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

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 30 20:52:07 EST 2003

It seems to be just about obligatory for an English
school novel to feature a bully, and this has been the
case since Tom Brown's Schooldays. (and wonderfully
sent up in one of the episodes of the TV series
ripping yarns with the school bully (known simply as
School Bully) getting a promotion to be School Bully
at Eton and the picked on hero goes on to become
School Bully himself). Not only is Official School
Bully just about an English storytelling convention,
but so is official School Victim. Neville Longbottom
appears in many guises, but he is usually there, and
rarely the hero (who while usually a victim of
bullying is not usually the most-picked upon kid). I
am not familair enough with American novels of this
ilk to know it it also the case there.
I think that an author like Rawlings feels she just
has to include a Bully a couple of Bully's henchpeople
and an Official Victim, without really examining the
morality of this. There is an element of this in DWJs
novels too. Having just read Wilkin's Tooth there are
plenty of bullies and victims there. Rawlings does go
further though, in fact on examination far too far, in
creating a whole house of bullies (who seem to have
been bullies for a thousand years) and a whole house
of potential victims, a whole house of heroes and a
house of hero's gilrfriends. On the other hand I can
see a school saying "let's put all the bullies into
the one house so that they don't infect the others,
and we'll put the toughest Master - Snape - to watch
over them."
And, of course, this is an unfortunate aspect of the
real world. While, in my experience, schools don't
have a School Bully (note capitals), there are plenty
of bullies in schools and in most schools it is quite
easy to find several kids who seem to have the word
Victim tattooed on their foreheads. However not
usually simply because of their name or physique. I
have come across a student with a name very similar to
Longbottom but he was far closer to bully than victim.
The best example of a YA novel examining bullying I
have come across is "Tyro" by David McRobbie (an Oz
title - but set in Scotland) which deals with bullying
in the workplace rather than at school.
Returning to Tom Brown's Schooldays, everyone should
read George macdonald Fraser's accounts of the later
career of Flashman, which are a rare example of a
series of books written from the bully's point of
view, and a lot of fun, especially if you are a 19th
century history buff.


--- Ven <vendersleighc at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Ingrid wrote:
> 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.)
> "No option but to treat it as entertaining" what
> a dreadful idea! Yes, I think  the Potterverse
> internalises the idea that some people are born
> to be victims and even deserve it. I saw the
> second film with a friend and her seven year old,
> Charlotte. When Neville is hung up on the ceiling
> by the blue piskie things he says "Why does this
> always happen to me?" and Charlotte piped up
> "Because yer name's LONGBOTTOM!" That's the way
> Rowling writes it. 
> In the Potterverse all the Real boys and girls
> are in Griffondor and Ravensclaw, if you are in
> Hufflepuff you are a joke (and probably plump),
> if you are in Slithering you are nasty -- nasty
> and snide or nasty and thick, you also may have a
> weight problem (in the film you get to have
> grotty teeth too) Everyone is allowed to pick on
> Hufflepuffs but that's allright, it's only a
> joke. Slitherings are compelled to go around
> being nasty but that's no problem because they
> can never win. Griffendors retaliating against
> Slitherings may be as nasty as they like but
> that's ok because they are in the right and the
> Slitherings started it. As "the other nice
> house", supplier of spear carriers and girlfiends
> Ravenclaws keep out of bother. Everything that
> applys to Griffendor applies to Hagrid as well
> --and he is bigger than anyone else.
> I seem to have gone off on one there and
> forgotten my original point! JKR does that to me.
> My DWJ examples:
> Charmed Life: Gwendolen is a thorough bully. She
> bullies Julia in obvious ways, like the snake
> dress while she uses and manipulates Cat. She's
> not, in fact, a very clever bully, she goes for
> easy targets like her little brother and Mrs
> Sharp. Julia's reaction to the snakes is pretty
> good as an example of what to do about this kind
> of thing -- she keeps her cool and gets the adult
> fuss and praise.
> Dogsbody: Duffy is one of the nastiest of Dwjs
> adult bullies. Her oldest son copies her and the
> youngest copies him, but they do seem to be
> redeemable. 
> Drowned Ammett: Mitt bullies Hildy and Ynen in
> order to get control over them and their boat.
> his heart isn't really in it.
> Eight Days of Luke: features bullying within the
> family -- both David's and Luke's. 
> Denise 
> > 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?
> A common theme in dwj is the idea that people who
> are being bullied often turn round and pick on
> somebody else -- eg in WW, the way everyone is
> allowed to have a go at Brian Perkins and even
> Nan flies at him once. Her solution, clearly, is
> to stop doing that and deal with the real
> problem. 
> Ingrid wrote
> snip
> .
> <First, I agree that the Potter books condone 
> bullying, and more than
> just toward Hermione. I'd much rather discuss the
> bullying in DWJ
> though.>
> <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.
> >
> Can't improve on that!
> <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,
> Ven -- Caspar
> <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.>
> Ven
> Yes, in the Ogre a lot of the bullying is
> unintentional, basically down to a combination of
> misunderstanding and selfishness (self
> centredness). 
> Ingrid
> <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 
=== message truncated ===

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