Sunday, December 12, 2010

J.K. Rowling and Hermione Granger

I wonder if I can get a rise of my readers with this:

Rowling’s adherence to the old English principle of blood-nobility—that weird but deeply held superstition that has caused countless English protagonists to discover that unbeknownst to them, they were peers of the realm all along—is in stark contrast to the biggest conflict depicted in the Potter stories, the blood purity conflict. The bad guys, Voldemort and crew, are race purists, anti-Muggle (meaning anti-human), which is to say that they are against any magical Muggles or intermingling of Muggle blood (“Mudblood”) and wizard blood. Yet Rowling’s heroes are all noblemen, with the exception of one: Harry Potter learns in the old-fashioned surprise way that his father was a fabulously rich wizard, and his godfather is a rich aristocrat, too; Ron Weasley is a nobleman of the purest blood, though poor. The sole pure-Muggle wizard of any consequence at all in these books is Hermione, the author’s personal projection of herself (there are two other minor pure-Muggle wizards, boys, both of whom are bumped off). So this story can be read pretty effectively as an explanation of why J.K. Rowling should be allowed to hang around with the nobility (she is smart, is why).

Maybe, incidentally, the reason no other woman as smart as Hermione appears in the books is that J.K. Rowling, like the Turk, can bear no sister near the throne. Her volcanic ego burns down everything in its path. Where the Twilight books are works produced from and for a state of sexual yearning and frustration, Rowling’s “wizarding world” is a fantasy place created for the benefit of Hermione Granger, for her infinite sagacity, foresightedness and teacher’s-pet-hood to be rewarded at every turn.

3 comments:

David said...

Perhaps what this shows is there's no relationship between morality and art. If narcissism and wanna-be snobbery inspire Rowling, so be it.

I'm puzzled by the positive nod to Twilight. First, the Twilight books are dreck (he said, having never read any of them). Second, another phrase for "sexual yearning" of the twilight school is "teen self-hatred"--which is of course simply an expression of wounded narcissism. Add that to the aristo-wanna-be ancestry of English-language vampire stories, and I fail to see where the difference lies, except that Rowling wants to be noble to affirm that she's smart and witty (hence, worth reading), whereas the Twilight person wants a noble lover because only he can reassure her that she's not just another middle-class drudge.

Bundle Brent said...

I read this a little while ago and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. There are plenty of smart, interesting women in the series - Ginny, Mrs. Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, Luna, etc.. I don't really buy this argument that the entire series is Rowling justifying her own acceptance into the ruling classes. Especially if the argument is: Harry is a pureblood, Ron is a pureblood, Hermione isn't, therefore Hermione is Rowling's projection of herself and is "an explanation of why J.K. Rowling should be allowed to hang around with the nobility." Also: even if it is, it's fun to read, so who cares?

Still, Harry and Ron's essential uselessness throughout the series did make me wonder why the books weren't called "The Amazing Hermione Granger" stories. And WHY did she keep letting them copy her homework?

John said...

I heard complaints from a friend years ago about Rowling's aristocratic bent, and I acknowledge the point. Her world is one in which some people are born special and the rest are sort of pathetic; among the aristocrats (wizards), the main political debate is whether plebes (muggles) have a right to their pathetic lives or can be hunted at will.

But most fantasy writing relies on invoking the spirit of the medieval or ancient past, and since that past was resolutely aristocratic, aristocracy is hard to avoid. And how can you have a heroic tale without heroes, e.g., people who are special? Our inheritance, both folkloric and literary, holds that only certain people are wizards, and that makes any book about wizards elitist to some degree.