is foisted upon the Griswald family in National Lampoon’s Vacation. It was Aunt Bethanywho appeared inNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Em/Emily—DorothyGale’s Aunty Em is her surrogate mother on the Kansas farm in the Ozbooks, one of the people she misses most on her adventures—in fact her command to the magical Silver Shoes is “Take me home to Aunt Em!”
Polly—TomSawyer’s Aunt Polly is one of the quintessential American fictional aunts, a caring but disciplined, naïve but generous mother figure. Also, in the eponymous children’s classic Pollyanna, the young orphan girl goes to live with her stern Aunt Polly.