Carol, children and motherhood on The Walking Dead: is Carol really a “mum”?

Carol (Melissa McBride) and Sam (Major Dodson), The Walking Dead/AMC, via
Carol (Melissa McBride) and Sam (Major Dodson), The Walking Dead/AMC, via /
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Tobin (Jason Douglas) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) in Episode 12Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Tobin (Jason Douglas) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) in Episode 12Photo by Gene Page/AMC /

Carol resists the characterization of herself as a “mum”

Judging by her interactions with others, and contrary to what she told Deanna, Carol does not seem to be much of a “people person”. Indeed, if you get past the nurturing social habits of a “mom” that she acquired in her past life as a housewife, her natural tendencies seem to be rather that of a loner. She has feelings but is not terribly keen on expressing them. She very rarely opens up to people, remaining mostly very guarded and preferring to observe them from a safe (emotional) distance. When interacting with others and making decisions, Carol is actually rather hard and cold, sometimes even callous. She tends to be aligned with Shane at the beginning of the story, and is often quite harsh on Rick, whom she originally sees as a weak leader with no clear principles.

The only person who is really given to see the sweet and nurturing side of Carol is, in fact, Daryl. This would, ironically, tend to undermine the claim that Carol and Daryl have a mother/son relationship: though Daryl may often be characterized as a man-child, and though Carol may appear “nurturing” when dealing with Daryl, her attitude to him is in fact radically different from her attitude to children when she finds herself acting as a mother figure to them.

Carol has rarely evoked Sophia since her death, but seems to resist being reduced to her status as a bereaved mother. The subject is brought up in episode 404 in a conversation with Rick, just before he banishes her. She then confides in him about her past life with Ed as an abused wife, and clearly states that she has put this behind her, by describing Sophia as “Dead. Somebody else’s slideshow”. In episode 609, Morgan tries to bond with her after their big fight over the wolf prisoner, by evoking her child and husband. But Carol refuses to take the bait. In Alexandria, even though she plays the part of the “homemaker” as a camouflage, she seems bothered by Tobin’s emphatic assertion: “You are a Mom”. She seems to reject this identity, when she replies: “I was”, and asks Tobin if she is a mom to him, to which he replies: “No – You’re something else to me”.

Yet, Melissa McBride recently said on Talking Dead that kids followed Carol around because they were “perceptive” and “empathetic”, and could see through her mask that what she really needed was “a kid”. Could it be, then, that after rejecting her identity as a traditional mother and housewife, to discover how strong she could be, Carol now needs to open up again to the possibility of reconciling her two identities?