Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Harry Potter and Melodrama

All quotes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 4
Examples of melodrama are found even very early in the Harry Potter series. For instance, when Hagrid breaks into Uncle Vernon’s house with his “fierce, wild, shadowy face” and after terrifying everyone with his looks and manners gives Harry a slightly squashed box in which there was a “sticky chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Harry written on it.” This irony used by Rowling makes the reader get connected to Hagrid’s character at an emotional level and see beyond his looks or violent behavior and see him as a “good” characters. This is an example of “justification of violence” where “torture can be “good” when employed against “evil” people” (Bousquet, 178). This stirs up the melodramatic idea in the reader that you are either with us—in this case Harry—or you are against us—the Dursleys.

Moreover, as another example we can look at the time when Harry realizes where his mark is from when Hagrid says “That was no ordinary cut. That’s what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh—took care of yer mum an’ dad an’ yer house, even—but it didn’t work on you, an’ that’s why yer famous, Harry.” This quote by Hagrid foreshadows many things in the story. First of all it points at the fact that Harry has a mysterious past which will be revealed by the end of the story, a characteristic of a melodramatic story where “the action ends when the mystery is dispelled and/or the misunderstood hero’s always-extant goodness is at last recognized” (179). Moreover the mentioned quote builds an assumption in the readers’ mind that Harry’s character is “good” versus Voldemort’s character which is “evil” without actually paying attention to their real personalities—considering that there might be good or evil features in both characters. This quote exemplifies the fact that “both producers and consumers of melodrama are in the habit of making the language of black and white signify in every shade of gray” which means that one can be either good or bad refusing the presence of a middle ground. These words, coming from a character who is—at this point—considered to be “good,” astutely establish the idea of “good vs. evil” in the mind of the reader. 

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