The analysis of the content of Eliza Orzeszkowa’s epic On the Banks of the Neman
allows to distinguish the following different types of mother created by the writer: the
Polish Mother, Mother-Kitten, Mother-Cuckoo, Distant Mother, and Mother Willow.
Wisely devoted to her children, Maria Kirłowa is the Polish Mother type: she runs
her farm all by herself, is a keeper-at-home, and, being a single mother, brings her children
up to function well in the society of the second half of the twentieth century. Another
mother, the proud patriot Mrs Andrzejowa Korczyńska, constitutes a monumental character.
As a widow living up to her ideals she is – as it may seem – a woman to follow, but, alienated from her environment, she fails. Her son takes advantage of her knowing that
his mother will do anything for him, like mother kitten. Starzyńska is the Mother-Cuckoo;
she abandons her children, Janek and Antolka, to be brought up by someone else. The
reason is that this woman’s need to re-marry is stronger than her maternal feelings. Selfcentered
Emilia is the Distant Mother, that is to say one that is absent from the process of
her children’s development. Emilia’s role of Witold and Leonia’s mother is taken over by
Marta, who, as Mother-Willow, brings them up, feeds them, teaches, comforts, spoils, but
also sets requirements, cares, and, fi rst of all, is always there for them.
In the complex reality of the second half of the twentieth century the situation
of the Polish women was quite diffi cult, also in the maternal duties they fulfi lled; those
were perceived and realized very differently by different mothers, which we fi nd notably
refl ected in the realistic novel On the Banks of the Neman by Eliza Orzeszkowa.