In the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we're introduced to another new character upon which we shall heap mountains of fiery hatred: Aunt Marge. The amount of body fascism, racism (sort of?), and douchebaggery she represents causes Harry to do the most amazing thing ever. Intrigued? Then it's time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 2: AUNT MARGE'S BIG MISTAKE
I was a bit skeptical to repeat the events of the first two books by reading about Harry spending another summer with the Dursleys. Except you guys are totally right: the deviation from the standard formula of books one and two is IMMENSELY SPECTACULAR.
So let's start of with a bit of a Festival of Hatred. No, this isn't about Lucius Malfoy or Draco or Gilderoy Lockhart. It's about Aunt Marge.
I don't actually hate Macs (LOL I LOVE YOU MACBOOK AND IPHONE 4), but seriously, there is no better way to express hatred than through sparkly gifs.
- At Dudley's fifth birthday party, Aunt Marge had whacked Harry around the shins with her walking stick to stop him from beating Dudley at musical statues. A few years later, she had turned up at Christmas with a computerized robot for Dudley and a box of dog biscuits for Harry. On her last visit, the year before Harry started at Hogwarts Harry had accidentally trodden on the tail of her favorite dog. Ripper had chased Harry out into the garden and up a tree, and Aunt Marge had refused to call him off until past midnight. The memory of this incident still brought tears of laughter to Dudley's eyes.
Jesus. Who are these people? Why do they even exist? I know I had beef with Rowling's exaggeration of certain character qualities, but this is maniacal. And it only gets worse!
Marge is....it's really hard to pinpoint because her hatred of Harry almost seems to make up the entirety of her personality. But more on that in a second. I found it pretty interesting that Harry makes a deal with Uncle Vernon to tolerate Aunt Marge and not use any magic on her if he can get his Hogsmeade permission form signed. While it might seem easy to write this off as just a plot technique to force the final act of the chapter, it's actually a pretty huge character development for Harry.
Harry had always lived in this depressing state of fear of the Dursleys, doing as much as possible to avoid conversation or physical contact. I was totally impressed that he was courageous enough to barter at all, let alone....well, we'll get to that in a second.
But I think it's important to point out that this is the beginning of Harry understanding his own worth and the power of standing up for himself. And it's really exciting to me.
We should really move on to Aunt Marge, though, because she's a real treat. It's funny, because while I found myself cringing and gaping like I did whilst reading Twilight, the horrifying things being said and done were all from people who I was supposed to hate, instead of from the "hero" and "heroine."
God, I love this series SO MUCH, guys.
ok ENOUGH BRAIN VOMITING. Aunt Marge!
- "Don't you say 'yes' in that ungrateful tone," Aunt Marge growled. "It's damn good of Vernon and Petunia to keep you. Wouldn't have done it myself. You'd have gone straight to an orphanage if you'd been dumped on my doorstep."
A character said this! Out loud! holy god how have you survived without being beat to death by a mob
Just...oh god. Remember during my Twilight reviews, I would constantly say YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS like every chapter?
I was totally not prepared for this.
- "I won't have this namby-pamby, wishy-washy nonsense about not hitting people who deserve it. A good thrashing is what's needed in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Have you been beaten often?"
"Oh yeah," said Harry, "loads of times."
Aunt Marge narrowed her eyes.
"I still don't like your tone, boy," she said. "If you can speak of your beatings in that casual way, they clearly aren't hitting you hard enough. Petunia, I'd write if I were you. Make it clear that you approve the use of extreme force in this boy's case."
No, seriously, HOLY SHIT. Like......WHAT??????
I love that this actually here, though, despite how ridiculous it is. Look, I live in the United States, were corporal punishment still exists. I spent part of my childhood living in Boise, Idaho. My elementary school allowed corporal punishment. If you did something that warranted you visiting the principal's office, she had a large wooden paddle with saucer-sized holes in it. You would pull down your pants, bend over her desk, place your hands flat against the cold wood, and she would hit you. Hard. The number depended on your offense. The most she could hit you was ten times.
And it hurt. A lot.
I had to suffer this sort of punishment only once; I managed to get just three swings. A kid on the playground had called me a "pussy" because I wouldn't try to kiss another girl he had tied up to the jungle gym. I threw sand in his eyes.
(PS: why does my childhood always sound like the worst soap opera combined with the worst drama ever WHY)
And for the record: It didn't work. It made me so angry, I wanted to break the rules even more just to spite that stupid school.
SO ANYWAY why am I unable to review anything without making it all ME ME ME ME ME ME ME
- "You mustn't blame yourself for the way the boy's turned out, Vernon," she said over lunch on the third day. "If there's something rotten on the inside, there's nothing anyone can do about it."
Thanks for that stunning bit of insight.
- "It's one of the basic rules of breeding," she said. "You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup--"
Are you going to lecture us on eugenics? Holy shit, what
Marge's background in breeding presents Rowling with an interesting way for her to spread another parallel to racism: the hatred from Muggle famililes of wizard blood. And oh boy....she really brings it out in full force.
- "It all comes down to blood, as I was saying the other day. Bad blood will out. Now, I'm saying nothing against your family, Petunia"--she patted Aunt Petunia's bony hand with her shovel-like one--"but your sister was a bad egg. They turn up in the best families. Then she ran off with a wastrel and here's the result right in front of us."
Racism is very presumptive, especially when it's as blatant as this. I really adore Rowling's writing in this chapter, not only because it's a marked improvement over the first two books, but because this is such an ingenius way to discuss a topic that could have been far too complicated to sift through.
- "This Potter," said Aunt Marge loudly, seizing the brandy bottle and splashing more into her glass and over the tablecloth, "you never told me what he did?"
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were looking extremely tense. Dudley had even looked up from his pie to gape at his parents.
"He--didn't work," said Uncle Vernon, with half a glance at Harry. "Unemployed."
"As I expected!" said Aunt Marge, taking a huge swig of brandy and wiping her chin on her sleeve. "A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who--"
Yep, totally happening. Classism is a beautiful thing. (Not really.) I recently read that wonderful piece by Rowling about how she'll never vote Tory and now I can see how she's imbued these same ideals into her novel. The way she treats the Weasleys, first of all, is incredibly sensitive and empathetic, most likely because Rowling herself knows what it is like to live paycheck-to-paycheck or to live in poverty.
But I'm even more impressed that she's brought up the issue of unemployment and how it relates to the insane demonization of people who live in poverty or have earned unemployment. (Do you know how many times I've heard the term "Welfare Queen" while living here in the U.S.?)
While on the surface, Harry becomes infuriated because the Dursleys are obviously lying about his parents, there's a great subtext to this idea: that Marge is actually wrong in her characterization of people with less money than her.
Ah, the plight of the privileged. Always thinking that the misfortune of other people somehow affects their life.
Harry's anger over the past week boils and bursts into a bout of fury that is also responsible for a wonderful bit of character development. Using magic, he causes Aunt marge to expand, like a balloon being filled with helium, and she rises from the table. Harry takes this opportunity to run upstairs and pack his things, and then:
- "She deserved it," Harry said, breathing very fast. "She deserved what she got. You keep away from me."
He fumbled behind him for the latch on the door.
"I'm going," Harry said. "I've had enough."
And in the next moment, he was out in the dark, quiet street, heaving his heavy trunk behind him, Hedwig's cage under his arm.
Unbelievably poetic and beautiful. Fueled by the rage of the thirteen years he'd spent being abused by the Dursleys, Harry finds it within himself to finally stand up to them.
I am so excited to see what happens next.
A quick note that I wanted to include in the chapter one review, but decided against because it would have ruined the flow of the diary entries:
Yesterday's liveblog was amazingly fantastic. I had so much fun doing it and I was totally blown away by the turnout AND the record breaking in the comments.
I didn't expect these reviews to be that popular because the series wasn't as fresh in the pop culture mindset as Twilight and, honestly, hatred sells better than gushing nerd-ism. But I was so so so so so so so so so so wrong.
This project started just shy of two months ago. Over the course of 9 months, Mark Reads Twilight enmassed over 1.1 million pageviews. Which is INSANE, by the way. So I figured I'd reach that sometime next year.
um. As of right now, we are just shy of 400,000 pageviews. Which...fuck. I'm pretty good with math and this astounds me and makes my brain hurt.
I just want to thank you guys for taking the time out of your day to read my mind vomits and ranting and freak outs and sharing your comments (I READ EVERY SINGLE ONE, EVEN THE SPOILER ONES :( :( :( :( ), because it means the world to me. We are on the cusp of something insane and overwhelming and I am so flattered that Harry Potter fans the world 'round are supporting me in this.
Thank you. Let's keep this party going.