Mythical Norms in Kindred and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The mythical norm impacts female characters Dana from Kindred and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Since these characters are female they are both impacted differently by the mythical norms within their societies. While their stories are drastically different, they can be compared in the way that they both challenge this mythical norm and ideals of society through their accomplishments and characteristics. Both Dana and Hermione are smart, motivated, and brave which aids them in challenging the mythical norms of their societies through their intelligence.
Dana faces multiple challenges throughout Kindred and her intelligence is a lot of what gets her to survive the antebellum south. Dana challenges the norm that slaves should not read when she goes to pass on her knowledge of reading to Rufus and other slaves on the plantation. Once while giving one of the slaves a spelling test, Weylin walked into the room. Dana thought “I hoped Weylin couldn’t see. And I hoped Nigel had had the sense to get the pencil off the table. So far, I was the only one in trouble” (246). Dana knew that if she ever got caught doing this that she would get into trouble. She risks getting beaten just to pass on knowledge to Nigel. In this way, Dana and Hermione are alike because they both risk getting into trouble to do what they believe in. The mythical norm in the antebellum south is that white, male, slaveowners have all the power and that black females have the opposite. In discussions with Kevin, Dana uses these mythical norms to strategize. Dana tells Kevin “You understand? I’m a poor dumb scared nigger until I get my chance. They won’t even see the knife if I have my way. Not until it’s too late” (48). Since she is being held to the mythical norm that she is just a dumb black female, she will use this to her advantage if she ever decided she needed to kill one of the white people on the plantation if her life was in danger. In this way, she is able to use this mythical norm held against her for her own good. Not only is this a major act of bravery, but also an incredibly smart move on her part. Dana is using the mythical norm in order to prove that she is, in fact, breaking it. “You’re reading history, Rufe. Turn a few pages and you’ll ﬁnd a white man named J. D. B. DeBow claiming that slavery is good because, among other things, it gives poor whites someone to look down on. That’s history. It happened whether it offends you or not. Quite a bit of it offends me, but there’s nothing I can do about it” (140).
Despite the fact that she is stuck back in time with a racist white family, Dana does not hold back when it comes to teaching the ignorant minds on the plantation. Rufus talks down to Dana and tells her that her book is filled with “abolitionist trash” and yet she does not cease to explain to him what the book is about. She is brave and knowledgeable in this way because she knows her history and is brave enough to try to convey it to Rufus. Dana does not choose to fold under Rufus’ remarks but ruthlessly explains that “that’s history”. Dana explains to Rufus, without sugarcoating anything and well knowing that Rufus is white himself and is guilty of what she means when she says, “it gives poor whites someone to look down on”. Dana knows Rufus has the ability to do whatever he wants with her- whether it be raping her, killing her, or selling her off to somebody else, she still stands for what she knows is right and is not afraid to inform Rufus. Dana smartly adds that “there’s nothing [she] can do about it” when that is exactly what she is doing. Rufus may not even be aware of it, but Dana is enlightening him and several others on the plantation about what is right. The fact that she is doing this despite the harsh consequences she may face proves how brave Dana is.
Although she is not being tossed back and forth between two different time periods, Hermione’s smarts are utilized in many other ways within Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Between herself, Harry, and Ron, she is the smartest individual in the group. Hermione is impacted by mythical norms in the book in the way that people, specifically Malfoy, do not think she is as smart as she is because she is a mudblood female. Malfoy calls Hermione a mudblood and this hurts her, and she let it get to her. Hermione is much smarter than Malfoy and he is putting her down out of his own insecurities. His father even reprimands him for not being on the same level of intelligence as Hermione. Not many characters in the book are brave enough to talk back to Malfoy. However, when he was showing off the new broomstick his father got for the entire Slytherin team, Hermione barks “at least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in” (73). Hermione is brave enough to smartly call out Malfoy after he gloats about his team’s new broomsticks, and he rudely replies, “no one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood” (73). This evokes emotion from the entire group of people from Gryffindor since calling someone a “Mudblood” is quite possibly the worst insult one can give. Since Hermoine is not born from wizards, Malfoy uses this harsh insult to try to hurt her since he knows she is smarter than him and wants to prevent her from publicly calling him out again. Ron explains why she word “Mudblood” is so offensive when he says “Mudblood’s a really foul name for someone who is muggle-born—you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards—like Malfoy’s family—who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood” (75). Just as Dana points out to Rufus how white people enslaved African Americans because they need someone to look down on, Ron explains how Malfoy’s family needs someone to look down on as well. In this case, Malfoy uses Hermione to look down on since she knows her spells better than he does, and she is not born from magic parents.
Hermione strategizes with Ron and Harry just as Dana does throughout Kindred. When plotting how they were going to get Malfoy to confess that he was the one who was trying to frighten all of the Squibs and Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts, Hermione states “there might be a way…of course, it would be difficult. And dangerous, very dangerous. We’d be breaking about fifty school rules I expect” (104). Much like how Dana is willing to strategize and carry out plans that could get her killed, Hermione is willing to risk getting into trouble for the sake of all Squibs and Muggle-borns at Hogwarts. Hermione explains to Ron and Harry that they would have to “get inside the Slytherin common room and ask Malfoy a few questions without him realizing it was [them]” (104). Ron and Harry scoff at her and tell her that this would be impossible, and she smartly replies, “no it’s not…all we’d need would be some Polyjuice potion” (105). Hermione further explains that they will need a teacher to sign off on a paper that will allow them into the Restricted Section. She convinces Lockhart that she wanted a certain book from the Restricted Section just for background reading. She is able to get him to sign the paper by explaining to him that she is only trying to understand what he is saying “in Gadding with Ghouls about slow-acting venoms” (106). Lockhart agrees and states that he is sure no one will mind that he is helping put one of the best students at Hogwarts. Hermione’s reputation as an excellent, bright student along with her convincing and well thought out words get her what they need in order to attempt getting the truth out of Malfoy. However, when Hermione is reading the ingredients of the potion to Ron and Harry, they both begin to second-guess the quest. Ron did not want to drink Crabbe’s toenails and Harry is worried about the ingredients they will have to steal. They also seem to be quite nervous about having to turn into something else in order to get the truth out of Malfoy. After all of this talk, Hermione states: “’Well, if you two are going to chicken out, fine,’ she said. There were bright pink patches on her cheeks and her eyes were brighter than usual. ‘I don’t want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion. But if you don’t want to find out if its Malfoy, I’ll go straight to Madam Prince now and hand the book back in,’” (108). Devoted and ready, Hermione pursues the plan they made and explains why the quest is important. Readers can observe Hermione becoming increasingly braver in the book, specially when she comments on how Harry and Ron might “chicken out”. Hermione’s appearance is a dead giveaway that breaking the rules and risk getting in trouble in order to restore equality at Hogwarts is the only route she wants to take. Just like Dana, Hermione feels as if she has a job she needs to get done and will do whatever it takes in order to complete it. She takes a stance on how important the issue is to her when she states, “threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion”. Hermione is fully prepared to steal the ingredients and make a difficult potion to see if Malfoy is guilty.
Dana and Hermione’s situations are similar in the way that they are both held to the mythical norm that women are not able to solve the large-scale issues that they are faced with. Dana is often talked down to at the plantation simply because she is a black female. Everyone at the plantation knows that she is educated and knows how to read, but no one suspects that she will be brave enough to pass her knowledge on to other slaves at the plantation instead of just Rufus. This action alone could cause Dana to be whipped or worse. Hermione is also taking a risk by lying to get into the Restricted Section of the library, stealing ingredients, and transforming into someone else in order to get Malfoy to confess. Since she is a good student and usually breaks no rules, this type of behavior is not normal for Hermione. But since the issue is deeply important to her, she risks it all to get her answer. Hermione is well-aware of the trouble she could land herself into for lying about her reasoning for getting into the Restricted Section of the library, stealing ingredients for potions, and sneaking into the Slytherin common room to prove Malfoy is guilty. Both Dana and Hermione put many factors as risk, but they are brave in doing so because of their intelligent minds and determination. Mythical norms hold Dana and Hermione to expectations that are far below their standards. Both women are incredibly smart, brave, and determined which gets them through their difficult situations. The simple fact that others hold them to these beliefs that they are not as smart is what gives them an advantage in their situations. Since they are not expected to be as strategic or strong minded as they are, people do not realize when or how they are making their moves. In this way, Dana and Hermione use the mythical norm to their advantage instead of allowing it to deter them.
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The mythical norm impacts female characters Dana from Kindred and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Since these characters are female they are both impacted differently by […]