ENGB35H3 Lecture Notes - Places In Harry Potter, Red Riding, William Safire
ENGB35 March 25, 2013
Miss Trunchbull‟s face “was neither a thing of beauty nor a joy forever.”
First line of one of one of Keats‟ poems
Supposed to make the reader feel very clever for catching it.
“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who
lived exciting lives. She went on oldern-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went
to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all
over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
The boys stories are truly the ones that Matilda loves
“I‟m not in favour of bluestocking girls. A girl should think about making herself look
attractive so she can get a good husband later on. Looks in more important than books,
There is a strange sort of gender discourse in the book
o There‟s the grotesque (Miss Trunchbull) who are beyond femininity
o There‟s Matilda, who is declared to be useless by her father because she
is just a girl
"He does do some pretty silly things now and again, doesn't he, mummy?" Matilda said.
The mother, dialling the number on the phone, said, "I'm afraid men are not always
quite as clever as they think they are. You will learn that when you get a bit older, my
Mrs. Wormwood shows a bit of veering from the typical domestic viewpoint of
men being always great.
Miss. Honey‟s house
Significance of Location
Some of Matilda‟s Wormwood-ish traits come out – “Margarine, Matilda thought.
She really must be poor.”
Out in the countryside – distancing Matilda from her city life with the TV and
whatnot. Out in the country, where it‟s pure for children
Dylan Thomas‟ “In Country Sleep”
Never and never, my girl riding far and near
ENGB35 March 25, 2013
In the land of the hearthstone tales, and spelled asleep,
Fear or believe that the wolf in a sheepwhite hood
Loping and bleating roughly and blithely shall leap,
My dear, my dear,
Out of a lair in the flocked leaves in the dew dipped year
To eat your heart in the house in the rosy wood.
Acknowledgement that the wolf exists but you can also survive it
Romantic set up
“She was a bit frightened of this place now. It seemed so unreal and remote and
fantastic and so totally away from this earth. It was like an illustration in Grimm or Hans
Andersen. It was the house where the poor woodcutter lived with Hansel and Gretel and
where Red Riding Hood's grandmother lived and it was also the house of The Seven
Dwarfs and The Three Bears and all the rest of them. It was straight out of a fairy-tale.”
Fright triggered by fairy tale implications
Miss Honey‟s story is out of a fairy tale (a bad fairy tale) but it is also frighteningly
realistic. She becomes the representation of the fairy tale.
Matilda seems to have just brushed off her abuse at the hands of her parents
Miss Honey shows the psychological effects of being so abused by Miss
o "I think what I am trying to explain to you," she said, "is that over the years
I became so completely cowed and dominated by this monster of an aunt
that when she gave me an order, no matter what it was, I obeyed it
instantly. That can happen, you know.”
Matilda becomes the sort of prince charming to Miss Honey‟s trouble.
The adult doesn‟t save the child – Matilda has to save Miss Honey before Miss
Honey can save Matilda
"You are so much wiser than your years, my dear," Miss Honey went on, "that it quite
staggers me. Although you look like a child, you are not really a child at all because
your mind and your powers of reasoning seem to be fully grown-up. So I suppose we
might call you a grown-up child, if you see what I mean."
Childhood and size = powerlessness.
ENGB35 March 25, 2013
Restoration of order
Child adult child
There is no emphasis on biological families – there is the idea of „found families‟.
You don‟t need to stay with a family that abuses you because they‟re your family
Harry Potter is a combination of the history of children‟s literature – school, adventure,
Witches = tools of the devil
Adult vs. Child reader
“adults read J.K. Rowling because she is not complicated; children read Phillip
Pullman because he is” (Claudia Fitzherbert)
“the infantilization of adult culture, the loss of a sense of what a classic really is”
“prizeworthy culture it ain‟t”; “this is not just dumbing down; it is growing down”
o No longer the Romantic viewpoint – adults need to stop looking back at
“formulaic and sexist” (Jack Zipes)
What is the relationship between the fantasy world and the ordinary, Muggle, world?
There are two gateways into the fantasy world –the Leaky Cauldron and Platform
o “If Hagrid hadn‟t pointed it out, Harry wouldn‟t have noticed it was there.
The people hurrying by didn‟t glance at it. Their eyes slid from the big
book shop on one side to the record shop on the other as if they couldn‟t
see the Leaky Cauldron at all. In fact, Harry had the most peculiar feeling
that only he and Hagrid could see it.”