Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Harry Potter, the War against Evil, and the Melodramatization of Public Culture: a quote explained in response

Consider this passage from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, second chapter, page 26:

“What have you done to my son?” he said in a menacing growl.
“Nothing,” said Harry, knowing perfectly well that Uncle Vernon
wouldn’t believe him.
“What did he do to you, Diddy?” Aunt Petunia said in a quavering
voice, now sponging sick from the front of Dudley’s leather jacket.
“Was it — was it you-know-what, darling? Did he use — his thing?”
Slowly, tremulously, Dudley nodded.
“I didn’t!” Harry said sharply, as Aunt Petunia let out a wail and
Uncle Vernon raised his fists. “I didn’t do anything to him, it wasn’t
me, it was —”

The Harry Potter series is a mass melodrama, more simple in the first few books but a little more complicated in the last few. Therefore these lines have a little more depth than may appear on the surface, as they relate to melodrama. Having just been assaulted by dementors, an almost unbelievable occurrence, this passage takes place during a frantic time of confusion for Harry. Being at the beginning of the book, Harry is still trying to recuperate from his traumatic experience involving the resurrection of Voldemort, the main antagonist, and watching him kill Cedric at the end of the fourth book. Throughout the book Harry struggles with people not believing that Voldemort is back, even though he saw the whole thing and experienced such deep pain. This is a small scale example of this theme of victimization throughout the book, setting the stage for the feel of the book. The dementors appearing to Harry and Dudley is a very unusual occurrence, just like Voldemort coming back to life. Even though Harry is right about both, no one believes him about either until they receive absolute proof. For the dementors, Dumbledore and a witness stands up for Harry, which is enough to drop his charges but there is still skepticism. With Voldemort, people only believe him at the very end of the book when they literally come face-to-face with him. The sad thing about this novel is that people fight and fight to deny the presence of such an evil, and are even willing to victimize the most good that there is, in this case being Harry. Ironically, it is their confrontation with Voldemort at the end, the unveiling of the true circumstances, that give Harry his validity through their opinion of him, but also it shatters the ignorant world that protected them from the terrifying evil that is Voldemort. The overwhelming fear of this reality shadows the fact that Harry was right all along, making this novel a very bleak outlook on cultural response to real threats and true heroism.

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