Author Archives: lfalkens

“It is our choices, that show what we truly are.”

To a great extent, J.K. Rowling attempts to show the injustice of classifying people by social and racial prejudices. She has the wise and all-knowing character, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, scold those who show prejudices against other wizards and creatures, as well as those who show hatred toward Muggles. In contrast, Voldemort, the antagonist, and his followers, despise Muggles and any other person or creatures that are not wizards like themselves. However, despite all of this work to show the unfairness of holding prejudices based on race or social class, some prejudices appear unintentionally throughout Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Rowling has the main characters confront many common prejudices in the Wizarding world, some that many people make in the real world. One such prejudice, is the way students from the Slytherin house, lead mainly by Draco Malfoy, treat their new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. The Slytherins judge and mock Professor Lupin by how much money he has, a common social prejudice in our world today, saying ‘“Look at the state of his robes…he dresses like our old house-elf”’(141). The story continues that nobody else cares about Lupin’s poverty, as he is such a good teacher. As Slytherins are often characterized as being the villains and poor decision makers, Rowling has thus shown young readers not to form prejudices against those who may fall into a different social class as their own. Rowling also addresses this prejudice many times throughout the series with poverty of the Weasley family, showing their happiness and unity despite having to buy second-hand robes and books.

Despite these large efforts show the injustice of stereotypes and prejudices against those, who may not be like you, Rowling creates an unintentional bias against Muggles. Among other things, wizards often view Muggles as dimwitted, as Stan Shunpike, conductor of the Knight Bus points out saying they ‘“Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’”’(36). Muggles appear too foolish to the wizard world to notice a large double-decker bus speeding down the street. This prejudice is exemplified further by Harry’s own bias against the Muggle world from his miserable childhood. At the beginning of the novel, Harry is intent on leaving and getting as far away from his Muggle family as possible, shown by his running away from home saying “I’m going…I’ve had enough”(30). Harry’s longing to be back in a world with other wizards, creates a prejudice in readers against living in a world without magic.

Rowling’s attempt to break old prejudices is strong effort and effective. It will undoubtedly send the message that judging others by their class or heritage is wrong. Nonetheless readers are consistently reminded throughout this book and the entire series how superior wizards and witches are when compared to Muggles. Thankfully this is not a prejudice that corresponds to groups in our world, so no harm may come of it.

 

What’s in a name?

A name is an important identifier for a person, not only in “The Wizard of Earthsea”, but in the real world as well. It is a way to identify people around you and is a representation in words of who you are. The importance of a name in the real world is revealed by how people tend to have negative or positive reactions to names, based on previous experiences with people who had these names. In “The Wizard of Earthsea” names not only hold a representation of a person, as in our world, but also hold their hidden identity and reveal their inner self.

It is evident fairly early in the novel how important the name is to each individual person in the world where Ged lives. Ged participates in naming ceremony on his thirteenth birthday, where he walks naked “into the cold springs of the Ar where it rises among rocks under the high cliffs”, and receives the name Ged from Ogion (16). Ged’s name is so vital to his identity that only he and Ogion know it at first. His former name, Duny, given to him by his mother as a baby, is carelessly thrown away with little importance.

Although this change in name appears meaningless, even silly at first, it gradually becomes clearer that in Ged’s society, your name is one of your best kept secrets. When Vetch leaves the school for wizards and tells Ged farewell, Vetch reveals his true name, Estarriol. Ged is shocked by this action, as a true name is something “he may choose at length to tell it to his brother, or his wife, or his friend, yet even those few will never use it where any third person may hear it”(75). In Ged’s world, only your closest friends know your true name, and Ged and Vetch sharing their names with one another is symbolic of the strength of their friendship. For them, knowing a name is not something trivial that you can easily look up in the phonebook, but an honor.

However in the same way, a person discovering a name sooner than desired, is dishonoring to the individual whose name was revealed. As revealed when Ged encounters the dragon, Yevaud. “At the sound of [the name], the old dragon held still, utterly still”(99). The dragon is deeply upset that Ged knows his name and suddenly does not wish to fight Ged any longer or play with his mind. Name proves to be Ged’s secret weapon in this case, by humiliating the dragon. The dragon is ashamed that he has failed to protect his secret identity and loses all will to fight.

So be aware next time you tell someone your name that you are in saying those two syllables giving away a part of your true identity.

 

Passive or Active? DECIDE!

“Alice in Wonderland” begins with young Alice becoming bored, as children typically do when forced to sit, unentertained for too long. It is her curiosity and boredom that land her in wonderland. She plays both active and passive roles in the story and does not follow a distinct path from one to the other, but rather floats between the two extremes. Alice learns that there are times to be passive and times to be active, which aides her in becoming wiser and more mature throughout her journey, so that by the end of the story she has evolved from childhood to adulthood.

In the beginning Alice’s role is active, as is typical of most young, inquisitive children wishing to explore the world. She naively jumps down the rabbit-hole after the peculiar rabbit “never once considering how in the world she was to get out again”(Carroll 20). Although she is clearly taking the initiative to drive her story, Alice does not use proper judgment to consider her choice. This same thing is true when she begins eating and drinking objects. She is slightly more cautious when consuming the bottle labeled “DRINK ME” and the glass box labeled “EAT ME” checking for poison. Her priority, however, is to get into the garden and by using careful decision making she realizes, “if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door”(Carroll 25). Her actions lead to her fate and she eventually reaches her destination.

Once in the garden, Alice begins to take a more passive role in the plot. She starts to observe rather than speak for each time she speaks to one of the animals they become offended by something she says, telling a rat she has met about a dog who “kills all the rats”(Carroll 32). Alice quits speaking unless spoken to and allows others to lead her around wonderland. She matures and realizes that it may be best for her to listen to others and not voice her opinion, especially after meeting the murderous Queen of Hearts.

In time though, the passive role does not seem to appeal to Alice, who becomes frustrated with people telling her what to do. During the trial over whether knave stole the tart, Alice outwardly refuses to obey the queen, declaring ‘“I won’t!”’ in front of the entire court (Carroll 116). Throughout her journey Alice has developed from the nosy, outspoken child to a young girl, who is mature enough to understand when it is proper to speak or not. Alice wisely chooses her role in the plot at the end of the tale. She shows that the strong heroine is not the one who is more active or more passive in the story, but rather the one who knows which role enables her success.

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ; &, Through the Looking-glass. New York: Signet Classic, 2000. Print.

The Use of Magical Animals in versions of Cinderella

Though they are not the most sensational animals in real life, donkeys, cows, and doves prove to be spectacular in each of the three distinct versions of Cinderella. In each of the stories the animals act as the magical aspect of this particular fairy tale. These animals assist the hero/heroine greatly in his/her journey from rags to riches, by supplying the hero with food, assistance, or a disguise.  

In the Grimms’ version of the story the little white doves come to Cinderella’s aide, since she had planted the tree they live in and watered it with her tears.  These white doves become Cinderella’s only friends, as it appears no human in her house is willing to show her kindness.  This friendship blossomed as “three times a day, Cinderella went and sat under [the tree], and wept and prayed” (118).  After years of their friendship growing, naturally the doves would come to her assistance whenever she wanted to go to the festival.

This idea of friendship that only animals are willing to give appears as well in “The Story of Black Cow” between the little boy and the black cow. The continuously meet daily and grew a bond, that the little boy, unfortunately, could not gain from the other humans in his life, just as Cinderella and the doves. With the help of the black cow and a snake, the little boy is “clothed in gold from head to foot”(Perrault 126) and his body shines like gold. Without their help the little boy would never have married the princess and completed his transformation from near starving to death and holding “a great feast for many days”(Perrault 127).

Although “Donkeyskin” deviates from the traditional path that the other two stories follow in how they use magical animals, Master Donkey does, undoubtedly, help Donkeyskin escape from her miserable life with her father by his death stalling the marriage and then his skin providing the disguise for Donkeyskin to run away. This is once again crucial to Donkeyskin eventually living happily ever after with the prince, but the Donkeyskin does not need to befriend the donkey as she has the support from her godmother in this version. However, the skin of Master Donkey is the only thing that Donkeyskin owns while she works as a scullery maid and she forms such close bond to the skin that it eventually becomes the name everyone calls her.

The magic of the animals is not that they are intelligent enough to understand Cinderella pain or understand that the little boy was starving or that they excrete gold, but rather that their near human characteristics allow the hero/heroine to gain a friend in a world that appears to be against them. This friendship is what helps the hero/heroine gain the courage to go out and follow their dreams, though their magical abilities did benefit the hero/heroine quite a bit as well.

 

Works Cited

Tatar, Maria, ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1999. Print.