Thursday, July 4, 2013

J.K. and the art of the family

I'm on a bit of a break from Harry Potter, to be honest. Not for lack of interest, just too many other projects and priorities getting in the way.

I can't say I'm lamenting having to leave HP on the shelf for a while: it should mean that, when I finally come back to him, I'll be coming to him fresh again.

Of course, the simple fact that I'm not reading Harry right now doesn't mean I'm not thinking about Rowling's world. I have... and I've been having some interesting thoughts.

For example, I've been wondering about J.K. Rowling's relationship to families and her representation of family relationships in her books.

It started when I realised that, despite the fact that we meet and get to know a number of Harry's teachers pretty well in the novels, we never actually meet any of their spouses or partners. In fact, not one of the teachers we know pretty well even has a spouse or partner.

Think about that: Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Sprout, Hagrid, Lupin, Lockhart, Flitwick, Trelawny, Moody, Slughorn, Quirrell, Pomfrey, even Umbridge... they're in live-in positions and yet not one of them is shown with a spouse and not one of them mentions a spouse. Sure, Lupin eventually marries Tonks but, at the time they're teaching, they are single. No matter their age.

So what does that say about Rowling and her thoughts about family and longterm relationships?

Now let's count how many actual couples exist in the books. Yes, we have the Weasleys. And the Durlseys, the Malfoys, the Lestranges, the Grangers, the Longbottoms, and the Potters. Who else? Ted Tonks and his wife. Lupin and Tonks.

How many lead normal lives to natural deaths?

The Potters were killed as a young couple. The Longbottoms were tortured into insanity also as a young couple. Lupin and Tonks die just after having their first child.

And then ask yourself the question: how many of the families in the Harry Potter series have more than one child?

The characters who have no siblings include: Harry, Dudley, Hermione, Neville, Voldemort, Draco, Hagrid, Luna. The only multi-children family we see are the Weasleys, the Blacks, the Dumbledores, the Creeveys and the Patil twins. Oh, and Lily and Petunia.

Do you not think of this as strange? Do you not wonder about Rowling and her attitudes toward families based on this incredible under-representation of even moderately normal families in her books?

The average family in the magical world of Harry Potter is a single parent, single child family. Of the five main child characters in the novels (Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and Voldemort), three are parentless, one abandons her parents to join the magical world and the fifth is Ron of the massive family.

I don't really know what this all says about J.K. but I just find it strange. And telling. What do you think?