Potter Harry Potter Female Characters Dissertation

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Potter

Harry Potter

female characters in Harry Potter

The role and importance of female characters in Harry Potter

There has been much debate and contention about the social influence and effects of the Harry Potter novels on children and on the youth. One of the most debated issues that have arisen from both a literary and psycho-social perspective is the question of how women are presented in the novels. Many critics take an extreme feminist view and see the novels as inculcating a stereotypical and negative view of the women in society. On the other hand there are numerous studies that contest this view and show that women in the novels are as important and dynamic as the male characters. Taking these theories as background and a basis for discussion, the central thesis that is explored in the dissertation takes the latter view and shows that women play an important and vital role in terms of the themes as well as the central trajectory of meaning and intention in the Harry Potter novels. This is achieved through an analysis of the importance of care, community and love in the women, and in the context of the novels as a whole.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 4

2. Overview and theoretical perspectives 7

2.1. Theoretical trajectories 8

2.2. A sense of care and community 18

2.3. Integrative Theoretical Approaches 21

3. Themes 23

4. Hermione 26

5. Prejudice 37

6. Community and family 38

7. The ethics of caring 42

8. The mother figure 45

9. Conclusion 51

10. Biography 54

1. Introduction

When the first edition of Rowling's first novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was published in 1997, the novel was limited to an edition of 500 copies.

The novel gradually attracted a growing readership and eventually reached the top of the Bestseller's list. The initial groundswell of attention to the novel was to grow into what eventually became a publishing phenomenon with the publication of a further six novels the Harry Potter series. This was accompanied by film and media coverage of the books which reached unprecedented heights.

The influence that these novels has had on popular culture and on issues pertaining to child development and perceptions is one that has created a great deal of discussion and debate. There are many areas of contention and discussion that surround these books; including the influence that they have had had on the perceptions of reality and life among younger children and even adults. However, the central area of concerns that will be the focus of the present study is the importance, or otherwise, of the female characters in the novels.

From one perspective, the view of the influence of the books on issues relating to feminism and the way that women are presented or portrayed in the novels are extremely positive. As one commentator notes;

….the most popular children's series in history offers readers a variety of things; interesting characters, fantastic settings and events, humor, drama, action, and an overall memorable and effective story. With the prominence of strong, courageous female characters, J.K. Rowling has essentially laid down groundwork for parents wishing to teach their children about the importance of feminism and equality.

There are many critics and studies in the literature that note the importance of the female characters, such as Hermione Granger in the structure, development and overall meaning and intention of the novels. This also includes other pivotal female characters, such as Minerva McGonagall, Sybill Trelawney, and Pomona Sprout. More peripheral characters, such as Molly Weasley also add depth and texture to the development and meaning of the novels.

It should be emphasized at the outset that the themes that dominate the book are considered to be the most important formative structural aspect in any analysis of these texts. Themes such as good vs. evil, love and death, the fight against prejudice and bigotry, the importance of the family and the search for friendship and community, among many others, are central to the understanding of the way in which the characters develop in the text. Therefore, an understanding of the thematic discourses that inform the books is fundamental to the assessment of the women characters and their relationships to the thematic strands that link the novels.

In this regard, one could refer to the development of Hermione as a central character in relation to the themes of compassion, love and the fight against prejudice and bigotry. Another central thematic will be explored is the image and symbol of the mother in the novels. This refers primarily to Harry Potter's mother Lily, who was killed by Voldemort while she was defending her child. As will be discussed in detail, this incident which occurs before the events of the first novel in the series resonates throughout the books and serves to highlight the importance of the mother figure as well as many of the female character in the books. Other characters that relate to this theme will also be discussed.

The literature on this topic has also raised a degree of criticism about the portrayal of women in stereotypical roles. For example,

Natasha Whitton wrote a study on these portrayals and noted that Harry's yearning for a closeness to his long-deceased mother, which is an understandable desire for any child in that circumstance, but she notes "that his idealization becomes one based on solipsistic yearning for her to be like him" after he sees that they have the same eyes.

It will be suggested in the following chapters that the female characters in the Harry Potter books are as dynamic and integral part of the structure and the contribute to the essential meaning of the works. This refers to the central quotation that serves as a springboard to the discussion of the female characters in this dissertation.

She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother's blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative." ( Dumbledore)

The above quotation refers to a number of important aspects that will serve as thematic constructs for the following discussion. This includes the symbolic value of the "mothers blood" and the significance that this sacrifice of love has in the context of the books as a whole and with regard to the central theme of fight of good against evil.

The central thesis that will be explored in that dissertation can be stated as follows. The female characters in the Harry Potter books are vital to the progressive development of the themes in the novels and for the essential meaning of the works. This view id in contradistinction to many more radical feminist interpretations of the books, which suggest that the female characters are merely supportive and that they are in fact stereotypical and not rounded or dynamic.

The central contention of the importance of the women and the mother figure in the books will therefore be discussed against the theoretical backdrop of feminist readings of the texts. The central aim of the dissertation will therefore be to show that central characters like Hermione are as important as the main male protagonists in terms of the overall intention and meaning of the books.

2. Overview and theoretical perspectives

From one point-of-view women in the novel are not particularly significant. This refers to the view that women are portrayed as one-dimensional stereotypes. Engstrom (2006) states that, 'Many critics categorize the actions of the women in the Harry Potter novels as maternal or stereotypical in nature. They pose the theory that the only role these women play is to aid and to comfort the men'.

However, it will be suggested in this paper that this is not the case with regard to the central as well as many of the peripheral female characters in the novels. An opposing point-of-view that will be strongly suggested in this dissertation is that the female characters from an essential part of the thematic development as well as to the fundamental meaning or intention of the novels.

2.1. Theoretical trajectories

As Mikulan ( 2009) states, the Harry Potter novels have attracted the attention of radical as well as conservative or more moderate feminist literary criticism from a number of perspectives. A general feminist reading of the texts refers to a theoretical perspective that, […] can direct its attention to the examination of the ways women are portrayed, search for archetypes from a feminist perspective, examine female values and the sense of community, or focus its attention to the patriarchal way of subject construction and possible points of resistance.

The more extreme feminist viewpoint on the other hand is one which views literature solely as a "[...] political expression of the relationship between sexes."

From this theoretical perspective,

The author's context and intentions are completely irrelevant and are considered only to the extent to which they confirm the negative position of women within… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Potter Harry Potter Female Characters.  (2010, September 16).  Retrieved December 13, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/potter-harry-female-characters/9062459

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"Potter Harry Potter Female Characters."  Essaytown.com.  September 16, 2010.  Accessed December 13, 2019.
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