Monday, 3 July 2017

#WWBookClub - Week 1 - Magic in the Muggle World - Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone

Week 1 Topic: Magic in the Muggle World

The first book up on the #WWBookClub docket is, of course, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, because where else would they start with a Harry Potter book club? And the first topic of discussion was magic in the muggle world. This was discussed on Twitter this past Friday, June 30. It was a very busy chat! There were a lot of participants taking part and I found it really hard to engage because of how fast all the comments were flying. I also found it harder to participate because Twitter's character limit makes meaningful replies really hard sometimes. That second reason is the reason I am going to answer the questions asked in a blog post as well. Because I want to be able to give meatier answers and hopefully generate some more discussion with the people who read our blog.

The Questions

Is the wizarding world as secretive as it likes to believe?

Oh good god no, I really don't see how it can be. Yes there's the statute of secrecy and there are protections against muggles on places like Hogwarts and the Ministry of course, but that's not going stop everyone and everything. There are whole teams of obliviators and misinformation officers at the ministry but even then there's no way they could have complete control over the secret. You're never going to be able to obliviate everyone, and misinformation doesn't work on everyone either. 

Case in point - muggle parents and muggle siblings. As muggles, they can't be held accountable to the statute of secrecy because you can't throw a muggle into wizard prison. Any families of muggleborn witches and wizards are not only going to know about the wizarding world and Hogwarts specifically, they're going to get to be a part of it, an active part. Hermione's parents came into Diagon Alley to help with her school shopping, and if hers did you know others have. More than one muggle parent or sibling has let something slip before, it's just going to be a thing that happens.

Regarding the obliviators and the office of misinformation. These two things are going to create messes like to see in Men in Black - people whose memory wipes haven't taken completely or at all, people who don't buy into your misinformation. This is how conspiracy theories and urban legends are born. All it takes if for people to be willing to dig, because yeah the wizarding world is hidden within the muggle world, but not that deep.

Why do you think the Dursleys are so afraid of magic?

I think that you have to look at each of the Dursleys individually here, there's not just one full-stop answer as to why the whole family is so afraid of magic. With Vernon for example, I don't know so much if he's afraid of magic as he is pissed off by it and afraid of what being seen in the company of magic users could do to his reputation. Vernon is almost completely reputation focussed, anything that could damage his social standing is wrong and must be squashed. More than that even Vernon is a bigot and a bully who hates everyone and everything that don't fit into his very narrow-minded world view. I mean think about it, yes he was scared of having magic used on him, but it never stopped him getting into arguments with wizards whenever they showed up at his house.

Then there's Petunia, for her there is definitely a fear of magic, but in her case, I think it is completely justified. We have no way of knowing that at this early point in Philosopher's Stone but as we do find out as the series go on she was way more affected by her sister's murder than the early books show. She knows exactly what magic can do in the wrong hands - of course, she's scared of it. However, there's definitely more than just fear, there are bitterness and resentment which makes her seem as narrow-minded and bigoted as her husband at this point in the series. The thing about Petunia is it takes a long time for us to learn why she's so resentful and bitter but once we do it makes sense - of course that is never an excuse for how she herself treated, and how she allowed her husband and child to treat Harry. Of course Petunia also has a healthy dose of "nothing shall tarnish our social standing!" but in her case, I feel like that really is the least of it.

Dudley, of course, is the product of his horrible parents and their attitudes. His attitude towards magic and magic users is 100% shaped by his father's narrow-minded bigotry and his mother's fear and bitterness. Not only have his attitudes been influenced by theirs but they have also actively encouraged him his whole life to see his cousin as a weird, freaky other who he needs to be wary of. The final straw for Dudley of course that pushes his fear of magic over the edge is when Hagrid gives him a pig tail, and realistically, after that incident, I can hardly blame him for being scared of magic and magic users.

What makes Hagrid so trustworthy?

I'm going to be completely honest here, I really don't understand what this question has to do with the weekly topic. I do totally get how it's relevant to the point we're at in the narrative, obviously, Hagrid plays a big role in the early part of the book because he is Harry's first mentor in the wizarding world. And in writing that sentence I've now realised how this question relates. If Hagrid wasn't as trustworthy as he is, he would not have been selected by Dumbledore to be the magical liaison sent into the muggle world to collect Harry, so yes I can see now how his trustworthiness directly relates to the topic of magic in the muggle world.

To answer the question though - Hagrid is possessed of several traits that make him trustworthy. First and foremost is that he is totally and completely guileless. There are times of course where that lack of guile comes back to bite him, those times being anytime he utters the words "I should not have said that!" But for the most part, it's a positive trait that makes him trustworthy. There's also his earnestness, sincerity, total and complete loyalty and devotion to Dumbledore and his ability to follow orders. He also has the added benefit of his size making him intimidating/unapproachable to people who don't know him. He's also underestimated, nobody expects Hagrid to be the one running important errands or holding the important information. Certainly, Voldemort never would. We know how little he thinks of Hagrid given what he did to him when they were both at school.

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