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Queer Essay on Harry Potter

In: English and Literature

Submitted By hollieasp
Words 1868
Pages 8
Queer Essay
On Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone
A queer reading of Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone can bring up many questions of what is classed as normal. It also can show how a subculture within that society is regarded as abnormal. It can suggest that the everyday world in this novel is queer compared to the wizard world which is seen as the norm.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the closet suggests that queer reading should not be from the readers own sexuality in mind, but an openness to the queer context, connections and potentials already available within the text.

Bennett and Royle suggest that “some of the strangeness or uncanniness, some of the power and fascination of literary texts, that is to say has to do with the singular space which they offer for thinking differently about gender and sexuality”

As Harry potter is a young adults novel that is stable for a queer reading as it traditional is a none sexual fantasy novel. Harry Potter is seen as a world parallel to our own where it has differences in people and their cultures. However no where in the novel does it mention anything about homosexuality, gender role bending, or same sex relationships.

Every relationship that forms is with a character from the opposite sex and the family is mostly typical nuclear form of the mother staying at home while the father goes to work. There is no mention of a gay, lesbian or transgender character mentioned in the story. If the novel is meant to be a mirror image of our real world then there should be the existence of queer people.

One way why Harry Potter could be seen as a queer text is that the wizarding world is hidden away from the normal world of muggle’s, they have their own society and culture that is separate from the normal world. They prefer to remain in hiding to avoid conflict with muggle’s. Although when muggle's do find out about the wizard community they react in different ways as Harry’s aunt and uncle know about magic for years due to petunia’s sister. She says that “I was the only one who saw her for what she was a freak! But for my mother and father they were proud of having a witch in the family”. This disgust of magic can be from jealousy of her more talented and more admired sister. Uncle Vernon is concerned with straight social approval from society and other family members. Whereas Hermione’s parents were more understanding and accepting of her going to Hogwarts and being a witch.

While Rowling adapted many elements of a school story to the novel she also changed it slightly to fit a more modern audience, however she kept one old-fashioned element which is clear gender role delineation. The wizarding world still has fixed, narrow depictions of sexes as even though Harry is the main character in the novel there is a lack of women that exist in Harry’s world. Just like in reality and the wizard world women are seen to hold secondary roles to men. At the very start of the novel it is said that Hogwarts was established on an equal partnership between two witches and two wizards. However the two witches houses; Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are seen as less important houses within the novel and therefore seen as secondary to the two wizards houses of Gryffindor and Slytherin. However the novel could be shown as not being sexist as there are witches who are teachers and heads of the houses which suggests that women are just as equal to men within the Hogwarts system.

The “wizard world” in Harry Potter is seen as a separate community away from others and true wizards are the only ones involved. This could also be linked with the gay community as Susan Sontag a early maker of queer thinking said “Camp is something of a private code, a badge of identity even” By doing this it suggests that the reader who is seen as a muggle as incapable of existing in the mainstream world of a wizard.

It is also like some wizards are distancing themselves from others as the Weasley family have chosen to live in just the wizard world and be part of that culture and community. Arthur Weasley is said to work in the Ministry of magic which shows how they want to stay part of the wizard community and away from muggle’s. The wiziarding world keeps muggle's up to date with information sometimes but it is possible that muggle’s are seen as outsiders, people who do not fully know what is really happening in their world and the wizard world.

Within the wizard community there are subgroups of half giants, werewolf's and death eaters who are forced to identify themselves as others which shows that even groups in the wizard world are pushed out of the culture and forced to have their own subculture. This links into what homosexual people might feel like in reality.

Critics say that The Philosophers stone can be seen as a “coming out tale”. While living at the Dursley’s Harry is made to live in a closet under the stairs and the connection between this and homosexuality is that they remain in the “closet” till they revel their sexual orientation. Its suggests a place where it is hidden and unwanted in the culture that he is in conflict with. The Dursley’s are seen as the homophobic society where Harry is feared for being different from them and is seen as the homosexual individual in the Dursley’s life.

Even though Harry is surround by a hetero- normative culture he does see his real world around him “Sometimes he thought or maybe hoped that strangers in the street seemed to know him. Very strange strangers they were too. A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowed to him once while out shopping”. Bronski suggests that the colour violet that Harry kept seeing is associated with homosexuality and supports the argument that the wizarding world represents the gay community. When Hagrid arrives to take Harry to Hogwarts only then is he allowed to find out who he truly is and therefore comes out of the “closet” to carry out his life as a wizard at Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. He is a celebrity said by Professor Snape which could suggest queer in a queer world.

From hiding in a closet to coming out Harry Potter is seen to make very close intense homosocial bonds with men, showing a display of sameness and a search for his identity. This can be seen to help him win the fight in the end to Voldemort as he needs to defeat him on similarities.

Even though J.K Rowling has never said that the novel has any connections to a gay allegory there shows that some things that happen to Harry through out the story links up to being gay or being part of the gay culture and community. The way that Harry is bullied and teased by Malfoy through out the entire novel suggests the way the gay community can be treated the same way by people. The way Harry is treated by Malfoy as someone different to him suggests that he is an outsider due to not knowing about magic and Hogwarts before attending.
Another suggestion is that Harry’s main relationships and most important ones are with other males, either as just a friend or as antagonist. His future at Hogwarts and becoming a hero within the novel depends on the sacrifice, help and guidance from them and the testing of his enemies.

The character of Hagrid is seen to challenge gender stereotypes within the novel through his appearance and his behaviours. His appearance shows a very masculine man as he is rather large, has a loud voice and has a very large beard with long dark hair, however his personality is very different he is warm and sensitive as he cry when giving Harry away to the Dursley’s. In the novel he comes to collect Harry on his eleventh birthday he brings a cake which is decorated in pink icing and uses a pink umbrella to cast magic spells. The connotation with the colour pink is usually linked with femininity and this may not fit in with Hagrid’s appearance. Hagrid’s character continues to show this divide in gender stereotypes as when he hatches a dragons egg named Norbert he tells Harry and friends that “he knows his mummy” He continues to tell the dragon he's his mother further on in the novel too. It seems that Rowling is portraying Hagrid as a gentle giant type maybe trying to invoke comedy seeing as the femininity and masculinity personality types clash.

The character of Professor Quirrell in the first novel could be seen as a queer reading. This could be due to the fact that he is seen to be hiding something which later in the novel is relieved as Voldemort’s face on the back of professor Quirrell’s head. The connotation of hiding something or pretending to be someone else as we see from Quirrell’s character in the novel can be seen as queer. Homosexuals may hide their true identity about being gay from their family and friends and pretend to be someone else and someone there not to hide their true selves. Professor Quirrell is also seen as a camp or queer character through the novel as he was very excited the first time he met Harry Potter in the leaky cauldron and rushed over to be the first to shake his hand and continued to want to talk and met him.

Queerness in Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone is all from identity politics. As there are normal people and the ones who seem to be outsiders who are never told the whole story due to their fear of oppression and exploration. The wizard’s are numerically inferior but have the power and knowledge that muggle’s do not have.

Another point to make is that the Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone may be seen as a queer reading in one way but also may reflect a different reading in another way. It could be that the novel is about a straight white male written by a straight white female. J.K Rowling had to write in a traditional format which is why all Harry’s central relationships are based on males. As Harry is seen as the narrator as it is from his point of view he could be classed as female in a males body due the the authors gender identity thus un- queering the text. The real queering of the novel is reading the character of Harry Potter as a female instead of a male.
Bibliography

http://www.compsoc.man.ac.uk/~heather/univ/thesis/essay.html http://alyssalunzvxkn.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/final-paper-queer-theory-and-harry-potter/ http://journals.english.ucsb.edu/index.php/Emergence/article/view/33/120
Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, J.K Rowling, 1997
Literature criticism and theory, Andrew bennett and Nicholas Royle, 2009…...

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