Beyond Platform 9 ¾: Race, Class, And Gender In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series

Young, Leah
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Race, class, and gender have always been contentious, even explosive topics. Combine them with the most popular children's book in recent history and there is quite a debate. Margaret Meek claims in Children's Literature and National Identity that there are many features in British children's books that are uniquely British. She asserts that these stem from nostalgia and a desire to recreate a past Britain through children's literature: "Perhaps the Englishness of England that has not been to our advantage will be edited out" (100). However, this is certainly not the case for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Her works may seem nostalgic, but they are representative of race, class, and gender issues in contemporary Britain. Rowling, I will argue, comments on a system which she has experienced life from both sides of the economic spectrum. When she first came up with the idea of Harry Potter and developed the books, she was a single mother on welfare. Now, with over millions of books in print in over one hundred countries, she is wealthier than the Queen of England. Her knowledge of the British social system contributes to her addressing of current observations and problems. Rowling's work may not change the country's attitudes, but it certainly offers an analysis of contemporary problems that goes beyond mere nostalgia
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