Monday, June 7, 2010

Mudbloods and Murmurs

Harry is woken early Saturday morning by Oliver Wood, excited to get started with Quiddich practice. Harry jots a quick note to Ron and meets the rest of the team in the locker room, where Oliver proceeds to drone on about strategy for what I assume is over an hour. When they finally head onto the pitch, the Slytherin team shows up, showing off their new brooms from Malfoy's dad. Ron and Hermione join them and after a pretty awesome zinger on her part, Malfoy calls Hermione a "mudblood", resulting in instant uproar. Ron attempts to curse Malfoy, but his broken wand causes the spell to backfire and it Ron who ends up spitting up slugs. The trio head to Hagrid's, where Harry and Hermione learn that "mudblood" is a horrible term for Muggle-borns. Eventually the slugs stop and they head back to the castle for lunch, where McGonagall finds them and tells Harry and Ron they'll do their detentions that night. Harry has to help Lockhart answer his fan mail, which might just be the worst detention Harry ever gets (possibly even worse than the one from Snape in Half-Blood Prince). Near midnight, Harry hears a voice threatening violence, but there doesn't seem to be anyone else around...

Finally a chapter with a little substance! Here we get a first look at one of the major themes of the series, discrimination. We already know from previous chapters (At Flourish and Blotts) that the Malfoys have a prejudice against Muggles, but it's in this chapter that the extent of that prejudice within the wizarding world begins to become clear. This discrimination is prevalent enough that a derogatory word for Muggle-borns is well-known throughout the community.

It's interesting to see the reactions of the other students when Malfoy uses the term "Mudblood", from the violent (Fred and George) to the verbal (Alicia) and the vengeful (Ron). One of the things I find most interesting about this, is how many people jumped to correct Malfoy/stand up for Hermione. What are the chances of that happening in the Muggle world? There's certainly discrimination here, and words that are used to wound. How many would come to the aid of a fellow student being called one of those words we all know?

These children's willingness to stand up for what's right will of course continue to play as we move through the series. It all starts right here. This is why these books should be read in schools and in homes. To teach our young people what it is to do the right thing. It's not always easy, but it's worth it in the end.

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