Mudcat Café message #1199277 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #70252   Message #1199277
Posted By: Stilly River Sage
03-Jun-04 - 11:01 AM
Thread Name: BS: New Harry Potter Film (Prisoner of Azkaban)
Subject: RE: BS: New Harry Potter Film (Prisoner of Azkaban)
Good discussion of the book. My "wet blanket" remark was not meant to have such a wide implication as it took on, but some interesting responses have come from it. For those who are curious about the Bildungsroman term, I'll stick a short analysis at the bottom of this post. There are a whole series of terms that require a dictionary to decipher, but this is a good general one. An example of classic literature that fits this description is Dicken's Great Expectations.1

I still don't think you can support that Friends argument, even if I think you're recognizing a correlation that plays out in what the networks hope for in their programming planning--they all want to have the "next Friends" or the "next Seinfeld." Too many people cross over between genres if they have the time for tv watching. Slumming in the sitcoms before heading back to other programming. It's like suggesting the books for "summer reading" must be of a certain casual, more pot-boiler nature. Some books are, a lot aren't. Because the pseudo-genre exists (thanks to Madison Avenue) doesn't necessarily mean people participate in it.

I didn't suggest that non-human characters in Harry Potter books substitute for non-white characters. That would lead to an almost Social Darwinist approach to the novels which Rowling clearly doesn't intend and is way too oversimplified when looking at these texts.

What I suggest is that there are both overt and covert representations of class in those characters. There are examples that allow for your reading of my reading, such as Hillary's battle to elevate the house elves in one of the later books. Chaos erupts because it isn't handled well. There are some interesting social parallels that can be drawn from this and might come into play later. But on the whole, this white/non-white type of characters doesn't hold up. If you introduce speaking or communicating non-human characters they are going to be integrated into the imaginary community based on how they compare to the main human characters. Their personalities and behaviors really are are across the board in these novels. There is a lot of tradition to what Rowling is doing, and she does go with a lot of pre-existing stereotypes (goblins are not very approachable and don't seem to care for humans, trolls are nasty and stupid). She is only going to change those stereotypes on a case-by-case basis if she develops characters who are counter to the Northern European storytelling tradition. She's working with a lot of material that is embedded in the language, but it isn't fair to layer in racial readings.

These books are clearly mapped out, but they aren't all written yet. I have just started book five myself, and I see a glimmer of social criticism. In my reading of how these characters have been developed (speculation of future plot developments ahead--avoid if you don't want to see where I think these might be going!!!) I think both Rowling and her characters must examine their own myth that has been created. Harry didn't know anything about his past until he went to Hogwarts. What he first encounters is the myth, the larger than life parents. As book five is starting we're beginning to see a reexamination of just what people really know, and how they relate to each other. I think that in the end Snape is going to be the best thing that ever happens to Harry Potter, but he's going to be the kind of father-figure who will make sure Harry sees the world warts-and-all.

There is a lot of the Dickens tradition in the Harry Potter books.


1. Bildungsroman. See for a look at different types of novels in this Victorian scheme of literature.

An exerpt from the page: