Throughout the Harry Potter series, we see how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always together and facing trials with each other. However, something we don’t see a lot of is the stereotype that “girls group together and gossip”, especially with Hermione. Throughout “The Prisoner of Azkaban”, unless she is with Ron and Harry, she tends to be studying alone. In fact, it is the boys that group together and travel in cliques. Ron, Harry, Neville, Dean, and Seamus share a room and get together outside of the dorms as well. The same goes for Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. They never seem to leave each others’ sides. They spread gossip and travel around together in cliques, which is usually a female stereotype.
I grew up reading about Tintin and his little dog, Snowy. In one of the books, Tintin stumbles upon a diamond smuggling ring operating in the Congo. While there, he meets some of the natives, the Congolese. The Congolese were depicted as dark-skinned, thick-lipped brutes who could not form a proper sentence. When Tintin gave a man medicine, they automatically thought of it as magic and hailed him as a sorcerer. As a child, I honestly did not even understand that they were human. I assumed that the characters were just some brutes living in the forest, without a nation or any sort of government. They were never explicitly stated to be Congolese, but it became obvious through the story.
The reason they were drawn this way was because the author of Tintin, Herge, was very imperialistic. He drew them so ridiculously, that I could not tell that they were supposed to be people, much less representative of a group of people, which I believe Herge was trying to cover up.
In Greek mythology, the king of the gods, Zeus, is constantly cheating on his wife and siring children with other women. In this particular myth, Zeus seduces a young nymph named Io and when his wife, Hera, comes down to Earth because she’s suspicious of his actions, he turns Io into a cow. Hera asks for the cow and keeps her in captivity until she escapes, but Hera sees through it and sends a gladfly to constantly sting her. She is chased into Egypt and turns back into a nymph there.
Zeus is constantly doing these things, but Hera always punishes the girls. The binary here is how men can cheat and get away with it, but women are puns and tools.
The story I read was a short piece from the “Grandfather’s Chair” series. It was called “The Lady Arbella”, which was the first part of his story. The story begins as the children get tired from playing in the sun all afternoon. Tired, they go into the house to find their grandfather (who remains as Grandfather through the story) sitting his special chair. The children were always curious about said chair because of how strange the back was, with intricate designs and patterns. It was also quite old. The youngest child, Alice, asks Grandfather to describe the story behind the chair. He describes how the chair was made about two centuries ago, and how it was passed down to a woman named Lady Arbella, who moved the America with her new husband. He also describes the history behind why Puritans left England and came to America. Lady Arbella came along with her new husband, Mr. Johnson because of the religious freedom, but she missed her old hometown and could not fit in with the laborers and tough men that resided in the colonies. She died soon after she settled down in America. The children were saddened by this.
This piece is meant to be a way to teach children history through a story. It is very different from today’s media, where historical stories are told directly, but usually leaves out gory details that adults deem to be too much for young children. For example, this story can be compared to the Charlie Brown version of Thanksgiving, which also explained why the Puritans came to America. In that version, all the details behind the strife in England was left out and simmered down to “People wanted religious freedom.” It looks like a joyous occasion for the Pilgrims, but it was not. When they got here, many people like Lady Arbella died, but that was also smoothed over in the Charlie Brown version, where they mention people dying, but it is quickly changed into how the Pilgrims met the Native Americans. In short, today’s children’s texts and media does not go into the specifics of death and war like old literature used to.
My classmate, Crystal, talked about how it seems that Alice has dual personalities. She scolds herself when she cries, telling herself that she cannot cry. Many children chastise themselves in order to calm themselves down to mimic an adult scolding them. Having a voice of reason from an adult is usually more comforting. However, in “Little Annie’s Rambles”, the adult is the one talking about himself, as if he too has dual personalities. He describes the situation from a third-person view, as if he was not the one with Annie. Here, Annie is not the one chastising herself for doing something wrong, or talking about the situation as if she were not there. Instead, the man who lures her from her house switches from describing Annie’s interest in the town crier’s announcements, to describing what he and Annie look like walking together from another person’s view. This disrupts Crystal’s binary because not only is the adult the one with the dual personalities, but he is doing the exact opposite of chastising. In fact, he is the one leading her away from her house without telling her mother, which is not something she should do.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Little Annie’s Ramble.” , by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1837, 1851. Twice Told Tales, n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2015.
Harry Potter is a story involving wizards, magical monsters, and a strange secret world where the impossible was possible. As children, we dream of magic in our very ordinary lives. Harry Potter brought all these things to life. They allowed both children and adults to imagine this world involving magical beings and incredible feats right under our very noses. This book uses a child as a site of desire because these fantasies have long since died from the minds of adults. Children can freely connect the real world to the world of magic because of the way the other world is hidden with very simple explanations. Being able to enter another place by jumping through a wall or flying on a broomstick can be explained away with physics, which most adults would do. Children, however, do not understand this concept yet, so the child is the ideal audience for the author.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Summary.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.