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

hallieod at indigo.ie hallieod at indigo.ie
Sun Feb 2 16:49:35 EST 2003


Melissa:

>  >Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard in the world, except
>>that he's unable to stop Harry's abuse at the Dursleys, unable to
>>stop Malfoy Jr. from bullying in school, and Malfoy Sr. from bullying
>>in the world, etc., etc.
>
>I think sending Harry back to the Dursleys is questionable, and I don't
>really buy the internal excuse that he'll be protected or be a better person
>or whatever it is.  But I'd kick Dumbledore myself if he went around
>stopping everyone from being evil.

I wasn't really talking about policing the world.  You've allowed the 
point about Dumbledore's repeatedly sending Harry back to the 
Dursleys, which was one of my main problems.  But there's also the 
fact that he is the head of a school, in which children are bullied 
by both other students and teachers.  No school authorities will ever 
be able to completely eliminate bullying, of course, but that does 
*not* absolve them from making an attempt.  Malfoy Sr. uses his 
outside power to influence the running of the school too, which is 
where this intersects with Dumbledore.

>If he did that, we'd have a world full
>of Muggle-headed wizards who didn't ever have to make the choice between
>good and evil for themselves.  There are some battles you have to fight for
>yourself.  Harry has no problem defending himself against sweet little Draco
>Malfoy; he doesn't need Dumbledore's help.

As I said before, I firmly believe that in a school environment, some 
effort has to be made to protect kids from bullying.  I find it very 
strange, and quite disturbing, that the conventions of old-style 
boarding school stories (such as the necessary existence of a School 
Bully) should have been adopted, without either the usually 
accompanying school ethos of Fair Play and Honour (also an element of 
most I've read), or the modern-day school belief that children have a 
right not to be bullied.

>
>>After rereading the two HPs, I then reread _A Wizard of Earthsea_.
>>Talk about contrast!  The writing style is very different, but it
>>strikes me that DWJ and Le Guin have the same way of exploring
>  >character in a rich and subtle way, while Rowlings takes the easier
>>option of lay-it-on-with-a-trowel black and white depictions.
>
>Absolutely true.  And I ask you (all of you, not just Hallie):  what makes
>you certain that one way is better than another, in every situation, in
>every text?  Is it fundamentally, objectively better to explore character
>subtly, to create ambiguity in a text, to eliminate stark areas of black and
>white?  Or is it just what you prefer?

And I thank you, all of you who wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot 
keyboard, and left me to answer it! ;-)  (I had a tutorial in Belfast 
yesterday, which took up the whole day, as MY excuse for not replying 
earlier.)   I realised, dispiritedly, that I wrote an essay pretty 
much on this topic last year.  However, They wanted to know what R.L. 
Stevenson felt about it, and how that related to what Henry James, 
Wilkie Collins et. al. felt about it, and how we could relate that to 
_The Woman in White_ and _Portrait of a Lady_.  They did *not* want 
to know what Hallie felt about it - luckily for you.  Of course, it's 
a fair cop - how could any of us possibly justify a claim that one 
way of writing a book is objectively better than another?  But it 
would be disingenuous of me not to admit that I honestly cannot 
imagine any way in which it is not better to explore character 
subtly, and to present morality in a way which does not at least 
imply in-born tendencies to worth or lack thereof, based on any 
circumstance of birth or externals (be it appearance, name, family, 
religion, nationality or whatever).

>
>And before anyone answers, I would remind you that there are well-respected
>readers who denigrate speculative fiction because its techniques of
>characterization, description, and plot are not literary enough to be "real"
>literature.  This is relevant, I assure you.

Well, yes, but are there well-respected readers of speculative 
fiction who denigrate speculative fiction?  It's one thing for 
someone who may have picked up one or two high fantasy books, or one 
or two children's books, or whatever, to denigrate a whole genre 
based on that reading.  Surely it's quite another for some of a group 
of people who came together on the basis of reading an author of 
(originally) children's/YA speculative fiction, to find the Harry 
Potter books unsatisfactory for some reason or another?  With the 5th 
book ranked number 1 on Amazon.co.uk from about the second it was 
listed, I don't think a few non-fans are really going to do much 
harm.  Heck, I probably won't even put any of the books in my Worst 
Book of 2003 category, so Rowlings reign will not be threatened  ;-)


Hallie.

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