Why Open with the Dursleys?

Discussion in 'J K Rowling' started by Cli-Fi, May 22, 2015.

  1. Ray McCarthy

    Ray McCarthy Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.

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    I thought they ate that one, so didn't do the same.
    Anyway, it's not the Dursleys that are the problem, but how Rowlings developed the story after Harry went to Hogwarts the first time. What any other fictional family might hypothetically do isn't relevant. There wasn't any need to repeat the Dursley experience in the later books.
     
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  2. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    That would, obviously, be going too far. But children who were already disinclined to speak to adults about their problems might be further discouraged. At least to the same extent as children would be affected by all the good values the books supposedly promote.

    I wonder (and I really do wonder, because I don't have a clue) whether the books would have had the same kind of appeal if Harry came from a family of good people who were simply bewildered by a boy with his gifts. I think it could have been funny, given the right treatment. A sweet, clueless family, caught up in all kinds of magical happenings.
     
  3. Ray McCarthy

    Ray McCarthy Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.

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    Hermione's Family?
     
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  4. AnyaKimlin

    AnyaKimlin Confuddled

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    But that is an experience that has happened to many young people. And the reverse has happened - appalling "help" has been foisted on children who don't want it or need it.

    I don't see anything wrong with children who are being let down by adults having a representation and hope in book form.
     
  5. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    If the story offered hope by the end of the first book, then I would agree with you. But what it says instead is that there is no hope. That the kindest adults in your life, the ones with the most authority and influence, can't or won't do anything.
     
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  6. AnyaKimlin

    AnyaKimlin Confuddled

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    That is often the case though. Harry was getting to escape at school time and they were watching over him in the meantime.

    There are a lot of things children go through which cannot be cured or fixed but their situation can be improved a bit.
     
  7. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Of course it is often the situation; we are agreed about that. Our disagreement is whether the book offers hope or the reverse.

    It's not a realistic book, not in any way. I imagine that children reading the book see it as life the way they wish it was: all the magic, wonder, and terror, and dangers through which the main characters pass unscathed. But even in this fantastic world where children escape from incredible dangers, in the first book there is no escape from abuse at home. It's a book where they are being encouraged to dream of all sorts of impossible and amazing things, yet they are not being encouraged to dream of finding a way out of that. I think it is a significant omission.

    But as I said, I don't like the Dursleys anyway. I find them cartoonish and even for such a fantastical world improbable. (So that probably colors my opinion of anything they add to the book story-wise.) But possibly they do resemble the hobgoblins that abused children dream about.
     
  8. hopewrites

    hopewrites Believe in your youness

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    I think the reason we go back to the Dursleys is to show that that other reality is always there waiting.

    @Teresa Edgerton the above made me think about the repeated return to the Dursleys home; which I think comes to the forefront of your argument against continuing abuse. Which made me think immediately of
    Mrs Figg, who watches over Harry while living with his muggle family. She goes out of her way to make his visits with her less than pleasant (not unpleasant though) because she knows it will please the Dursleys to have Harry return to them dispirited and not wanting to visit her in future. Thereby assuring that she is his sitter whenever they wish to leave him behind.
    can it be argued then that this person condones the Dursleys' treatment of Harry? Or, being a squib, is able to understand their feelings about the wizarding world better than another wizard might?

    We see later in the series how squibs are treated by their wizarding families, so it would seem that this person's sympathies would be with Harry rather than the Dursleys. Except that squibs must make their living in the muggle world rather than the one they grew up in. The opposite situation of a witch or wizard coming from a muggle family into the world of magic.

    Dumbledore has Harry watched all his life. He admits
    that he regretted the treatment he recieved at the hands of the Dursleys but assumed it was better than allowing Lilly's sacrifice to go to waiste by not keeping Harry in her family (thus preserving her charm of protection). He never says that he went looking for other members of her family; parents, cousins, uncles or aunts who could take custody over Harry. Maybe he did and their weren't any. Maybe he didnt hoping his hardships would strengthen him rather than crush his spirit.

    Judging from my experience of the world 95% of the time, children taken from abusive or neglectful homes end up somewhere that is just as bad, if not worse. The other 5% are the ones who went to loving grandparents or aunts/uncles who help them understand that it's still ok to love the parents who were unable to take proper care of them. Who help them through the anger at their treatment to forgiveness so that their hearts are lighter and they are able to build good lives for themselves and later on their children.
     
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  9. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 20 Warlord!

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    Hey Hopewrites, in her expansions on what happened to who beyond the books on places like Pottermore, JK does mention Dudley post Deathly Hallows. Harry as an adult will sometimes visit Dudley, they don't speak much, harry's kids hate going there, but it is clear that despite everything, Harry does care about Dudders. That's kind of the whole point to Harry's characters though imho and the reason every book returns to Privet Drive.

    And as Dumbledore once said - given his awful upbringing, the awful people he continues to have to live with in holiday time, it really is extraordinary what a decent, loving boy and later man, he turned out to be. The Dursley's are there to show us what Harry could have been. Imagine if he had indeed grown up in the magic world, feted as a hero, treated almost as a Prince, he may well at 11 have been a very arrogant, privilaged and unpleasant young man, someone very much like Draco in fact.

    I suspect that for the love protection to work it had to be wherever Petunia calls homes, there are distant relations of Harry in the Magic world, there could well be in the Muggle world, but Petunia was Lilly's Sister, and that was clearly the closest relation by blood harry had.

    And the thing is, at the end of the day, Harry did get a version of a loving, caring home, to help with that anger. At the age of 11 he went to Hogwarts, made his first friends, found his first true Home, and came under the care of adults of genuinely cared, and certainly in Dumbledore and Hagrid's case loved him.

    For me one of the most moving and "something in my eye" scenes in the entire set of films is in Philosophers Stone, Harry on his first night, everyone asleep, and he is sat in the window, stroking Hedwig, there is just something wonderful about the scene, Harry is Home at last.
     
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  10. JoanDrake

    JoanDrake Well-Known Member

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    Could that be why it's often called Magical Realism instead of Fantasy? Most of the time children cannot escape abusive environments. That's certainly not right and hopefully it is changing but I think it remains the way things are, and in that sense, which is very important because it show's Harry's "real" situation in life, it is a realistic book
     
  11. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Well, I wouldn't agree that it was Magical Realism in any sense of the term. And Fantasy is filled with young characters who start out in abusive homes, so if something like that were the criteria a large chunk of Fantasy (and hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional folk and fairy tales) would become Magical Realism. And the Dursleys are such cartoonish unrealistic characters I wouldn't say that anything they do or say could be called realistic.

    However, whether the book is Magical Realism or not is another subject entirely, and might make an interesting discussion in another thread.

    But I think I've said what I have to say on the subject of the Dursleys and the effect that part of the book could have on young readers -- something that is not mitigated until later in the series. So, yes, wow, a few years later the series that might have discouraged children from talking to their teachers about the abuse gives them hope. That's lovely, but it's the time in between I am thinking about.
     
  12. Ray McCarthy

    Ray McCarthy Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.

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    By who?
    It's nothing like I imagine Magical Realism. First I heard it described as such.

    I think Rowlings made a mistake. Inexperience?
     
  13. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    That may well be so. We'll never know either way unless she brings up the topic and addresses it.
     
  14. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 20 Warlord!

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    Oh, The Durlsey's abuse of Harry had to seem a little cartoonish, because TPS was a novel and film for young teenagers.

    Had the film for example showed even a bit of the sort of terrifying, out of control seriously behaviour that was standard fare from my mother to myself as a young child, even as young as 7, TPS would have given kids nightmares for years, and legions of outraged parents would have beseiged warner brothers.

    Do we really want to see Vernon grab Harry, throw him against the wall, and hold a knife to his throat whilst ranting and spitting in his face?

    Do we want to see harry sat in A&E having his head stitched back together because Petunia lost her temper and smashed a hole into his skull with the stilleto heel of her shoe?

    I certainly prefer harrys suffering of being locked into a cupboard, or making breakfast.
     
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  15. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Absolutely not. I have no idea how you inferred that from anything I said. What I did say is that I didn't like the parts of the book with the Dursleys at all, gave my reasons, and said that I didn't agree that Harry had to continue living with them because that was realistic, because nothing in the books is realistic, certainly not the Dursleys. If those scenes had been more violent, I would think it obvious that my objections (about the powerful and influential adults in Harry's life doing nothing) would be that much stronger.

    But I am done. I have responded to the first post and have several times stated my reasons for my opinion. I don't think that there is any value in saying any of it again. If people weren't arguing with me, I think the thread would already be dead because there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in the topic otherwise.
     
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  16. hopewrites

    hopewrites Believe in your youness

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    I think that people continue to discuses it with you because you hit on the jist of what the Dursleys are in the series.

    The thing that strikes me, is that Vernon and Petunia state that the oppression (cartoonish or not) is intended to remove Harry's magical tendencies. I forget the exact quote but Vernon does say something to the effect to Hagrid when he shows up and discovers that Harry is ignorant of his past. The room under the stairs at my parents place is reasonably large (they use it as a second panty and I've seen it when there's enough food in to feed 4 hungry teenagers, two adults, and 4 dogs without taking up more than half the space in actual food stuffs, and paper products. The other half being canning supplies, camping equipment, suitcases, the like.) and rather spidery when no one goes in for more than a day. ... I'm wandering from the point I was trying to make.

    ANYway. What I'm trying to say is that we see the Dursleys from Harry's POV. Their rules are strict. Their punishments lopsided. Their parenting style favors Dudley and scorns Harry. But most kids view of their parental situation is skewed, so it is done (imo) to make Harry more relatable. Just like those bed time stories about princes and princesses who are switched at birth with peasants and find out later that they are really royalty and it makes them better leaders.

    I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that it has its reasons.
     
  17. Anushka Mokosh

    Anushka Mokosh Matryona Marzanna

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    She starts with the exposition of how the magical world ties in with ours in those little peculiarities that seem so off to us. We see many strange things around us and we just pass them off as just that, peculiarities. People are strange. But Rowling implies to us that those peculiarities are actually slight manifestations of a whole new world she is about to introduce. It works as a set up quite well actually and sets us up for the atmosphere in which Harry, as a magical child, will grow up. In a way, works as fridge horror when you realize Dumbledore could have easily found all of that out since their hatred for all things magical is very pronounced and he hadn't.

    It also works as contrast where the clean cut world of Vernon Dursley is interrupted by magic he can't understand and thus fears.
     
  18. Cli-Fi

    Cli-Fi Well-Known Member

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    Hm that's interesting and sounds like something I would do...
     
  19. Cli-Fi

    Cli-Fi Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you mostly here, except for the fact that I think the Dursleys were so secondary that I put that thought about abuse at the back of my mind as I read it. I made up excuses for them, which thinking about it now, is a HUGE problem for people in a similar situation. The excuses I made were Oh it's only for three months. Oh he visits Ron routinely.

    Although, honestly the secondary Dursleys were so unimportant to me as I read it that I totally forgot about the abuse because the magical world is such a strong and happy place for Harry that he can't be happy all the time. As Harry gained more confidence throughout the series, it became clear to me that the Dursleys became more of a nuisance than anything else to Harry. Until he just up one day and left!
     
  20. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 20 Warlord!

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    Thinking on it, the Dursleys werent so much abusive as neglectful, both are bad, but Vernon and Petunia were never physically violent, it was more that they ignored him, and made him do all the chores. Had they been physically abusive, I dont think there is any way Dumbledore would not have intervened - Harry needs to be there for the protection, but dumbledore was certainly capable of stopping physical abuse - look how Harrys lot in privet drive improved after Arthur, etc warned Vernon off, at Kings Cross. I always thought it was lucky Molly didnt get near him!

    I think Molly is my fave character. I just love the way for 7 books we see this loving, caring mother, always in second hand clothes, or stuff she has knitted herself, cheerful, fiercely protective, yet at the Battle of Hogwarts, it becomes clear that she wasnt in the original Order for nothing - the Molly we get to know, would Dumbledore really allow her in the line of danger, rather than as HQ support? Yet then we see that Molly could have been "someone" it is pretty bloody clear that she is in fact an extraordinary witch. I dont care that Ginny was in danger, so molly lost her temper, After Voldemort, Bella was THE most dangerous and powerful Death Eater, Riddle was not the sort of man to make someone his chief leitenent just because she is sycophantic. And Molly just.... outclassed her from the start.
     
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