DWJ in Israeli newspaper

Ika blake at gaudaprime.co.uk
Fri Feb 13 15:15:03 EST 2004

Melissa said:

> In some ways the Harry Potter books are a lot safer for the
> reader
> than DWJ's.

That's something I was startled to discover recently - I finally nagged an
online friend who likes the Potter books into reading Charmed Life and she
found it unbearably bleak. I find the Potter books much harder to read
because - well, actually because of themes linked to what you said next:

> For example, there's the relationship between child and adult
> that's so important to YA fiction--removing the adult figures so the child
> will have to do things alone.  With Harry Potter, he's never really
> betrayed
> by the adults in his life; his caretakers are failures, but they're so
> awful
> that the reader expects them to behave the way they do.  And when someone
> like Dumbledore lets Harry down, he later admits he was wrong and
> apologizes.  In DWJ you have parents who ought to take care of their
> children, but don't, and there's no comforting feeling that they are
> monsters; they're just like people you know.

I find almost all the adult-child relationships in JKR (particularly
Harry-Dumbledore) dysfunctional beyond belief. Dumbledore shuffles off all
his responsibilities towards Harry ("No, I really think that *you* should
go and illegally rescue the condemned criminal from the Ministry
executioner, not me. I'm sure your *dead father* would be proud of you for
it. No pressure") and, crucially, the narrative condones it: Chrestomanci
doesn't do a good job of protecting Cat, but the narrative/world is very
clear about why and how that comes about (and it's not because
Chrestomanci tells Cat to go and do illegal and dangerous things for him).
There are good reasons for the children to be without adult guidance or
protection, which don't let the adults off the hook.

Ooh! I think what it is, partly, is that the adults around Harry expect
him to be *grateful* all the time, like the family in Eight Days of Luke -
and the author seems to agree with them, instead of bringing in an outside

But this:

> There's no emotional
> distance
> to let you fool yourself into thinking "this could never happen to me."
> And
> that's a little scary for some readers (probably most readers, says the
> Cynicism Monkey on my shoulder).

actually makes me understand why people find the Potter books easier to
cope with than DWJ. The Potter books seem to me to be covering over much
nastier situations than the situations that DWJ confronts head-on: I find
the confrontation - the honesty, the realistic assessment of how a child
character can make a bearable existence for himself or herself in a world
run by flawed adults -  to be *much* more comforting. But I can see that
the "covering-up", or the emotional distance, could itself be comforting
for some readers.

Thanks! I've been puzzling over this for ages (as the auto-rant might have

Love, Ika


> I think we lost the manual, and we've pretty much given up the Worship of
> Monigan after all the nasty side-effects.

<giggle> Glad to hear it. (And it's so exciting to be somewhere where
people make DJW jokes!)

"There are some bad people on the rise" - Moz
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