Archetypes And Stereotypes In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter .

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ENGLISHArchetypes and Stereotypes in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter SeriesJohanna SörensenBA thesisFall 2013Supervisor:Chloé AvrilExaminer:Margrèt GunnarsdottirChampion

Title: Archetypes and Stereotypes in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter SeriesAuthor: Johanna SörensenSupervisor: Chloé AvrilAbstract: This essay explores the archetypal hero and gender stereotypes in J.K. Rowling’sHarry Potter series. Using both theories about the hero genre and the discussion of the HarryPotter novels themselves, I argue that despite following the literary structure of the archetypalhero, and sharing many of the composite hero’s traits, Harry Potter breaks the stereotype andchallenges the traditional hero narrative. I will also argue that Harry Potter goes against manyof the gender stereotypes that often occur in literature. This essay will mainly focus on HarryPotter and Hermione Granger, but side characters as well to some extent.Keywords: Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, heroism, hero, archetypal criticism, archetypal hero,Hermione Granger, gender roles, stereotypes, femininities, masculinities.

Table of Contents1. Introduction1.1. Previous Research132. The Archetypal Hero and Gender Stereotypes63. Breaking the Stereotype164. Conclusion21Bibliography22

1. IntroductionIn this essay I will explore the archetypal hero narrative and gender stereotypes in the HarryPotter series by J.K. Rowling. Just as Professor McGonagall prophesized in the first novel,when talking about Harry Potter - “every child in our world will know his name!”- the seriesabout the young wizard has become immensely popular among children. The seven novelshave been read by millions of children and adults since the first novel, Harry Potter and thePhilosopher’s Stone, was first published in 1997. There is not one single correct answer towhat it is about the series that interests so many people of different ages, gender and ethnicbackgrounds, though many have tried to find it. Perhaps, Harry’s heroic journey is one thatresonates so deeply within us all since it follows a structure that can be found in thousands ofmyths, stories and legends throughout the centuries. The journey of the archetypal hero isvery much ingrained in us from our childhood when we heard fairy tales that follow the samestructure as Harry Potter.The series follows the orphaned boy, Harry Potter, as he finds out that he is a wizard andis invited to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he learns that it is hisdestiny to defeat the evil wizard Lord Voldemort who killed Harry’s parents and terrorizedthe Wizarding world for years. The reader follows Harry on his heroic journey through themany challenges and trials that he faces with his best friends Ron Weasley and HermioneGranger.In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) discusses thesimilarities that so many heroes share despite having different settings, themes, characters andplots. The archetypal hero can be found in so many stories that it seems unlikely that it is acoincidence; there is something in the hero’s journey that appeals to us all. Campbellsummarizes the journey in its simplest form:A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder:fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from thismysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (30)Harry Potter follows this structure, but can a work that is loved by millions of people bereduced to such a simple formula? I will explore this phenomenon in this essay. My thesisstatement is that despite following the literary structure of the archetypal hero, and sharingmany of the composite hero’s traits, Harry Potter does in fact break the stereotype and1

challenges the traditional hero narrative. In the first chapter I will look at the ways in whichthe Harry Potter series support the archetypes and stereotypes, in terms of heroism, as well asgender. I will also look at the different features that the classic hero and Harry Potter as acharacter share. In order to look at gender stereotypes I will also focus on one of the mainfemale characters, Hermione Granger, as I believe it will offer a good point of reference whenlooking at Harry Potter and his masculine and feminine qualities.The second chapter will focus on how Harry Potter departs from the archetypes and thegender stereotypes. The archetypal hero is always male, and more often than not Caucasian.This applies to Harry Potter as well, but I will look deeper at what separates Harry Potter fromother hero archetypes. In Deconstructing the Hero Margery Hourihan talks about thearchetypal hero, but unlike Joseph Campbell and Northrop Frye (1912-1991) she is morecritical towards the composite hero as well as the archetypal heroic features that exist in manystories. She mentions that the hero is usually a young white male with qualities of a leader –brave, strong and beautiful. The hero sets out to rescue the damsel in distress and returnshome victorious. What Campbell and Frye seem to skip over in their own books is theprejudice and sexism in the archetypal story. I believe, like Hourihan, that the archetypal heromyth is sexist and favours the white male. This old-fashioned narrative reflects the values ofthe time period in which it was conceived; it was a time where women were not held in highregard. Harry Potter, however, is a more modern story and I will explore if the modernity isreflected in the way Harry Potter and the women are portrayed.I have chosen a hermeneutical approach as a method, meaning that I will look at andanalyse passages in the series and then re-evaluate the text as a whole. However, first I had tochoose shorter passages in the seven novels to focus on, rather than looking at the entirety ofthe series. The passages I ultimately chose were based on a few criteria: they had to havesome importance to this essay, i.e. passages that are centred on Harry’s heroic features, andwhen he deviates from the archetypal hero narrative. The second criterion was that it had tohave been related to differences between gender, i.e. when the female characters and the malecharacters were treated differently or unfairly in similar situations. And so I have chosen afew short passages in the Harry Potter series that focus on the differences between female andmale characters, as well as when the characters abide by certain stereotypes.2

1.1 Previous researchI have chosen to use previous research that deals with the archetypal hero, as well as genderstereotypes. I selected theses sources based on the fact that they either deal with Harry Potter,gender or archetypes. I will use archetypal criticism when looking at the Harry Potter series,and in order to get a better grasp of it I will use C.G. Jung’s and Northrop Frye’s ideasconcerning archetypes. Archetypal criticism looks at images, symbols and themes that recurin literature. These patterns are archetypes, and exist in many unrelated works of fiction.Since the stories are unconnected it is rather baffling how similar the structure is despitehaving different plots, settings and characters. Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) is consideredone of the forefathers of archetypal criticism. His theory is based on the personal unconsciousand the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious contains knowledge gained frompersonal experiences, and the collective unconscious refers to the latent thoughts that areshared by all mankind from birth. In his essay ”The Archetypes of the CollectiveUnconscious” [Om det kollektivt omedvetnas arketyper] Jung writes that,[Det kollektivt omedvetna] har innehåll och förhållningssätt som mer eller mindre är desammaöverallt, och inom alla individer. Det är, med andra ord, identiskt med sig självt inom allamänniskor. (102)[[The collective unconscious] has contents and approaches that are more or less the sameeverywhere, and within all individuals. It is, in other words, identical with itself within all men]1He goes on to say that the contents from the collective unconscious are what we refer to asarchetypes. Jung sees the archetypes from our collective unconscious, and the archetypesfound in myth and fairy tales as separate ideas. The archetypes in literature have been passeddown from generation to generation, while the knowledge from our collective unconscious isinborn.Northrop Frye, however, focuses more on the archetypes’ function in literature, ratherthan their origin and what psychological explanation there might be. He says that “[t]heaxioms and postulates of criticism, however, have to grow out of the art it deals with” and that“[t]he first thing the literary critic has to do is to read literature”, rather than looking at theframeworks outside of literature, as Jungian approaches prescribes (6). The archetypal hero,the mother, the damsel in distress, the warrior etc. are all universal figures that can be found1My translation from Swedish to English.3

in every culture and in their literature. Frye believes that these archetypes solely come fromliterature and not from our collective unconscious.Harry Potter has been a part of many people’s lives for the past 16 years, and even thoughthe series is relatively new compared to many other classics, there has been a lot of researchdone on the series. In “Harry Potter and the Secrets of Children’s Literature” MariaNikolajeva discusses the fact that many characters in children’s literature are one-dimensionaland rather boring; in Harry Potter, however, there is an intricacy and complexity that makesHarry Potter a very exciting figure, with a mix of “the heroic and the everyday” (225). I agreewith Nikolajeva; despite the fact that the Harry Potter series was intended for a youngeraudience Rowling never talked down to her readers by making Harry and his friends intosimple and flat characters. Nikolajeva also mentions that Rowling disregarded manystereotypes when writing her characters and gave them depth; e.g. Hermione is smart andbrave, something that is usually assigned to the male hero, and Harry is not adverse toshowing emotions of sympathy and compassion, as well as vulnerability, which is seen astypically feminine (231). Nikolajeva goes on to say that Harry Potter deviates from thearchetypal hero narrative since he is the product of the modern age, and that he does so by“demonstrating ambiguity in the concepts of good and evil, gender transgressions, and othertokens of the postmodern aesthetics” (226). In other words, Nikolajeva argues that becauseHarry Potter is not wholly good or wholly evil, he does not fit into the archetypal frame of thehero or the villain, at least according to Frye’s interpretation of the archetypal hero.Nikolajeva also touches on the subject of inequality in the Harry Potter novels, both interms of race and gender. In mentioning “gender transgressions” she acknowledges that HarryPotter in some ways strays from gender stereotypes. Nikolajeva asserts that Harry Potter isthe classic hero, despite having some traits that deviate from the classic narrative. I largelyagree with this; however, I believe that the traits that break the archetype are too many andtoo important to ignore and therefore the Harry Potter books break the stereotype more oftenthan they conform to it.I will also use an essay by Elizabeth E. Heilman and Trevor Donaldson, “From Sexist to(sort-of) Feminist: Representations of Gender in the Harry Potter Series”, when looking atHermione Granger and gender stereotypes. They claim that the series both questions “societalnorms” and conforms to stereotypes (141). Although they criticise Rowling for the lack ofsubstantial female characters, they admit that as the series evolves so does the femalepresence in the novels. The female characters grow in number, and their importance increases4

as well. However, they believe that the female characters, especially Hermione, are merelyassistants to the hero. I will look at characters, such as Hermione, and examine if they arenothing more than an aide to the “real” hero of the story.In her essay “Archetypes and the Unconscious in Harry Potter and Diana Wynne Jones’Fire and Hemlock and Dogsbody” Alice Mills looks at Harry Potter from a Jungianperspective. She believes that the characters in the novels are not only driven by their ownpersonal experiences, but “also by deeper and more universal forces of the collectiveunconscious” (6). I mentioned earlier that the collective unconscious is, at least from aJungian perspective, an integral part of archetypal criticism. She also discusses Harry inrelation to Voldemort, and I will explore Mills view on their relationship in the next chapter.5

2. The Archetypal Hero and Gender StereotypesIn this chapter I will discuss the ways in which Harry Potter conforms to archetypes andstereotypes. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, an archetype is an ”originalpattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies”, and astereotype is defined as ”a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members ofa group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncriticaljudgment”. Archetypes are the foundation for the characters from which individuality grows;characters that have been reduced to a simplified and predictable version are stereotypes, andthey are seen in a negative manner. Two characters can be built on the same archetype (e.g.the hero) but be completely different from each other (e.g. Harry Potter and Frodo in Lord ofthe Rings), while two characters that are classified as the same stereotype are usuallyportrayed in the same manner (e.g. the dumb blonde, or the damsel in distress).I will apply archetypal criticism to this essay and my main source of reference will beNorthrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, with focus on “Third Essay: ArchetypalCriticism”. Archetypal criticism looks for recurring patterns, images and symbols in literature.These archetypes can be repeated characters, plots, settings or themes throughout centuries ofliterature. As previously stated Jung believes that archetypes come from the collectiveunconscious, a shared set of psychic instincts that are with us from birth. Frye, however,disagrees with Jung and suggests instead that the archetypes can be found in literature andonly then become part of our lives, and not something we all just know instinctively.According to Frye archetypes are closely tied to myths, and so in order to study archetypesyou must do so in the world of myth. Alan Watts explains the term myth in his Myth andRitual in Christianity:Myth is to be defined as a complex of stories - some no doubt fact, and some fantasy - which, forvarious reasons, human beings regard as demonstrations of the inner meaning of the universe andof human life. (7)In Harry Potter the archetypes are easily identifiable when judged after certain criteria statedin both Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism and Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.According to Frye there are three forms of myth in literature. The first one, undisplaced myth,is represented by two contrasting worlds, often heaven and hell, and it contains gods anddemons. The second one which, I believe, corresponds best with Harry Potter is romantic andusually places “implicit mythical patterns” (139) in a world ruled by human experience; thismyth also idealizes the content in order to contrast realism. The third form, realism,6

emphasizes content and not structure. Frye also divides the myths into genres: the romantic,the tragic, the comic and the iron or satiric (162) and I will be discussing Harry Potter in thecontext of the myth of romance.Frye states that the closer romance is to myth the main antagonist, the villain if you will,“will take on demonic mythical qualities” (187). In Harry Potter, Voldemort transforms into aman with a snake-like face as his powers grow, which would put Harry Potter somewhere inbetween romance and undisplaced myth. Nikolajeva claims that the circumstancessurrounding Harry’s childhood makes him a perfect archetypal hero, but not a “genuinemythic hero” (226).The Harry Potter figure has all the necessary components of the romantic hero. There are mysticalcircumstances around his birth, he is dislocated and oppressed and suddenly given unlimitedpower. His innocence and intrinsic benevolence make him superior to the evil – adult – forces. Hebears the mark of the chosen on his forehead, and he is worshiped in the wizard community as thefuture savior. (Nikolajeva 226)Nikolajeva goes on to say that “[t]he pattern is easily recognizable from world mythologies,even though Harry is not claimed to be a god or a son of a god, which, in Frye’s typology,disqualifies him as a genuine mythic hero, displacing him to the level of romance” (226). Fryestates that “in the myth proper he is divine, in romance proper he is human” (188).In his essay, Frye states that in romance “everything is focussed on a conflict between thehero and his enemy” (187) and thus the hero and the villain are characterized by oppositetraits. The hero has positive traits, such as “spring, dawn, order, fertility, vigor, and youth”and the villain is surrounded by all these stereotypically negative features – “winter, darknessconfusion, sterility, moribund life” (187-188). The hero is supposed to be a pure being –strong, kind, courageous, beautiful and always victorious. It is true, as Nikolajeva states, thatHarry has many of the traits that would make him an archetypal hero. Not only thecircumstances of Harry’s childhood, but also how he eventually develops into a dominantleader. Rowling’s structure of the series can very clearly be seen as a parallel to the archetypalhero’s journey. The first step of the journey, according to Campbell, begins with the call toadventure, which in Harry Potter begins when he is invited to attend Hogwarts. The sevennovels then represent the trial and challenges Harry must overcome in order to be victorious –his real quest is to defeat Voldemort and in doing so he saves everyone, both the Wizardingworld and the Muggle world. Harry is also, like the hero, physically and mentally strong; hisfriends look to him when they need a leader. In Order of the Phoenix Hermione comes upwith the idea that someone should teach the students Defense against the Dark Arts, because7

their teacher refuses to do it, but instead of taking on the role herself, Hermione encouragesHarry to do it. He excels in the position as a leader. Meanwhile Hermione takes a moresubmissive role, despite being one of the smartest witches their age. Rowling gives Hermioneimmense knowledge of magic, but when it comes to the more violent subjects she lets Harrybe the more prominent one, while Hermione masters the more intellectual subjects.This essay, as stated in my thesis, also explores the different gender stereotypes that existin literature. Hermione’s submission to Harry shows that despite being praised for creatingstrong female characters, Rowling does sometimes fall into the trap of stereotyping both thefemale and male characters. Hermione sometimes breaks the stereotype since she has beenassigned wisdom and knowledge, rather than physical beauty. Hermione is a strong femalecharacter, but as Heilman and Donaldson point out in their essay “From Sexist to (sort-of)Feminist” she is often secondary to the hero and his quest, and uses her extensive knowledgeto aid him but not herself (145). Hermione is described as an enabler and an assistant in theiressay. Campbell also mentions the archetypal female helper in relations to the male hero. Buthe assigns more importance to her than Heilman and Donaldson do. She becomes theprotector, as well.It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, bywhose magic [ ] he is protected through all the frightening experiences. (Cam

Title: Archetypes and Stereotypes in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series Author: Johanna Sörensen Supervisor: Chloé Avril Abstract: This essay explores the archetypal hero and gender stereotypes in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.Using both theories about the hero genre and the discussion of the Harry Potter novels themselves, I a

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