Potter vs DWJ

Gill Othen gill at othen.fslife.co.uk
Sun Feb 15 07:17:05 EST 2004

Coming in late, as usual because it's not been a good week....

Ika, who already seems part of the furniture, quoted Melissa:

> In some ways the Harry Potter books are a lot safer for the reader than

Absolutely - because JKR is mixing several different genres, from Dahl and
Blyton onwards, and irons out the dangerous bits of all of them.

 >>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
 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.<<

Indeed, DWJ quite often ends with the children feeling an obligation to take
care of the adults - Nick and Maree both do, for example. The world is a
tangled mess and even a happy ending doesn't always make it go completely

And Ika replied:
> > 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
<snip>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.<<

However, many of the adults *are* inept, or just don't notice what they
should be doing - DWJ is big on personal responsibility, and a lot of her
adults don't match up in that area. Christopher Chant's mother has
absolutely no sense of her duty to him. Nor, of course, do the parents in
"Time of the Ghost" (who's surprised there?). And so on....

 >>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.<<

The Potter books are set in a world which is much more obviously
cartoonish - look at the punning names of places and things (Knight Bus,
Diagon Alley) and the exaggeration - Dudley Dursley, the name of the school
Harry's supposed to be sent to, the irritatingly alliterative names of *all*
Quidditch teams....  DWJ's worlds, even when different or multiple, have
more elements that are recognisable and almost like our own. Harry's biggest
worries are when his friends appear to dislike him, and like most schoolkid
spats it's obvious it will all be sorted out. In DWJ's worlds it isn't
always so obvious. And her schoolkids can be a lot meaner - look at the way
the cricket team treats the interlopers in "Homeward Bounders", for example.
Or the punishments Chrestomanci's kids wreak on Cat in "Charmed Life".

Welcome to the list, Ika. The home you didn't realise you had.<g>


To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/

More information about the Dwj mailing list