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Jul. 17th, 2013 | 12:12 am

Contemplating the weird disconnect in the Harry Potter universe between wizards and Muggles, I remembered this line from Tonks in OotP: "Very clean, aren't they, these Muggles?" said the witch called Tonks, who was looking about the kitchen with great interest. "My dad's Muggle-born and he's a right old slob. I suppose it varies, just as it does with wizards?"
This is someone whose father is Muggle-born. She must have some connection with and knowledge of the Muggle world, yet she still discusses them as if they are some weird alien species who are so different to wizards that she never before considered that preferred levels of tidiness might vary. (Try replacing "Muggle-born/Muggles" with one ethnicity and "wizards" with another to see just how weird this is.)

Last day at work tomorrow. I am feeling very strange about it.

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Comments {11}

nineveh_uk

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from: nineveh_uk
date: Jul. 17th, 2013 07:14 am (UTC)
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My impression is that Tonks' disconnect with the Muggle world in this scene is par for the course. Her father is Muggle-born, but he doesn't seem to retain much connection with the world, and this seems to be the case for most Muggle-borns. Hogwarts functions very effectively - and no doubt deliberately - to remove Muggle-born children from their home environment and transfer their whole interest and allegiance to their new world. I don't think that Hermione's increased distance from her parents over the course of the novels is meant to be unusual, but typical. In DH when Ted Tonks goes on the run, he doesn't simply go to his parents and get help to disappear in the Muggle world where he would be harder to find, and the Muggle-born wandless end up on the street in Diagon Alley, when they might just walk back through the Leaky Cauldron. There's something of an analogy with some working class children who went to grammar school and university in the mid-C20, where the process of education and social advancement went hand in hand with a ruthless belittling and stripping from them of their background.

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serriadh

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from: serriadh
date: Jul. 17th, 2013 08:25 am (UTC)
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There's something of an analogy with some working class children who went to grammar school and university in the mid-C20, where the process of education and social advancement went hand in hand with a ruthless belittling and stripping from them of their background.
Yes, except that we generally acknowledge that that's a bad thing, and as you say, I'm not at all sure JKR means us to judge/feel sorry for/worry about the estrangement between Muggle-borns and their culture of origin.

I think it's definitely a problem that JKR seems to be (deliberately or otherwise) making that analogy, but it's starker and more literal between wizards and muggles. Wizards do have wider abilities, they are stronger and more powerful, so it's easier to go along with the(ir) belief that they're "better".

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nineveh_uk

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from: nineveh_uk
date: Jul. 17th, 2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
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I tend to feel that it is acknowledged that the estrangement is a sad thing, in that we see it happening to Hermione, who starts off going home for Christmas, then is vaguely sorry that her parents want to do stuff with her becauses they don't understand her life, and finally mind-wipes them. My justification for this is also that we see everything through Harry's POV.

Though possibly my views may be affected by having fun with the issue in the Giant WIP.

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littlered2

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from: littlered2
date: Jul. 19th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
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Harry's PoV means we miss out on a lot of interesting stuff, I think. I've read some good fics that suggest that Harry is particuarly bad at paying attention to the lives of those around him, and produce a lot of backstory that's fairly consistent with the books, but there's so much that we just don't know.

Hermione's story arc is distressing. But it must be so hard for Muggleborns and their families - how far does the Statute of Secrecy stretch, I wonder? Can you tell grandparents, cousins, family friends, or do you just have to tell them your child has gone off to boarding school (which must raise questions of its own, like "How are you paying for that?" and "Didn't you always say you were against private education?") and never discuss it further/lie about everything?

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dorsetgirl

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from: dorsetgirl
date: Sep. 30th, 2013 07:11 am (UTC)
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(Here via hp_britglish

Can you tell grandparents ...never discuss it further/lie about everything?

I agree that in many ways Harry's pov is, naturally enough, very limited, but in my view these are the kind of questions that remind us the books were written for children - like the way Hogwarts students don't learn Geography, they don't go walking climbing in the surrounding hills and mountains, they never go to the coast, etc. It's striking that in Deathly Hallows, Hermione finds them many places to go based on her Muggle life; the wizarding world as we are shown it has given them no knowledge whatsoever outside of actually doing spells.

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littlered2

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from: littlered2
date: Jul. 19th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC)
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I wonder what JKR really wants us to think about it. Harry's PoV means we get a limited view of it - his feelings about the Muggle world are hardly positive, so he's not likely to see it as an inherently bad thing, and his emotional intelligence is not the best (unsurprising, what with all of the emotional neglect. I'm always surprised it's not worse), so I can't see him thinking about Hermione's situation too deeply. But it is really disturbing, really.

But the wizarding world is stuck in the technological equivalent of some decades ago - magic does everything. Muggles, without magic, are much more advanced in some ways than wizards are; you could make a compelling case for their superiority. (No wonder the Death Eaters are so anti-Muggle Studies; anything that teaches pupils about all of the things they've done and invented is not going to help their argument.)

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littlered2

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from: littlered2
date: Jul. 19th, 2013 11:52 pm (UTC)
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I suppose there's the argument that going to their Muggle families might have endangered them, but it does seem like the logical thing to do. If I were Muggleborn and the wizarding world was going to hell, I'd want to flee to the relative security of my family.

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helle_d

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from: helle_d
date: Jul. 17th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
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I can see the quoted line working for Tonks - but it is so weird, the disconnect, pretty much dehumanising the Muggles. And everyone does it.

*hugs* for your last day. Hope it went well - and you've done a job successfully and competently for well over a year, and now you'e moving on to new and exciting things; I think you can be pretty proud of yourself. *more hugs*

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littlered2

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from: littlered2
date: Jul. 19th, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
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It's really odd. I mean, her dad is Muggle-born! She must know that Muggles and wizards are all human beings (they are, right? I mean, they're not different species) and to suggest that all Muggles are identical is really weird.

I was going to say she must have Muggle grandparents - but we don't see a lot of grandparents in the books, really. Which is weird, considering how long wizards live - Dumbledore was over 100, and he was hardly infirm (is it canon that wizards live longer than Muggles, or fanon?*) - but I suppose it's easier to keep track of all of the characters that was. Rowling created loads as it is.

*If they do live longer, that must make familial relationships even weirder for Muggleborn witches and wizards. Imagine knowing you'll outlive your siblings by decades. That must make things awkward.

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helle_d

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from: helle_d
date: Jul. 19th, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh wow, I never considered the Muggle-wizard relationship and the ageing thing. (I think JKR has confirmed wozard longevity in an interview, and there are definite indications in the books; like the elderly OWL examiners.) That's just weird. Good job (probably?) it works that way round though - if it was Wizard parents and Muggle children, you'd probably end up outliving them by a fair margin.

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littlered2

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from: littlered2
date: Jul. 19th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, yes, that would be bad. I wonder if Squibs have Muggle-like life expectancies? But yes, it must drive even more of a wedge between magical and non-magical siblings if there's such a large difference in life expectancies.

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