Hera the powerful goddess of marriage and fertility spills forth the stars of the Milky Way seeding the earth. Heracles’ (Hercules) name means “glory to Hera,” a testament to her immense power. When Zeus took a liking to her she was able to resist him until he promised to marry her. He later betrayed her causing her to become vengeful. Marriage vows are sacred to her, and she would not leave Zeus or give up on their partnership. She now uses her power to hold the family of gods together, dispensing justice and giving advice.
The Matriarch is the woman in charge. She sees to the needs of her family and demands respect in return. She needs her family just as much as she would have them believe they need her. She has no identity outside of her role as wife and mother, but unlike the Nurturer she is extremely strong, resourceful and tough skinned. She doesn’t take it well if her husband is unfaithful, and she will not just sit by and ignore the wrongs done to her.
She’s a very strong and committed woman. No other archetype can be as faithful and loving a partner as the Matriarch. She’ll never leave a family member or colleague no matter what happens in life. she can be very supportive and giving when she wants to be, and she expects the same in return. She’s the one everyone looks to for advice.
Her wedding day is the most important day of her life. She wants her wedding day to last forever. The sense of inner fulfillment she feels as she walks down the aisle is addictive. All eyes on her, the centre of attention and the object of admiration. Her husband becomes her life, and she sees that union as entering into a legal agreement with one another. It’s as if they are forming a corporation. She wants to be the perfect wife, but she doesn’t do it to make her husband happy, she does it to make herself happy. She takes pride in running a strong household.
Without a family of her own she’ll put all her energy and strength into her own company and creating a surrogate family with employees.
What Does the Matriarch Care About:
- The Matriarch cares about becoming a wife and may feel incomplete without her husband and family when she is married. Marriage brings her prestige and her wedding day is the happiest day of her life. Wedding vows are sacred to her and she takes commitment seriously.
- She wants to keep her extended family together and to be in constant control of them even if they no longer live in her house. She feels they need her help.
- She loves to make plans and host get-togethers. Everyone had better show up, too, or she’ll never let them forget it. Nothing is more important than coming to a family party.
- Her husband is her identity, family comes second. She dotes on her children and may take over when the grandchildren come. A daughter-in-law often becomes upset with her for the strong child-rearing advice she gives. She means her advice as law.
What Does the Matriarch Fear?
- The Matriarch fears never getting married and never having children. When she does get married she fears the loss of her husband and will stick with him through good and bad no matter what. At any cost she’ll keep her marriage together. If she didn’t have a family she would strike to hold her company together at all costs.
- She’s terrified of growing old and of being alone. She dreads the day her children will try to leave home as well as the days her husband is away on business. She doesn’t know what to do with herself.
- She fears losing control when it comes to her children, but she hides it well. She’s a fighter and will fight to save any child who has taken up drugs and needs a strong person to help. She can’t help it if this child feels obligated to her later in life.
What Motivates the Matriarch?
- Love, belonging and respect are strong motivators. She wants a family as well as a sense of unconditional love and support. She may have put a lot of work into her husband’s career, and she wants to be recognized along with him. If he ever receives an award he had better thank her in his speech!
- Marriage and an expensive wedding are her goals. After the nuptials, she wants to be involved in all the other family weddings in her extended family. She frequently butts in and makes demands, telling everyone how things should be done.
How Do Other Characters See the Matriarch?
- She always stands tall and strong, holding her head high even in the face of insult.
- She dresses in whatever style suits her husband’s image so she can be seen as dedicated to his career. His career is her career.
- Once in a while she’s caught standing in the shadows listening to her children’s private conversations in an effort to keep an eye on them. She can’t bear to have anything happening under her nose without prior knowledge.
- She seems inapproachable, like she could easily yell at you or laugh at you. She doesn’t want her children thinking they can pull one over on her. She’s always right; her word is law.
- Her strength makes her the rock everyone leans on in the family.
Developing the Character Arc
Look at your character’s main goal in the story and then at the fears you’ve selected to use against her. What does she need to learn to help her overcome her fear? Does she need to learn how to leave on her own? Does she need to learn how to deal with her husband’s death and run his business? Does she need to deal with a sickness and get plenty of rest, giving up her control of the family?
Very often a Matriarch needs to learn how to commit to herself as much as she commits to her husband. Once married she gives up who she was to become the perfect wife. Everything she does is for or with her husband. She needs to realize that happiness found inside someone else can only lead to sorrow.
What happened to her at an early age to make this archetype dominate her personality? Was her mother’s every move controlled by her father, and she swore never to live like that? Was she raised to be perfect, putting on an act for all the neighbors? Did her family fall apart when she was young?
To grow, this archetype is best paired with one of the following:
- The Dictator – steals control from her and upsets the family system.
- The Fool and The Maiden – shows her youth, love, spontaneity and letting go of control.
- The Mystic – can teach her how to look inside herself to find out who she really is.
- The Father’s Daughter – can teach her about having her own career and how to be a team player instead of a dictator.
The Villainous Side of the Matriarch: The Scorned Woman
As a villain, the Matriarch’s rage and power come out when she feels abandoned by her husband or family. If her husband has an affair no one near her is safe against the anger and revenge brewing inside her. She’ll most likely take out her feelings on the other woman before taking it out on her husband. Her identity is so wrapped up in her husband that she has to believe it was the other woman’s fault and that the marriage is salvageable. She’s the one in charge, and she’ll take control of her husband again.
Her life means nothing without a “family” of some sort for her to run. She needs to be in control of things. Chaos isn’t acceptable for her. She can justify any action taken to preserve the integrity of her family.
She’s inflexible, impulsive and unpredictable at times. Her moods fluctuate as she goes to great lengths to avoid real or imagined abandonment. She’s uncertain about her long-term goals, career choices and her own identity. She feels empty and can become irritable.
She has passive-aggressive tendencies and will tell family members that it’s OK if they do something she disapproves of, but her actions show them just the opposite. She may even attempt suicide or self-mutilation to gain attention.
She feels she’s done everything for her family and they owe her their loyalty. She controls what goes on and if they don’t like it it’s too bad. No one leaves the family unit, especially not with a smile. Betrayal is the worst type of offense as far as she’s concerned. She’d rather have her husband ruin himself before he ruins their sacred union. She’d rather see him dead.
THE SCORNED WOMAN
- Fears being abandoned by her husband or family.
- Is enmeshed with her husband as if they’re one person. She can’t see him for who he really is.
- Fights for control.
- Will do anything to save face.
- Keeps family problems hidden from others. Her children may not receive the help they need as a result.
- Exhibits passive/aggressive behavior.
- Is impulsive. [she can see it before her eyes, it’s impending]
- Is uncertain about her own identity.
- May have suicidal tendencies – at least for attention.
- Can be irritable and moody.
- Loves to spend time with her family, even if they drive her crazy.
- Enjoys entertaining.
- Enjoys planning parties and get-togethers for the family.
- Is very committed to her marriage.
- Dreams about her wedding day often.
- Will start a business to run like a surrogate family if she doesn’t have a family of her own.
- Depends on her husband’s or friend’s love for happiness.
- Drops her friendship when she finds Mr. Right.
- Spies and invades her children’s privacy in order to keep tabs on them.
- Sees her identity as wrapped up in her family.
- Puts her husband’ image and career above her own.
- Can be obsessive in her need for order.
Hera in Action
Matriarch/Scorned Woman TV Heroes
Roseanne Conner (Roseanne) in Roseanne
Monica Geller (Courtney Cox-Arquette) in Friends
Lois Wilkerson (Jane Kaczmarek) in Malcom in the Middle
Matriarch/Scorned Woman Film Heroes
Brenda Cushman (Bette Midler) in The First Wives Club
Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) in Terms of endearment
Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) in Mommie Dearest
Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) in American Beauty
Ruth (Roseanne) in She-Devil
Matriarch/Scorned Woman Literary and Historical Heroes
Gertrude in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Mrs. Compson in The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Ingrid in White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Viviane in Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Lauren Olaminia in Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Alldera in The Furies by Suzy McKee Charnas
Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey