: [Fwd: Bullying, DWJ, and Harry Potter...]

Kyla Tornheim kyla at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Sun Feb 2 14:40:07 EST 2003

On Sun, 2 Feb 2003, Charles Butler wrote:

> Fatness/thinness:
> At the risk of annoying Sally with a mention of Roal Dahl, there are the
> complementary thin/fat nastinesses of Aunts Spiker and Sponge in the James
> and the Giant Peach.

I think making villains exceptionally fat or thin is one of the easily
pictured characteristics, and that's part of why it's done. You can say
that someone has squinty eyes or a sour expression, as well, but
especially in children's books, villains are particularly identifiable by
how they look--there's something about them that says "Hello, I'm Not a
Nice Person." The most mild example of this is in L'Engle's _A Swiftly
Tilting Planet_, where practically everyone has blue eyes, but the good
people have gold behind the blue.

> Though fatness is often associated with indolence and
> laziness, it can occasionally denote - paradoxically - great power and
> energy. Think of Wilkie Collins's Count Fosco, or Thursday in Chesterton's
> The Man Who was Thursday. And in DWJ, isn't Dr Wilander a bit on the tubby
> side? Or is that a false memory?

I think Dr. Wilander is enormous, but my impression is that part of it is
bone structure, part of it is muscle, and part of it is fat. He's also got
the low rumbly voice that goes along with a massive chest cavity.

But Vierran, in _Hexwood_, is on the plump side, and it's one of the
reasons she feels inferior to Siri, but she's our heroine.

I think people have also discussed Maree in this context, but she's got a
dumpy little figure (I think that's how she's described), and while (I
think) it's one of the reasons Rupert prattishly looks down on her when
they first meet, it doesn't make a difference later.

The job of the poet is to render the world--to see it 
and report it without loss, without perversion. No poet 
ever talks about feelings. Only sentimental people do.
       --Mark Van Doren

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