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Lack of meme-age, house elves, HP lit crit - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Lack of meme-age, house elves, HP lit crit
I was going to do those "Why is your journal named..." and "Why did you friend me...?" memes (and answer others), but the truth is, "Fern's Quibbles" wasn't a particularly thought out name, and with the exception of a few people whose provenance I remember because it's specific (Arisia additions, real life or previous cyber-life, special features like mctabby's Summary Executions--which, btw, new batch in case you didn't know yet), my f-list has grown haphazardly from friending frenzies, return-friending people who dropped by here, random friending from communities or posts linked to from daily_snitch, and so on, and I've largely forgotten who came from where, and now just enjoy wandering around my f-list and seeing who's saying what. It's sad, but true.

So, those memes wouldn't be very interesting.

On to other random subjects.

Hermione and the house elves
Okay, I'm still reading Reading Harry Potter (more later), and one of the essays is on Hermione's house elf crusade. The essay actually does have an interesting history of the anti-slavery movement in children's literature, but seems to very easily fall into the "Hermione is perfectly right and it's just a question of being politic enough to get other people to agree with her" trap. I've seen more sophisticated analyses in casual message board chats.

Hermione is right in the public, moral sense. No question there--it's a rotten system and the house elves have got a rotten deal. But Hermione's problem is a bit deeper than just being impolitic with other humans. She also completely objectifies the elves.

As with the rest of the trio's adventures, all three of them have something to contribute on the issue of house elves, and Ron's contribution is not just being "part of the problem" (though of course, he's not being especially helpful in the effort toward freeing them).

Harry's approach is entirely personal, whether he's dealing with Dobby or Winky or Kreacher. He doesn't give much of a rip about the social structure. In fact, he's kind of defensive and, unlike Ron, flatly tells Hermione to shut up. (This strikes me as having nothing to do with his attitude toward house elves or beliefs about slavery, but about his emotional investment in the wizarding world, which he views Hermione--correctly--as attacking when she goes on about how it's an unjust place and so on.) Of the three of them, Harry is the only one who treats elves simply as equals. He's not trying to make a grand statement about them one way or the other. They're just people he knows.

Ron's approach is systemic, but based entirely on emotional reactions. He ends up morally in the wrong, not because he's cruel to house elves, but because he sees Winky weeping about Mr. Crouch, and sees the way the other elves respond to Dobby's freedom, and sees only that Hermione is making them very uncomfortable. He's the only one who points out the obvious--that Winky loves Crouch, however horrible he was, a concept that is incomprehensible to Hermione, but obviously, by the text, correct. (After all, it doesn't seem to be "programmed" obedience to a master, as she doesn't simply shift her allegiance to a new master, instead mourning her separation from the only family she ever knew.) Once Ron really gives the subject some thought, he doesn't object to house elf freedom in theory anymore, but in OotP simply stops Hermione from doing it in a subversive, disrespectful way.

Hermione, of course, is ideologically correct that the whole rotten system has to go. That doesn't even need elaboration (which is why her entry will be more negative; don't take it to assume that I disagree with her). If she took the time to understand Winky's feelings, she would still recognize it as a wrong situation, and one in which Crouch took vicious advantage of those feelings and then betrayed them. Her problem, though, is that she ultimately can't conceive of the house elves as free agents. When other humans call her a "mudblood," she responds accordingly, by being insulted. When Kreacher does it, she says, more or less, that he "can't help it" and insists on trying to be his friend because he's a representative of an oppressed class, despite every choice he makes in his behavior toward her. When Kreacher chastised her for pretending they were friends, I was actually on his side. She's not trying to be friends with Kreacher--who clearly is not interested--but to show her higher tolerance by condescending to be nice to an actual house elf, who after all can't help himself. (When Dumbledore reiterated this view by saying "Kreacher is what wizards made him," I wanted to reach through the page and smack him. That's exactly the same argument as, "He was born to be a slave because that's how he was built.") Her plans to free them whether they want to be free or not (the elf-hats) smacks of a superiority complex.

So it seems to me that what's needed with the house elves is Hermione's sense of the morality of the situation, coupled with Ron's emotional understanding and Harry's lack of objectification.

HP Lit Crit
In general, I've been disappointed in the essays in Reading Harry Potter. I complained yesterday about the forced neocolonialist reading, and, like I just said, I find the understanding of S.P.E.W. to be more than a little facile for a subject Rowling handles in such a complex way. I've also noticed that several of the authors seem struck by "ironies" which aren't ironic at all--eg, Harry is presented as an outsider coming into a world, but this is "undercut" by the fact that he's a scion of the well-known Potter family. How can he be revolutionary if he's grounded in the status quo? This, the author concludes, can only be caused by the limitation of strict adherence to fairy tale norms, and fairy tales are also hobbled by their committment to the status quo.

This isn't "ironic." This is the human condition, as understood by the story's world. There are a lot of balancing acts in life, and the tension between progress and stability is a big one. Neither is inherently good or bad. Harry represents both because he's the ego of the story. His job is to move things forward without destroying what was there before.

The reason I find it problematic in the critical essays is that it really tips the authors' hands--the status quo=bad; flouting the status quo=good. They are taking their own view of life and then trying to force the story into it, rather than taking story and seeing it for what it is, then trying to to find interesting things to talk about in it. You get the feelings that these essays could be written about any books without being substantially changed.
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Comments
arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 20th, 2004 08:33 am (UTC) (Link)

SPEW

I tend to disagree with Hermione's crusade as a whole. Not because house elves don't get a raw deal; they do. But I think her goals are completely off, and her methods, even more so. Part of the problem is what you talked about, that she feels superior to them and doesn't see them as individuals with free will. Howver, I have serious doubts that the entire goal of freeing all the house elves is even a good one. I think the problem here is that she doesn't treat them as equals in free will or intelligence, as you said, but that she also can't conceive of them as having genuinely different values or desires than humans, and herself in particular. She has no respect for where they're coming from. This isn't a race issue or some arbitrary factor why this is the servant group -- they really *aren't* human, and basic human nature and needs (such as self-determination and freedom) may genuinely be things that few of them would benefit from. This possibility never crosses her mind, because she assumes from the start that she knows what's best for them. IOW, I think it's largely the same problem as you do, a lack of genuine respect, but I think the problem goes deeper.

When you say that Ron is being subversive, are you referring to when he uncovers the hats? I thought that was the right thing to do, personally. Or do you mean that he should have confronted her directly? He did that, and Hermione ignored him because she, after all, knows best, and he just doesn't care about house elves.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2004 09:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Actually, I said Ron was trying to keep Hermione from being subversive, not that he was doing so himself. And that I agreed with him.

I think that the various magical races are used symbolically enough that it doesn't really matter that they aren't human in their reality.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2004 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Ah, I see where you got it from. The sentence structure is wonky.

I wrote:
he doesn't object to house elf freedom in theory anymore, but in OotP simply stops Hermione from doing it in a subversive, disrespectful way.

Which could be read as

he doesn't object to house elf freedom in theory anymore, but in OotP simply stops Hermione from doing it in a subversive, disrespectful way.

but was intended as

he doesn't object to house elf freedom in theory anymore, but in OotP simply stops Hermione (from doing it in a subversive, disrespectful way).
arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 20th, 2004 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Okay, I see what you mean. I do agree with that, then. :-)

I think that the various magical races are used symbolically enough that it doesn't really matter that they aren't human in their reality.

I disagree, but I think it's more a difference in analysis methods than anything in particular within the books.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 20th, 2004 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

This isn't a race issue or some arbitrary factor why this is the servant group -- they really *aren't* human, and basic human nature and needs (such as self-determination and freedom) may genuinely be things that few of them would benefit from. This possibility never crosses her mind, because she assumes from the start that she knows what's best for them.

OTOH, Dobby did want freedom, which shows that it is possible for elves to want what humans have. I think we can all agree that any system that prevents an elf who wants to be free from being so is unjust and needs to change.

I agree with Fern - the house elves' situation is meant to represent similar situations in the real world. Think of it in context of women's rights. Once upon a time it was thought that a woman's only proper sphere was in the home, and many women were ok with this. But women's rights crusaders said, If I want to be different, I should have the right. And many other women disapproved of them. (I find the reverse occurs as well, these days - working women often look down on women who choose to stay home, because it's not seen as liberated.) The fact is, the community will make it clear when an individual's behavior is not approved by the group. The house elves are like that with Dobby.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 20th, 2004 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

I realize that it's supposed to be representative, but I think it's taken it to be purely a slavery representation, which I don't think really transfers correctly to house elves. I think the way you describe it is a better parallel to the actual situation of the house elves, but not to Hermione's crusade.

As I said, the house elves have problems, but I think that the majority of them genuinely want to remain in servitude, and that they aren't brainwashed into thinking so. I agree that it would be a good goal for house elves to have some possibility of release, preferably as part of some larger method of addressing grievances with their masters or situation.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 20th, 2004 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

I think the way you describe it is a better parallel to the actual situation of the house elves, but not to Hermione's crusade.

I don't know; I guess I've heard enough women my age (I'm 28 and a single professional) talk about other women who choose to stay home with their kids as somehow making a lesser choice, not living up to their full potential, giving in to the brainwashing of our patriarchal culture, etc. The implication is that there's something wrong with that woman for choosing this. That sounds a lot like Hermione to me.

I'm not trying to put down the women's movement at all, btw. I'm just saying, folks who campaign for something do it because they're convinced of the rightness of their cause. This is how change happens, and it's a good thing. It just has some negative side effects sometimes, that's all.
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: November 20th, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

But remember, even if a working woman describes housewives as slaves, she is not campaigning to abolish their marriages. Hermione, otoh, is trying to "free" the house elves, and in practical terms that means destroying the system in which they live. We have an example of that in Winky, and it's not pretty, but Hermione doesn't seem to be much concerned with that. What's to happen to all these elves when they're freed, after all? You can just hand them all hats and run.

In order to really handle this responsibly I think one would actually have to *consider* the possibility that house elves generally like this system and that it gives them real benefits. That doesn't mean one wouldn't still think it was wrong and had to be dismantled, but you'd have to take their feelings about the issue seriously instead of just chalking up everything that seemed strange as brainwashing. That seems the only way you could begin to come up with a system to replace it.

I especially agree with Fernwithy's thoughts on Kreacher, whom I thought was a wonderful example of a house elf, different from both Dobby and Winky. I thought Dumbledore's final speech was incredibly off the mark. I, too, was completely on Kreacher's side about he and Hermione being friends. Not only did Kreacher not want to be her friend, but Hermione treating him that way was insulting based on his Black-inspired views-if she was his friend she would get out of his house and stop desecrating his "family's" possessions. Kreacher was fascinating because he was a slave, yes, but he was actually the most defiant one we've met. He was, imo, a very recognizable type that way. The kind of situation Kreacher was in actually does appeal to some people. It may be difficult for people to accept that a sentient creature could choose slavery, but people do it all the time in different forms, whether it be cults or domineering spouses or some other organization that dominates your life.

That's why Kreacher's such an interesting addition to the house elves we know. Dobby was the "normal" elf who wanted to be freed and is forever grateful to Harry for freeing him--he's what one would dream about in freeing elves. Winky is just lost without her master and continues to identify herself as disgraced rather than freed. Then there's Kreacher who turns his slavery to his own ends and waging a passive-aggressive war on those who oppose him.

He is the key figure in his master's murder. It doesn't get less subservient than that!
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 20th, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Hermione, otoh, is trying to "free" the house elves, and in practical terms that means destroying the system in which they live. We have an example of that in Winky, and it's not pretty, but Hermione doesn't seem to be much concerned with that. What's to happen to all these elves when they're freed, after all? You can just hand them all hats and run.

Interesting point, and one that came up after the American Civil War. I know folks don't feel the house elves should be compared with RL slavery, but in that respect I feel the comparison is apt. Because the former slaves in the US had freedom, but no land, and many didn't have the education or skills with which to find jobs. Plus slaves had had to live with daily physical and emotional abuse; that's not something you just get over to lead a happy and normal life. If nothing else, I'd imagine being brought up as a slave and always treated as inferior would leave emotional scars and baggage that would make adapting to freedom difficult for some folks.

The elves who conformed with their community's expectation of servitude and were fairly successful doing so seem to me the most likely to have trouble adjusting to freedom. Because they will see the new view as invalidating their lifestyle, which has worked for them.
From: anna_kat Date: November 21st, 2004 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Over here from daily_snitch

He is the key figure in his master's murder. It doesn't get less subservient than that!

He does it upon the orders of Narcissa Malfoy who is a member of the family he is bound to. Kreacher does not act independently.
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: November 21st, 2004 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Actually, I was referring to his going to Narcissa as being the action that made him the key. I haven't read that part in a while, but I thought Kreacher just went to her and gave her information that *she* then passed on to Lucius to help Voldemort.

I thought Kreacher slyly took Sirius' off-the-cuff "get out of here" in a way he knows it isn't intended ("Master always liked his little joke") and finds a Black he'd rather serve. So yes, Kreacher definitely stays within the rules of his servitude, but he clearly twists the rules to fit what he wants to do, so he can follow the letter and not the spirit.
musesfool From: musesfool Date: November 23rd, 2004 10:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

he clearly twists the rules to fit what he wants to do, so he can follow the letter and not the spirit.

Exactly. Which Harry warned Sirius about, reminding him that Dobby left the Malfoy house to act contrary to the Malfoys' wishes, and Sirius, iirc, looked startled at the idea, but dismissed it.
iczer6 From: iczer6 Date: November 20th, 2004 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

OTOH, Dobby did want freedom, which shows that it is possible for elves to want what humans have.

Not quite, I think what Dobby wanted was to be free from the Malfoy's who abused him.

After he was free he went looking for work [though he had trouble finding it] which says to me that he did enjoy serving people, just not people who treated him like dirt.

Someone where in GoF Dobby mentions that while he likes freedom he doesn't want too much of it, he did turn down Dumbledore's starting salary which he thought was a bit too much.


Icz
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 20th, 2004 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SPEW

Yes, but Dobby did want to stay free and get a salary, which is revolutionary for a house elf when his entire community considers freedom to be a disgrace.

Personally, I think JKR presents the house elves the way she does to keep things light. If every house elf felt about their servitude the way Dobby did about his life with the Malfoys, there'd be a lot less debate about SPEW, to be sure, but the house elves' plight would take the focus off the fight with Voldemort, which really is the story she wants to tell.
narcissam From: narcissam Date: November 20th, 2004 11:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Just a quick note, but I think that reading the Crouch/Winky relationship or even the Black/Kreacher relationship as harmful *just* to the house-elves involved underestimates the theme. The Crouch issue is very tricky. Who actually did the manipulating there? Is Winky Crouch's slave, or the only person who can make him do things? Certainly, there's elements of exorcising her influence at the QWC after her manipulations lead him almost to the brink of ruin. Though I've no doubt he was planning to take her back quietly, if Voldemort hadn't got in the way. He couldn't have lived without her. In nasty control games like that, it becomes unclear who is commanding whom, and house-elf freedom might free more than house-elves.

NM
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: November 20th, 2004 11:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Let me just say this - people who compare House Elves to slavery irk me. House Elves aren't human; for some reason or another, they seem to want to serve. Slaves had no choise.

That said, I think the system of House Elves is wrong, and I even wonder if they haven't been hexed or something. Were wizards afraid of their potential power, and therefore made them House Elves?

As for Hermione, I see where she's getting at - but she's approaching it in all the wrong ways. It's another example of how Hermione tends to look at the issue, not the individual, with exceptions. I think even Harry said it - "Hermione, you understand feelings and stuff, but not Quidditch." Because that's it exactly; Hermione understands logical things, like the fact that Cho is probably very torn. However, she can't understand things she'll never imagine herself being affected by, like Quidditch. In all honesty? I'm not a sports person either; but if a friend is upset because their favorite baseball team lost, I'm not going to say "and this is why I hate sports, it makes people whiny." Unfortunately, Hermione is.

Wow, that was quite the essay. ^^
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: November 20th, 2004 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Let me just say this - people who compare House Elves to slavery irk me. House Elves aren't human; for some reason or another, they seem to want to serve. Slaves had no choise.

That said, I think the system of House Elves is wrong, and I even wonder if they haven't been hexed or something. Were wizards afraid of their potential power, and therefore made them House Elves?


Well, there's also the question of ingrained beliefs, emotional compulsions, and attachment to the status quo. Some human slaves, as far as I understand it, did care about their masters and vice versa -- which doesn't make it any more right to own someone, but does mean reading the elves' desire to serve or attachment to their masters as invalidating the comparison is dubious.

My personal theory, though, is that house-elves started out as the classic brownies. (JKR has said she based them on brownie stories, in fact, but thought it would be interesting (or some other adjective I'm blanking on) to have them regard the giving of clothes as a disgrace.) What I suspect happened in the wizarding world is that wizards were uncomfortable with the brownies having total control of the relationship -- especially since depending on which legends you're reading, they could be rather vengeful if slighted, and even without that, coming to depend on one and having it up and leave at an inconvenient time could get nasty -- and got them, to agree to contracts that may even have once been reasonable but ended up getting worse and worse. (Some portion of this may have been catalyzed by the adoption of the Statute of Secrecy, if prior to that brownies had made a habit of adopting Muggles as well as wizards.)

I also think on my more whimsical days that the house-elves may (under normal circumstances) tend to think of humans as pets.

Cats, apparently.
furiosity From: furiosity Date: November 20th, 2004 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
You should write a "Reading HP" book of your own. I'm serious.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 20th, 2004 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
At this point, I'm considering it, though my issues with gathering footnotes for my Saga Journal article makes me re-think doing anything academic! :)
musesfool From: musesfool Date: November 20th, 2004 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
When Dumbledore reiterated this view by saying "Kreacher is what wizards made him," I wanted to reach through the page and smack him. That's exactly the same argument as, "He was born to be a slave because that's how he was built."

Hmm... I'm not sure that's what Dumbledore's saying, so much as he's saying Kreacher betrayed Sirius because 1. of how Sirius treated him (an irony that makes me a little ill, considering Sirius's own words on the subject in GoF) and 2. of how he was socialized as a house-elf, to be loyal to Mrs. Black, and the Black family, and saw Sirius as a disgrace to both, and that because of what wizards have done to house-elves, Kreacher was acting according to his beliefs (and he was cracked, which is also an issue of how he was treated by his owner).

I took Dumbledore's words as a criticism of the system, though I think he's too bound to it, and to a lot of the less savory aspects of the wizarding world, himself to ever really foster change, except on a one-by-one basis. I mean, he lets a werewolf into the school, both as a student and as a teacher, but has not championed their cause (that we know of) in any systematic, public way. He hires Dobby as an employee, but he also keeps the other house-elves on. It's a very interesting combination of budding progressiveness and staunch conservatism.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: November 20th, 2004 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're right on both counts, but Dumbledore also said "It is our choices," and Dobby as good as says it. Seems Dumbledore is taking the Hermione angle to the situation. Or is it the Gandalf angle? (Er, I don't think much of some of Gandalf's policies. Wormtongue comes to mind in this context. See, Theoden, here is a snake! You cannot with safety keep it, nor can you leave it behind. In fact, the only smart move would be to kill it, but you know how I am about the death penalty. Let's just let him go wherever he feels like.) Either way, I sense disaster.
musesfool From: musesfool Date: November 20th, 2004 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Kreacher was absolutely a disaster waiting to happen (if Sirius had a brain in his head, he should have freed Kreacher and sent him off *before* they set the house up as Order headquarters), and I think the whole house-elf situation is going to blow up before the series ends (I also think the giants, centaurs, goblins and werewolves will also play a role, as they are all badly treated by wizarding society).
sonetka From: sonetka Date: November 21st, 2004 01:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I get annoyed with Dumbledore on this one, too: I can understand that Kreacher, in his own twisted, batshit-crazy way, thought he was doing the right thing, but Dumbledore's comment seems to basically absolve him of blame for anything big on the grounds that he was brought up all twisted-like. He was brought up to serve the Black family! Granted, the Black family had had its tensions in recent years, but he had always been with the family in Grimmauld Place. When he passive-aggressively betrayed the last scion of that particular branch to his death, he knew what he was doing; he made the choice. Mrs. Black may have been a triple-distilled b!tch, but I doubt she had brought up Kreacher to betray her surviving children to their deaths.

I like your take on the Gandalf angle - "Let's let this betraying, crazy snake loose and hope it will all turn out for the best!" In LOTR, of course, Wormtongue's survival ultimately means that none of our heroes has to be the one to sully himself by killing the once-great Saruman. In real life, it would probably be a bit less convenient. I'm guessing that Kreacher's continued, Dumbledore-endorsed survival means that he will eventually be an agent, voluntary or otherwise, of Narcissa/Bellatrix/Lucius/Some Random Black's downfall.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: November 21st, 2004 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Just to interject on the choices theme, not a criticism per se, but...Dumbledore says that our choices *show* what we really are, not make. He seems to be playing with a certain essentialism here, and not the existential complete self-determination that quote is often shortened into being.

This is not a critique of your post--just a place to throw that out. :) Now, I'm going back on vacation.
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: November 20th, 2004 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure that's what Dumbledore's saying, so much as he's saying Kreacher betrayed Sirius because 1. of how Sirius treated him (an irony that makes me a little ill, considering Sirius's own words on the subject in GoF) and 2. of how he was socialized as a house-elf, to be loyal to Mrs. Black, and the Black family, and saw Sirius as a disgrace to both, and that because of what wizards have done to house-elves, Kreacher was acting according to his beliefs (and he was cracked, which is also an issue of how he was treated by his owner).

My problem with this is that it again neatly avoids actually listening to anything Kreacher has to say on the subject himself. To me Kreacher was a recognizable type of servant-character, sort of like Mrs. Danvers, who is a servant but is following his own passionate agenda. Presumably he served Mrs. Black devotedly, but faced with a person he doesn't want to serve he is passive-aggressive and works against him, finally using a loophole to have him murdered. So really, how much of a slave was Kreacher in OotP? I mean, his most dramatic act in canon was an act of defiance and free will. Yes, his opinions can be described as a product in the system in which he was raised and the family he lived with, but then, so are the opinions of all the "free" characters.
musesfool From: musesfool Date: November 20th, 2004 09:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not saying I agree with this interpretation of what Dumbledore said, if indeed I'm reading the line correctly. That's just how I read it. I'm just not sure "He was born to be a slave because that's how he was built." is what Dumbledore meant when he said, "Kreacher is what wizards made him."
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: November 21st, 2004 11:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah! Yes, I see now. I think that's what Dumbledore meant too. I thought he was taking pretty much the same view as Hermione that way.
musesfool From: musesfool Date: November 23rd, 2004 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Right. Except I think Dumbledore has more awareness (as well he should, given his age and position) of what freeing the house-elves without any support system would entail.

This is one area I fear Rowling has bitten off more than she can chew. Because while some people I know pooh-pooh the house-elves=real world slaves comparison and instead choose to look at it as a class issue rather than a race one (which is certainly permissible, *especially* given the UK setting of the books), OotP made it even clearer that racism (and combating it) is a central theme of the novels, and I think that will continue - look at the destroyed fountain, and the title of book 6, and Rowling's own references to the Nazis. which is not a godwinizing reference in this instance *g*
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