I read a rather interesting essay a few days ago, but I felt there was something I thought was missing. This is the link: Snape is a Terrible friend to Lily.
You might also want to read the post she talks about (x). It also brings interesting points. While it proves a…
I think we might have reached an impasse regarding racism then.
Not only because the mud-blood/N-word comparison is way off (yes I’m defying her :P). We both know the history behind words. How was it called? History of Linguistics? How certain words acquire a much deeper, complex meaning as the time passes. They take on a connotation, good or bad.
The events that occur around them; because of them; in consequence of them, are those that shape the word itself. It isn’t a “deeply offensive word” out of nowhere.
It’s exactly as you say. There is just much more you can take from the perspective of PoC. So I feel the comparison is grossly off. The history behind the word mud-blood isn’t in any way comparable the complexity the N-word has acquired over the time. Not only Lily was never victim of “racism” but for Severus calling her a mud-blood (as far as we know), but the feeble pure blood superiority propaganda that might have existed in those times was never wildly accepted. No half-blood or muggle born wizards were ostracised, had economic setbacks or negative stereotyping. You said it again yourself. She was well liked, well respected and popular. A pureblood boy set his eyes on her the moment he met her. The Wizarding world at large never gave ground for the word mud-blood to have much meaning.
Her time at Hogwarts was remarkable. She didn’t suffer the brunt of the supposed weight J.K wanted to put into the word. For all intents and purposes, Severus calling her that shouldn’t have gotten the reaction it got. The word, in short, doesn’t carry the weight the N-word does. So why would she react so strongly?
I fully agree about Lily. It’s so rare to see things from her perspective.
I would have to disagree again in some matters though. I think you are being a little too hard on her characterisation in your original essay. I think it’s awfully simplifying, and it makes her sound like a very shallow person who didn’t care to see Severus’ point of view at all and distorted his actions to suit a process of thought that she shouldn’t have for the reasons I just stated.
Alas I don’t think Severus was ever “racist” to her but for that instance. I strongly disagree on that account. J.K was never blatant about it. Lily never complained about it. There was something about him that made her insist. That brings me to the next point:
I don’t think he was clingy. By all means, a lonely person does grow a sense of deep attachment to the very few friends they have. But was Severus lonely, or a loner? From the few things that J.K narrated, he didn’t openly seek her, but greatly cherished their moments together. It gave me the impression that Lily was the one seeking him out (mostly), because I think she saw Severus as the boy he met when they were kids. I would think her sense of compassion was a factor, but maybe Severus was actually a pretty good kid to hang around with? Who knows.
Like I said, there is a reason she stayed. It could be because, like you say, she would feel bad ending the friendship with someone she knew only had her.
But it could be because, surprise of surprises, he was the one getting away from her (because he is self-destructive and misguided and very, very stupid), and she was the one clinging on. He had new “friends” that appreciated his talents (for as feeble and deceiving as it ended up being). He got influential people with promises of grandeur and strength and power. He talked to them about the Dark Arts as much as he wanted, something he knew Lily wouldn’t appreciate.
Was Lily self-centred enough to think “”this boy will need me I can’t leave him even if I wanted to”? It doesn’t fit with the idea I personally have about Lily.
She begged him to think things through. If she so wanted to break it off, why didn’t she then? If had been the perfect opportunity for a quite a while. So why did she stay when she didn’t have to? She knew of his new “friends”, and the, by evidence, change of attitude (from withdrawn to impulsive and self-assured). It just seems like she was self-entitled if she thought she was the only one to give him a sense of contentment or happiness, and thus would feel bad to break it off with him.
Was it really her feeling bad to break it off? Or was she the one trying to hold onto him to save him?
Maybe Lily didn’t use the mud-blood incident as an excuse and she was strong enough to not budge against the pressure of her housemate. Maybe that was the moment she realised he was far gone. Maybe Severus realised it that moment too. And Severus saw the error of his ways but was too late to change it.
About other perspective/essays I might have read about Lily. Most of the ones I’ve liked, as you have seen, have Lily being the one trying to pull him towards the light, and then realising it was futile. I like the ones that imply Lily broke it off not because she was offended by the word (because again, there is just no logical reason for her to feel as strongly as the racial parallel essays want to imply), but because the word represented how unreachable Severus was and how tired she was of trying to save him.
I also don’t agree with the “self-entitled to judge his actions”. It’s actually something I got from a fan fiction I read a while ago. It put her character on ever greyer grounds, which was actually pretty uncomfortable for me to digest (even when the narrative made a lot of sense in a canonical way. Let me see if I can find it so I can share that little part with you).
You know, actually, I think we’re reaching something good here in regards to the racism thing. I think we might have figured it out.
In regards to our individual opinions, we’re likely never going to be on the same side, because as a novelist myself, I am more sympathetic towards what an author’s intentions are, rather than even mass reader interpretation. (A great example of why would be the controversy of Swift’s A Modest Proposal and/or the issues surrounding Huckleberry Finn). But, Its not because I believe deeply in my soul that, based on textual example, this is a perfect race allegory, and more that I was standing in the middle and decided to just pick the side that my literary ideology has already firmly entrenched itself (outside of harry potter)
BUT LETS JUST IGNORE THAT FOR A SEC because I think what we’re beginning to get at might be more important. Because I think—and don’t shoot me here—- but I think that the issue here is not one of intent or efficiency of the allegory, but more related to J.K. Rowlings failings in regards to a correct and realistic allegorical portrayal and understanding of racism in the world she built.
Because the issue here isn’t whether or not she intended to create that parallel. She did. But as we both have expressed, there are severe problems with it.
- Based on your analysis on the… shall we say, “hollowness”, of the N-word analogy (Which, could be replaced with the slur “Paki”, as Rowling is from the UK and that is pretty much the ethnic/historical/social equivalent of an aggressive racist slur, only instead of applying to black people, it applies to anyone who looks vaguely south asian. And given the history of UK/South asian relations, it has similar weight to the N-word for Americans on a historical context.) Everything that makes the N-word horribly offensive is…. suspiciously absent from the text. (And so, logically, should be absent from the reception of the slur “mudblood”)
- Despite the above, the word Mudblood is clearly intended to be taken extremely seriously. Much like both of those real world slurs I used in my example.
But… why? As you did mention, there isn’t any socio-economic privilege, or even any micro-aggressions or any job discrimination. The extent of the hatred of mudbloods within the text seems to be limited to teasing in secondary-elementary school, snobbery by rich people like the Blacks and Malfoys and the crazed actions of a group of (admittedly powerful) fanatics. Something which we both agree strongly on.
- My insistence on sticking to the author intent illuminates several things: First, that the racial allegory was fully intended to be inferred. To the point where some people were heralding the books as an action towards social justice and creating understanding. Second, that the mudblood slur is indeed derivative from historical racial incidences. Or at least it was intended to be taken in that way. And finally, that the racism that was intended to be a part of the series was a dramatic factor in the incident regarding the tense friendship between Snape and Lily.
When you put all that together:
It shows that the word mudblood and the issues of blood related “racism” within the text are written to be reactionary and inflammatory within the plot of the text to further their comparison with real world issues. BUT, despite that, the author has failed to provide nearly every basis of whichever reactionary historical and present day oppression that would make the slur inflammatory in the first place.
Holy shit, man.
So, the author’s fundamental misunderstanding of the matrix of oppression makes the racial allegory AND the periodic aggression towards “mudbloods” make no literal sense beyond the fragile web of the plot!
Because literally nobody but a small cluster of 20-ish militant “racist” people, some rich people and some gradeschool bullies give a hoot and a holler about whether someone was muggleborn or not— particularly if we look at it from a legal, social, and violent aggression perspective.
J.K. only managed to put the bottom and the top layers of the oppression into the narrative. And the top was a tiny sect of fanatics, so It barely counts. So why, in the narrative, is mudblood designed to be reacted to in the same way as N**** and P***?!
And the more I sit here wondering why the word “mudblood” causes gasps of horror and tears in the book, the more strongly I think this theory we’ve stumbled upon might be correct.
Because, J.K. Rowling, thought she is female and was poor, likely had very little experience with the full spectrum/pyramid of oppression in such a visible way as most minorities (POC, LGBTQA, Health/ability) do, and wouldn’t know that (besides the genocide block of the pyramid) when a group is being oppressed ALL other sections of the pyramid are present AT THE SAME TIME in varying degrees. Ie: You don’t get to have the bottom unless there is a history (or present day instances) of layers 2-4.
What do you think?
Also, the part I bolded in your response gave me fucking chills. That is my new Lily/Snape head-canon now.
Oh, and I would LOVE to see that thing you mentioned. I’m curious as to how they even came up with that.
EDIT: Now that I think about it more, what she did (socially) with Werewolves is much closer to a true racial oppression allegorical structure. But i don’t think she’s said anything about that.
^^ VERY interesting… I read somewhere that werewolves - because of the idea of their “contagion” was her parallel to the way gay people were treated during the AIDS epidemic. I’ll have to find that quote…