While we wait, of course, we at least need some things to talk about, and fortunately there's always something to say about Harry Potter. Before I start talking, though, let me direct your attention to Masha's excellent piece about name taboos, and the ensuing discussion:
Rowling does a lovely thing with Harry in allowing him to forget that fear. Because while it’s true that “fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself” it’s also true that speaking the name of another gives, in a vague and magical sense, a hint of power over him. We do not speak the name of God, but when we cast out demons, we do so by name. I like the subtle reminder here, that Harry is unafraid of Voldemort’s name because he has no need to fear. He rests in the power he has only begun to discover.I should also add that Masha has come up with the first butterbeer recipe for us to try, the concoction of which will require me to make a trip to the grocery store, which is why you don't have pictures of my own attempt in this post. It hasn't happened yet. Wait till next week. :D
|Despite his dearth of lines,|
there's an image of him on the internet.
Here's the thing: The single most dangerous thing I've ever seen come out of Potter fandom, including my own, is a tendency to identify ourselves with the heroes and our principles with theirs to the point of making dissenters into villains and therefore enemies. Black-and-white moral tales carry this danger alongside the good they offer, and even a tale like this one, designed to encourage love and a righting of injustices, can turn into a justification for a complete lack of mercy and empathy toward anyone who can be perceived as an enemy.
The thing is: regardless of whether they're Republican or Democrat (which is where American Potter fans draw the lines surprisingly often), no one with any innate compassion is going to naturally feel much kinship with the Dursleys (or the Malfoys, or the Death Eaters, or Voldemort, or or or...) This is the way a moralistic tale works. We sympathize with the good guys, and despise the bad guys, and find ourselves championing whatever virtue the author wants us to approve. What we tend to forget is that we all do so in the context of our own pre-formed opinions and priorities.
But while it might be fun to let myself go off on a long-suppressed rant* over the mean-spirited nonsense contained in the idea that the American Republican is the epitome of the Dark Side (Star Wars reference? Not entirely; Harry himself uses that term at least once), it seems my time is better spent considering what ultimately makes characters like the Dursleys bad, and whether that ought to teach us anything about ourselves. I'm sure we'll all agree, anyway, that our own minds could use a good Scourgifying from time to time. Mine does. Disclaimer: never use a Vanishing spell to clean out your own mind.
Anyway, the Dursleys (didn't know I could talk about them for three weeks running, did you?):
You're too quick to judge,I don't like the Dursleys—no one ever does, as far as I know. They're child abusers for one thing, and fatally unimaginative to boot. It horrifies me to think that I might have anything in common with them besides the mere situational fact of being middle class (although not high enough in the middle class tier to afford the outlay of presents Dudley received for his eleventh birthday... sheesh). It's certainly possible to argue that Rowling mocks middle-class values through them; if she did, she only jumped on the popular political bandwagon that suggests a correlation between financial status and virtue or lack thereof, with opinions on what financial status correlates to which virtue depending on whether one leans capitalist or socialist, and on one's own set of background difficulties and personal resentments.
Too quick to hate.
Too quick to speculate.
You're too blind to see,
That truth sets you free.
But then again,
You don't know jack about magic or me.**
But the Dursleys' problems, in the end, rely on internal issues rather than external ones.
|This is not the face of a happy Muggle.|
Art by Tr1nks1e.
Petunia's moral weakness is envy:
"How could you not be [a wizard], my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that—that school—and came home every vacation with her pockets full of frog spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was—a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"
She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had been wanting to say all this for years.It would be spoilerific to say too much more, and we can't have that! But the prim little border-garden flower has, we see, never gotten over the fact that she wasn't the tall, white, eye-catching Lily—she's never submitted to the call of humility, never accepted her own status in life. Her failure to do so has enslaved her to the need to prove herself superior to others, which is presumably why she likes spying on neighbors so much.
|Oh, the spoilers...|
I don't spy on my neighbors. I promise! Nor do I make my nephews sleep in closets. But if any of you readers can look at Vernon and Petunia and not see at least hints of their sins in yourself—not see the instances when you've made another person's difficulties all about you, the times when you've tried too hard to be attractive or attention-grabbing or likable, the people you've caught yourself judging for their not being as successful as you in some way or other, the times when you've made a point of getting out of an uncomfortable situation even though the discomfort-maker had at least the claim of Christ*** upon you—you're better souls than I.
Oh, and in the spirit of Kat's post... I sincerely hope I never find myself identifying with Bellatrix Lestrange. Because her taste in magic and men... ew. And, she's crazy. But mostly, ew.
Got a post on chapters 2-4 of Harry? Link it in the roundup! And stay tuned over at Christie's blog for her post, possible further thoughts from Masha, and here next week, the next set of readings and—if I can pull it off—butterbeer pictures. :D
* Yes, there's a long-suppressed rant, and I'm not even much of a Republican. I'm disenfranchised. But that bumper sticker and the ideas that go along with it are still mean-spirited nonsense. And that's the truth, so there. Pthththbbth.
** I LOVE that Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls disc, and may link every track by the time this book club ends. Christian Caldeira, you rock.
*** As in, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."