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Harry Potter and Sociological Theory

In: Social Issues

Submitted By dearmirahya
Words 3661
Pages 15
Mirahya Barry
December 10, 2014
SOC 405*001
Dr. Hardesty
Harry Potter and the Sociological Theories Harry Potter is best well known as “the boy who lived” – meaning, he was able to survive an attempt to kill him by Lord Voldemort. When he was just an infant, Lord Voldemort murdered his parents, and he was next- but something kept him protected and ultimately brought Voldemort down. Little Harry, sound asleep, is left by Albus Dumbledore at the door of 4 Privet drive to live with his aunt and uncle—two muggles (non-wizarding folk). Speed ahead to nearly 10 years later. Little Harry is now 10 years old, still living with his aunt and uncle, but strange things are starting to happen in his life. On his cousin Dudley’s birthday, he manages to find friendship in a snake, which he wasn’t aware he could talk to until it started to interact with him, which in turn caused his cousin to notice, and then the class just disappears off of the snake’s habitat and lets the snake loose with no explanation. Not long after that, Harry starts to receive unexplained mail which his aunt and uncle do everything in their power to keep away from him; this includes ripping up the letters burning the letters in the fireplace, closing up the letter slot, etc. But, they aren’t able to keep one letter from getting to him. As the Dursleys and Harry have left their home to seek refuge from Harry getting one of these mysterious letters in a shack by the sea, they get a mysterious visitor the night Harry turns 11- Rubeus Hagrid. He informs Harry that he’s a wizard and that he’s been accepted into Hogwarts as a student. Harry doesn’t believe him at first, because he was never informed of anything that had happened to him as a child; his aunt and uncle told him his parents had died in a car accident. Harry isn’t aware just how famous he is within the society of the Wizarding World until he finds out he was the one who had basically finished off “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” a.k.a., Lord Voldemort. From here, Harry is thrust into a world of people who know more about him than he knows about himself. There isn’t really a person within the wizarding world that doesn’t know his name, including his classmates. He’s sorted into one of four houses within Hogwarts that represent his home for the time he’s in school. He makes friends with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, but also makes enemies with some of his classmates such as Draco Malfoy. As his year continues, something strange seems to be going on. On one occasion, when he and some of his classmates are sent out to the Forbidden Forest for a detention, he comes across a shadowy, cloaked figure drinking unicorn blood, which then tries to attack him but disappears as a Centaur comes to Harry’s aid to save him, which in turn gives him the clue that Lord Voldemort may not have been completely destroyed, but waiting to become powerful again. Coincidentally, this is all true, seeing that it was rumored that a legendary object known as the “Sorcerer’s Stone” was hidden in Hogwarts, and it’s precisely what Voldemort was after. Voldemort finally shows his face—using a Hogwarts professor as a Host after Harry manages to find him under Hogwarts and after a long fight, manages to keep him from getting the stone. Once again, we believe that Voldemort is stopped. Things may not always seem as they appear, though. Enter Harry’s second year; he spends part of the summer absolutely miserable at the Dursley’s because he isn’t allowed much freedom to do anything. All his school stuff is locked up in the, and he hasn’t heard from any of his friends all summer. He’s bound to his room during a dinner party his uncle is hosting – only to come across a house-elf with a warning for him to not return to Hogwarts. After not heeding the warning of the house-elf, and an incident at the dinner part, Harry’s freedom is completely taken away until his friend Ron and his brothers come to “save” him, and take him to their home for the remainder of the summer. As school starts back up, Harry and Ron find themselves in a predicament when they aren’t able to get through the barrier to the Hogwarts Express, so instead they take Ron’s father’s flying car to school instead, which ends up getting them into a lot of trouble, and ultimately causing damage to a tree on the school grounds which lands both boys detentions.
Strange things start to happen at Hogwarts again; except this time they’re in the form of petrified individuals. Several warning messages written in blood by a girl’s bathroom are left for the students and professors at Hogwarts, saying that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. During this time, Harry has been hearing odd voices throughout the castle, and doesn’t equate it to being a snake until Hermione find a page about a creature called a Basilisk before she’s petrified. Harry and Ron uncover all this thanks to the help of a spider, and Harry discovers that in order to save Hogwarts from the same fate that it almost had 50 years prior, that he would have to go down into the Chamber and defeat the basilisk so he does just that. He discovers that Ron’s sister, Ginny, had been confiding in a spirit attached to a diary that she’d acquired due to sneaky handiwork from Lucius Malfoy. From confiding in the journal, the spirit of the journal was able to get stronger. Turns out that the spirit within the diary was that of Tom Marvolo Riddle, which is the birth given name to Lord Voldemort. Tom/ Voldemort is also the true heir of Slytherin, who is the only other person other than Salazar Slytherin whom can control the Basilisk within the Chamber. After a fight with both Tom/ Voldemort and the basilisk, Harry ultimately defeats both, using the sword of Gryffindor and then a basilisk fang, which is deadly due to the poisonous basilisk venom. He stabs the diary, which causes the spirit within it to be destroyed, thus peace for the time being once again.
In Harry’s third year, a rather infamous prisoner escapes from Azkaban, named Sirius Black. It’s believed that Sirius, whom is Harry’s Godfather, as well as the person whom is believed to have been the one who lead Voldemort of the death of Harry’s parents. Harry is warned to not go looking for Sirius due to this fact, still unaware that Sirius is his godfather. A new Defense against the dark arts teacher is brought to Hogwarts, only for Harry to find out was one of his father’s best friends when he was at Hogwarts as a student, Professor Lupin. Harry learns a lot from Lupin, including how to fight a Dementor, after a rather embarrassing experience with one on the train to Hogwarts right before the start of the term.
As the school year progresses, Harry comes to find out that Sirius is his godfather, and vows to kill him because he believes that he was the one who betrayed his parents. He comes to find out that it wasn’t in fact Sirius, but it was another friend of the Potters: Peter Pettigrew whom had taken the form of Ron’s rat, Scabbers, for many years. Peter manages to escape to return to what’s left of Lord Voldemort and Harry goes back in time to keep Sirius from getting put back into Azkaban after finding out the truth.
Harry’s fourth year tends to be a rather important one. During the Quidditch world cup, Voldemort’s followers, known as Death Eaters, pose a scene, including bringing out the Dark Mark, a symbol of their power of bringing fear into the Wizarding community. This doesn’t stop the Ministry of Magic from bringing back an event that had been stopped in the past called the Triwizard Tournament. This is tournament that brings different schools together, and one student is chosen to represent their school in this tournament. Of course, with Harry’s luck, he is chosen for this tournament even though he is underage and still has to compete.
What makes this year particularly important is that while the tournament is going on, Lord Voldemort has a death eater working within the school using a polyjuice potion. As the tournament comes to a close, and the final task is about to end, Harry and a fellow challenger are sent to another place via Portkey. They’re taken to a graveyard, where a ritual to bring Voldemort to a human form is going on. After being brought back to a human form, Voldemort and Harry duel each other, which ends in a draw, and Harry makes it back to Hogwarts, with a message that Voldemort has returned back to a human form.
Harry’s fifth year starts with a Dementor attack on he and his cousin—and a trial before the ministry because of the “illegal” use of a spell outside of school underage and in front of a muggle. His trial is far more criminal-like than it should have been, due to the circumstances of a slowly corrupting ministry, and a minister of magic not in their right mind due to fear of unrest within the wizarding community due to the “rumors” of Voldemort’s return. Harry and Dumbledore are both slandered by the media within the wizarding world, and at the same time the Order of the Phoenix is reformed, to try and bring down the death eaters and Voldemort. Except, there is one person playing both sides; Professor Snape is a former death eater, and also a spy for the Order whom isn’t very trusted by some members of the Order.
Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, other rather important things are starting to happen. The Ministry is trying to farther keep control over Dumbledore, so a ministry official, Delores Umbridge, is now appointed as the defense against the dark arts teacher at Hogwarts and she plans to keep her curriculum as “ministry approved” and not at all hands-on as possible unlike previous instruction in the course has been. When confronted by this, and asked why none of the students would be learning how to use magic in situations where their lives could depend on it, Umbridge doesn’t give much of a reason, but does tell Harry that he is lying, and gives him a detention for interrupting class, that consists of him writing lines with a quill that etches “I must not tell lies” onto the back of his hand as a scar. As this year progresses, Umbridge gets more and more power over Hogwarts, and in secret some of the students, naming themselves “Dumbledore’s Army” are learning how to properly defend themselves with Harry acting as teacher, due to the amount of experience he already had against Voldemort. Harry has a dream, which turns out to be a vision of Mr. Weasley getting attacked while on guard of something within the ministry of magic. Harry is seeing into Voldemort’s mind due to a link between the two, and immediately Dumbledore decides to try and combat it by having Professor Snape teach Harry Occulmency lessons to keep his mind closed from Voldemort, which doesn’t turn out so well.
Things take a turn for the worst when Dumbledore’s Army is caught under Umbridge’s strict rules, and Dumbledore himself disappears instead of facing a trial and giving Umbridge the authority over Hogwarts for a short period of time, where she restricts everything. Harry has a vision at the end of term, of Voldemort taking Sirius as a prisoner, and acts upon it to get to the ministry and fight yet another duel with Voldemort, only to find out the vision was fake and just a trap to lure him there. A duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort ensues after Harry is unable to, and by the end of the duel, the Ministry knows for a fact that Voldemort is indeed back.
In Harry’s sixth year, he’s greeted by going with Dumbledore to retrieve an old colleague to come back to Hogwarts. Except, this time around something is different about Dumbledore; his hand is blackened. Snape also makes an unbreakable vow with Draco Malfoy’s mother to protect him, seeing Lord Voldemort has given Draco the task of killing Dumbledore. Throughout the movie, Harry is given the task of retrieving an important memory from Professor Slughorn. As well as meeting with Dumbledore to see memories that Dumbledore has of Voldemort.
Multiple attempts are made to kill Dumbledore, but none of them tend to reach him, and end up backfiring onto others. After a brief adventure into a cave after retrieving the true memory from Professor Slughorn, Harry witnesses the death of Professor Dumbledore, but not at the hands of Draco, instead it was at the hands of Professor Snape. Here we learn that Voldemort has separated his soul into 7 horcruxes, or objects that pieces of his soul have been sealed into.
In what is supposed to be Harry’s seventh and final year at Hogwarts, Harry decides that he needs to go in search of the remaining Horcruxes. Joining his search are his best friends, Hermione and Ron, and this search leads them everywhere after the fall of the ministry and the corruption of the ministry and Hogwarts. With Dumbledore dead, Voldemort no longer has anyone to fear and can use his power as he sees fit, and does just that, which puts the wizarding world into a panic. After finding all the Horcruxes and destroying all but three of them, Harry discovers he possesses two of the three pieces of the Deathly Hallows—objects that were only heard of in stories. Harry discovers that he himself is a horcrux, because it was prophesized that “neither can live while the other survives”. Harry uses the resurrection stone on himself, which destroys himself as a horcrux, and leaves only one, which would be Voldemort’s pet snake, which then itself is killed during the Battle of Hogwarts, which ends in happy times, because Harry defeats and finally destroys Voldemort.
Karl Marx is one of the most well known theorists for his work in explaining social inequality among classes. He focuses mostly on capitalism, but his theories go more in depth into how the economy plays into this inequality. Within Harry Potter, not much is based on economic standpoints. Everything is more based on power and status in examples of muggleborns and purebloods. An example of this is displayed when the word “Mudblood” is used; the word has a very negative connotation, because those purebloods who find themselves on the very top of society, such as the Malfoy family believe that the worst that someone can be is someone born into a family line that doesn’t consist of any magical blood. Reasoning for this could be because in the wizarding society, the wand is a symbol of power and status, although some have more than others. Using this term as some purebloods do just further empowers their place in the status quo and gives them more power and influence. It makes muggleborns seem as if they own less, because their blood isn’t a part of a magical line. This makes most of the purebloods the bourgeoisie class, and the muggles/ muggleborns the proletariat class, but doesn’t mention anything of those whom are born of a half-blood status. The saying “Magic is Might” also shows this perpetuation of the class inequality that exists between the muggles/ muggleborns and the purebloods. The muggleborns still support those above them, as if obvious because they don’t try to revolt against the many regulations put on them by the ministry of magic.
Those that are muggleborn are also alienated from society when the death eaters corrupt the ministry. Not only are these muggleborn already struggling to find opportunities in the wizarding world to be part of the society they were thrown into, but when the “Muggleborn Registration Commission” is formed, these muggles are made out to be the lowest of low in class, and are stripped of their wands in most cases, because Umbridge accuses these muggleborns of stealing their wands form a pureblood wizard or witch. Essentially those that are muggleborn pose a danger to the “pureblood” society.
Furthermore, the Harry Potter shows that choice is actually an illusion. From the time he was born, it was prophesized that Harry was to have something to do with Lord Voldemort. That was only proven when Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. After Dumbledore’s death, Harry feels as if he has no choice but to finish the tasks that Dumbledore left for him, which was destroying the seven Horcruxes that Voldemort had created. It is obvious that Harry is supposed to do these things to show how much power Voldemort has to the brainwashed wizarding community; which is quite obvious, because Voldemort has found ways to corrupt both the Ministry and Hogwarts before the Battle of Hogwarts. This could essentially make Harry and those that follow behind him the contradictions in society, because they choose to fight against Voldemort and his death eaters to make a change in their world.
Another theory that seemed quite obvious within Harry Potter was the use of symbolic interactionism based on the work of Mead, Blumer, and Goffman. Mead believed that the mind wasn’t passive and was very active with its environment and that we develop through interactions with our environment. Mead also believed in the “I” and the “me”, meaning our impulsive side, and our controlled side, and the looking glass self—meaning we base our own self on reactions of others. Blumer worked off and developed Mead’s work furthering the importance of interpretation.
In terms of Mead and Blumer, Harry had always thought of himself as not much of anything. When he was first told he was a wizard, he didn’t think it was possible because he wasn’t ever seen as anything special because from an early age, because that’s how the Dursleys had taught him. Compared to nearly everyone else, he was second rate and he was constantly reminded of it when he was mistreated compared to his cousin Dudley. So, when Harry starts school at Hogwarts, the amount of fame and recognition he has because of just his name isn’t something he’s used to. Being known as “the boy who lived” showed his fame, and it takes a while for him to accept that.
Also pulling off of Mead, Harry’s “I” and “Me” are quite obvious. His “I” is the impulsive side of him that comes out in almost every situation that poses a threat to him or someone else, especially when Voldemort is involved. Harry essentially uses his “I” to survive, because compared to using his “Me”, he’d be in a lot of trouble. Harry’s “Me”, on the other hand, starts out to be extremely unsure of himself and very shy and awkward, although later as the series progresses he tends to change his “me” and he becomes more assertive, and can see right from wrong much better, and can discern the greater good compared to what his “me” was like in the past.
Pulling off of what Blumer developed from Mead’s work, some names within the wizarding world have different meanings, and not always in a good way. Lord Voldemort’s name for example. Most of the wizarding world is too scared to say his name, so they refer to him “he-who-must-not-be-named” because the name “Lord Voldemort” strikes fear into those who utter it, with the exception of Harry and Dumbledore, because Dumbledore makes the statement “fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself”. This seems to reign true throughout the entire series. There’s also Harry, whom is referred to as “the boy who lived”; although this isn’t negative, it seems to be the only other way that people identify Harry other than his scar early on.
Goffman, who focused mostly more on the actor and how their roles are portrayed to others, shows how impressions can be everything, and the perfect character throughout the series to show this can most likely be Professor Umbridge. When we meet Professor Umbridge, she’s clean, neat and organized. Very rarely do we see this change, and in the instances it does, she immediately tries to regain control. In the scene in class where Harry confronts her about not using magic spells, she loses her cool, but immediately regains control, as to try and not show the backstage because she utters the phrase “I will have order” and gives Harry detention for throwing her off and exposing her backstage when she gets angry. Her backstage starts to show again when she starts to lose control over the Hogwarts environment when Fred and George set off fireworks in the Great Hall, and from there on, she’s essentially exposed everything about her backstage, because she doesn’t really regain her control after this incident; she just keeps losing control because she’s brought to Grawp in the Forbidden forest, and then taken by Centaurs.
It seems as if either theory could be applied to the Harry Potter series. Although the Marxist theory doesn’t really take into account economics, because economics weren’t really that approached much in the series, it can heavily apply when looking at the inequality between the purebloods and the muggleborns. With symbolic interactionism, which is completely different than Marxism, it really doesn’t take into account inequality, but more of influences different things have on people. It seems like Marxism applies more than symbolic interactionism, though, and that was a point Rowling wanted to get across, but wasn’t as easily done in the movies versus the books.

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