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

Ingrid Blythe Atkinson ingrid-blythe at shaw.ca
Thu Jan 30 00:42:23 EST 2003

Denise DeGraf wrote:
> I've fallen into an interesting discussion on another list about the way in
> which the Harry Potter books seem (to me at least) to condone bullying, in
> the sense that Harry & Ron are depicted as justified in mistreating their
> "friend" Hermione because of her bookish habits.  Some people are
> protesting that Rowlings is merely "depicting the sad reality" as if
> there's no option except to show the abuse as entertaining.  (Perhaps the
> bullies find it funny, but I didn't: I was treated that way growing up myself.)
> I know that DWJ treats this issue from the other side round -- showing what
> revolting little jerks bullies of any sort can be -- in Witch Week, but I
> can't remember what other books she did it in.  Given the discussion is on
> a support group for adults & kids that are (due to neurology) almost
> identical to Hermione in the lack of social skill, preference for books,
> etc I'd really like to be able to offer more positive examples.  Ideas?

While I would normally not slip out of my normal lurkdom for something
I'm sure everyone else will quickly be answering, and I feel my stomach
twist slightly for responding to anything with "Harry Potter" in the
subject line, I'm tired enough and have enough exhausted pre-test stress
to venture throwing in my penny.

First, I agree that the Potter books condone bullying, and more than
just toward Hermione. I'd much rather discuss the bullying in DWJ

I think there's a lot dealing with the subject of bullying in most of
DWJ's books because it's such a real part of most children's lives.
"Archer's Goon" is the one that springs to my mind first, because of the
way the family works, the way Shine works, and the character of Awful in
general. There was also a bully there as a character - the boy who
worked for Shine. I think his name was Hind? He was the only actual
bully from a child's perspective but he's also the one who turned out to
be decent underneath it, despite giving Howard such a hard time at the
beginning of the book. It's the characters who were far more powerful
bullies, even if they weren't as rough outside as Hind, that were shown
to be fairly awful people. Shine, Archer, the other sister (ack, my
memory) were shown to be some of the biggest bullies, even if they
weren't the "revolting little jerks" kind. It's not like it's an
overwhelming theme or anything, I don't think it ever is with DWJ. It's
just one of those things that exists.

It's also there in "The Ogre Downstairs", where bullying isn't just
confined to the children, but the way the Ogre handles the children is
very in the manner of a grown up bully, initially. Now I have to go find
my copy. Which now appears to have vanished, so forgive the temporary
blankness concerning names. When Jaspar and Malcolm switch bodies,
Jaspar experiences the previously unknown bullying that Malcolm suffers
at the hands of his classmates. Afterwards, Jaspar begins to understand
him better, even though they're different, and goes to lengths to make
up for the way he's indirectly caused Malcolm to suffer. There's also
the way the eldest of the boys treats the three younger ones, although I
can't think of any specific examples. Just vague memories and an
impression of him as a scaled down version of the Ogre.

Those are the two that stick most firmly in my mind, or at least the
ones that came to mind as soon as I read over Denise's message. I think
that most of DWJ's children's titles involve bullying to some extent.
The only one I can think of that doesn't is "The Lives of Christopher
Chant", and I'm sure someone will give me reasons it could be seen as

I don't think it's really "bullies are bad people" that you can get from
DWJ because that would not be her style. I'm sure there are plenty of
minor bullies who are bad people, or awful little jerks, but it's a very
black and white way to show it. A lot of characters have attributes that
belong to bullies, and sometimes it's seen in adults, sometimes in other
children, and sometimes in the main characters. I think it's so
intricate to childhood that it will be found most anywhere, and while I
don't think she would ever condole it in the way Rowling does, I don't
think there's a lot of "bully getting comeupance" kind of thing either.

Corrections, anyone?

And my word, I fear that made absolutely no sense. Apologies.

If the uranium emitted an electron, it would trigger the hammer which
would break the bottle. That would release the gas that would kill the
cat that lived in the box that Schrödinger built. - Connie Willis, "To
Say Nothing of the Dog"

Logic and Chaos - http://nyahnyah.net/blog/logicchaos.html

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