The Passionate Mother and the Contest for Authority: “The Idiots” and “Amy Foster”



Joseph Conrad’s early, Brittany-inspired tales “The Idiots” and “Amy Foster” ironically invoke a kind of Lombrosian “maternal passion,” memorably portraying anxieties about of the inheritance of familial traits and highlighting the fearful regression of the female protagonist as she lashes out against her spouse. These tales share a common preoccupation with the shortcomings of conventional parental roles, the potential for atavism in individuals under stress, and the inescapable influence of genetic inheritance. In its own way, each story chronicles the way in which a mother brutally usurps her husband’s presumed authority in the household, preventing him from shaping what inheritance he will proffer. Conrad’s ambivalent portrayal of maternal authority and women’s degeneration renders the mothers darkly triumphant in rebellion, an unexpected departure from the role of the submissive wife.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of South AlabamaMobileUSA

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