If your childhood was anything like mine, you grew up on revolutionary fantasy and dystopian novels.
You might have drawn Harry Potter’s scar on your forehead or braided your hair to look like Katniss Everdeen. Anyone who read the entire Harry Potter series as passionately as I did constantly wished to receive their Hogwarts letter and dive into the exciting yet dangerous wizarding world. Today, I know that we don’t have quidditch or three headed dogs but we’re a lot more like the wizard world than you’d expect, America. I’ll reluctantly admit that we don’t carry wands in our back pockets or take weekend trips to Hogsmeade but a lot of the essential aspects of Harry Potter can be found in our daily lives. We might not have realized it in elementary school, but Harry Potter is extremely political. Harry Potter is a series about loyalty, courage, and fighting for what you know is right.
Believe it or not, JK Rowling raised us to fight.
Let’s start with one of the most obvious connections – Dumbledore’s Army. A group of teenagers that is sick and tired of feeling unsafe in a school where they spend most of their lives decides to fight back against an incompetent government that refuses to listen. Sound familiar? After the Parkland shooting, teenagers refused to accept the intolerable rules and legislation that hold us back. Instead of patronuses, we have protests. Umbridge represents the treatment by authority that constantly shuts us down and she’s arguably the worst character in the entire series. McGonagall fights right alongside the students and is one of the most respected and badass characters I’ve ever come across.
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Next there’s Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic in the wizard world. He’s the face of the ignorant government. Who do you think that could be? His refusal to believe Harry’s story about Voldemort being back and dangerous led to the downfall of their world. Fudge holds his stubborn pride and image over the safety and trust of the future generation. Ultimately, this gets him kicked out of office. If things continue going down the same path, our Cornelius Fudge might get kicked out of office before our entire country is in ruins.
Classism is evident throughout every book in the series through financial situations and bloodlines. We all know the Malfoys—the rich, pureblood family. The Weasleys, although poor, are still entirely of wizarding blood. Nonetheless, the Malfoys put themselves above the Weasleys. Hermione, who is constantly referred to as the brightest wizard of her age, is just as magical as the purebloods. She more studious, passionate, and invested in her studies than anyone else at Hogwarts. Despite all of this, the Malfoys think of her as inferior because she’s a muggleborn. Her bloodline puts her at a consistent disadvantage though she can’t do anything about where she comes from. Above that, she is proud to come from a muggle family. And you have to admit, whether you like Draco or not—you loved it when Hermione punched classism right in the face.
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Rowling’s sneaky aspects of racism manage to cover the spectrum of oppression in subtle and imaginative ways. Who is the minority race? The surprising answer is house elves. Let’s start with the obvious aspects—they work without pay in horrible conditions, where they’re constantly put down and belittled. Additionally, they’re not seen as witches or wizards even though their magical ability is greater than that of most adult wizards. All of these are allegorical to slavery. But here’s where it gets too real—even after a house elf is free, they aren’t given the same rights as a free wizard. Hermione and Malfoy are opposite ends of the political spectrum. Hermione is the enraged activist, openly fighting for the rights of house elves through the organization Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, also known as SPEW. Malfoy’s family, on the other end of the spectrum, owns house elves and despises living without a slave (Dobby) to do all their work. However, Rowling doesn’t stop there.
The gap between Hermione and Malfoy is clear, but Jo managed to sneak in the lesser credited side in facing racism—Ron Weasley, the bystander.
Although his family doesn’t own any house elves, he doesn’t see the need to fight on their behalf. As he hangs around Hermione, he comes to see the injustice involved and tries to protect house elves during the war.
Overall, the political aspects of Harry Potter are clear and obvious when looked at from a different light. JK Rowling captures spectrums of teenage activism, classism, and racism in a subtle way which accurately represents real world situations.
Whether you’re a Malfoy, Weasley, or Granger, the side of justice and freedom will win in the end, even if society falls apart in the process.
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