Sunday, August 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Book of Double Entendres

harry potter audiobook cover

In this installment of Harry Potter, Harry becomes deeply aware of his "wand"--which, we're informed repeatedly, is an impressive eleven inches long.  Aunt Petunia refers to it as "his thing", and Cousin Dudley is intimidated whenever Harry whips it out.  When Harry proves his manly prowess by chasing away Dementor kisses, the Ministry of Magic tries to emasculate him by threatening to take away his "wand."  The fact that Dementor kisses have a vaguely homosexual overtone only reinforces Harry's masculinity--and further undermines Dudley's, seeing as how he couldn't resist the Dementor's kiss.

Harry is understandably upset about the threat to take away his wand.  Not only does he instinctively know losing it would mean not returning to Hogwarts; unconsciously, he senses that to lose one's wand equates to being emasculated.  He has prima facie evidence of this in the form of Sirius Black, someone who has been un-manned by the shenanigans of the Ministry and his inability to use magic.  Sirius rattles about his miserable house, completely impotent.  This is represented not only by his failure to control Creature, but also the fact that he is the last in his family line, symbolically at least unable to produce children.

When Harry heads to Hogwarts, he faces more challenges and threats to "wand"--namely in the person of Dolores Umbridge, the current Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.  Umbridge is possibly the most loathsome character in the entire series, but why?  Obviously she represents the evils of bureaucracy, but then so does Prime Minister Fudge.  Umbridge's repulsive personality is antithetical to everything magical or feminine, even though she is a hyper-feminized character.  We're even told her wand is "an unusually short one."

This setting up of Umbridge as the antithesis of everything Harry Potter and Hogwarts stands for creates for the reader a witch in the worst, most frightening sense of the word--a woman who has gone wrong, who does everything a woman shouldn't do.  Instead of eating babies as medieval witches were said to do, however, Umbridge continually attempts to force Harry to deny his manhood and emasculate himself.  She calls Harry a liar and demands that he continues to lie.  From this we learn that the words that issue from a man's mouth (or at the very least a wizard's mouth, which can speak things into existence and thus create) is a metaphor for potency and ejaculation.  As Harry fails to stop himself from speaking the truth and doesn't lessen the power of his words by telling lies, he proves he has the honor and stamina to move on to the next challenge in the story.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the book where Harry comes into adulthood and decides for himself what will separate him from Voldemort and make him his own man.  Therefore it's no surprise the book is filled with so many metaphors for physical and sexual power.  This power will not be actualized, however, until book seven.  For now Harry is merely establishing the parameters and basis for his life as an adult.

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