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In: English and Literature

Submitted By ReeseDC
Words 1736
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Child’s Power and Authority
Children and the Natural World
Story Books and Telling
Contrast: Childhood and Social Class
Compare and Contrast: Matilda to the Prisoner of Azkaban
Roald Dahl’s novel, “Matilda” tells the story of a young girl in oppression by her parents who show no interest in their daughter and is mean for sport. It is a story of triumph in which her intelligence and magical abilities taught her the ins-and-outs of life. But more importantly, it taught Matilda how to take care of herself. Similarly, J.K. Rowling’s novel, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” also addresses the oppression of the magical Harry Potter by his aunt and uncle and the various death threats on his life. I argue that if Harry and Matilda had not been oppressed, they would not have become the characters at the end of the novels. Matilda’s oppression started at birth. Upon her birth, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood showed no interest in her. She was viewed as a “scab” because it’s something you have to wait for until it can be snatched off and thrown away (Dahl 1). Based on their actions and attitude towards their daughter, her parents could wait to remove this scab. The narrator describes Matilda’s parents “half-witted” because they were unaware of the extraordinary ability their daughter. They were also unaware that at a very young age, Matilda knew how her parents felt about her (Dahl 1). Strangely, even with their dislike, the Wormwoods assumed their daughter was normal. Harry is a thirteen year old boy, away from his beloved Hogwarts, who is deemed detestable and is forced to adhere to the harsh rules, restricted to him, of his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. He is regarded as a slave in the household as he is required to clean everyone’s dishes, clean the home, and use no magic. It doesn’t seem too bad right? Wrong. What makes these tasks so oppressive is that he is the only one in the home with such requirements. His birthday goes unnoticed; he is told he looks ugly with glasses all while his fat cousin Dudley is treated as Petunia and Vernon’s pride and joy. Harry is never treated like one of the family and is even further oppressed by his Aunt Marge who makes him pick food off the floor that she dropped. Each of Matilda and Harry’s authority figures are harsh, unyielding, and oppressive. But through the understanding of how their authority figures are, they themselves learn how not to be towards others because of how they felt under their ruling. Furthermore, to the reader, the narrator tries to come to her defense by describing all the things that could be done to get back at the parents. For example, the narrator says, “If I were a teacher I would cook up some real scorchers for the children of doting parents” (Dahl 2). In this instance, it seems the narrator’s thoughts have permeated Matilda’s because towards the middle of the novel, she actually gets her parents back. Harry Potter takes the same approach of getting even by blowing up his Aunt Marge after her continuous disregard for Harry as a person and a member of the family. In both stories, the child’s inherent authority of what is right and wrong superseded their parental authority. Nevertheless, oppression doesn’t end in the Dursley household for Harry. Upon his return to Hogwarts, he finds everyone in fear from reading newspapers. The threat is said to be a horrific, merciless, convicted killer by the name of Sirius Black. He supposedly murdered Harry’s parents and now has a thirst for Harry’s blood on his hands. Harry is unaware of the reason Sirius wants him dead but continues his normal school activities. Strangely, the oppression here is in the fear of others, not necessarily in Harry. The fear of others is what keeps Hogwarts occupants from leaving the castle alone, limits outside activities, and renders the protection of Harry through his professors and friends. Harry is oppressed because his life has to adhere to the potential threat of his murder. After this instance, the reader establishes a pattern of Harry’s ability to move past oppression because of his ability to leave the source of it. Matilda, on the other hand, remains in the Wormwoods oppressive environment. She does, however, remain unaffected by the antics. In a way, she becomes the leading authority figure in her ability to teach her parents’ lessons. From gluing her father’s hat to his head with superglue to the shattering of the TV screen, Matilda is well aware of her power and authority as a child. Continuing on, after begging her parents for a long time, the Wormwoods decide to send their daughter to school. The decision for Matilda going to school was only after Harry met with the oppressive Ms. Trunchbull. So it could be easily argued that the reason Matilda was allowed to go to school because the oppressive conditions at school wouldn’t differ much from those conditions at home. What makes Matilda brilliant in these conditions is her ability to exercise her freedom within the oppressive limits. Although frequent use of her powers makes her tired, Matilda is able to use her powers without anyone finding out.
` With all the oppression of Matilda and Harry in mind: I argue that it is the oppression that made them the characters they became. Harry and Zinia’s oppressive acts agitated with Matilda’s sensitivity, which in turn, became the fuel for her to use her powers. The students of Crutchen Hall are held under the tyrannical rule of Miss Trunchbull. Matilda overcomes that with her ability to move objects with her mind. Oppression for Harry gave him the strength to flee from it. If Petunia and Vernon were loving, understanding, caring, and everything Harry wanted them to be, the plot of the story would experience a dramatic change and Harry would have no reason to head back to Hogwarts early and save the day. Additionally, Harry’s ability to move past oppression is what allowed him to confront Sirius Black to determine his motive for hunting him. Oppression is a negative aspect of their lives, but it showed them the best lessons on how not to be. However, out of the story of oppression comes the story of how the characters overcame it. She overcomes the oppression of the tyrannical figures in her life with mirror by doing to them what they have done to others. Ms. Trunchbull is haunted in her home by Magnus, the man that is suspected to have been killed by her. Harry’s hat is glued to his head and Zinia’s speedboat salesmen turn out to be police; which by the way, Matilda is no longer in the home to save them from criminal prosecution. Harry Potter initially flees from his tyrannical aunt and uncle, but gives them a dose of their own medicine by blowing Marge up and watching Vernon crawl after her. As a sign of overcoming, Harry pursues Sirius Black, the source of the oppression and fear at Hogwarts. There are various themes to be explored between the two novels. The most prevalent in both novels is theme of conflict in adult and child relationship. There is a constant struggle for Matilda to understand her parents. However, her parents make no ploys to understand their daughter. The same goes for Harry Potter. He makes several attempts to meet his aunt and uncles expectations of him, only to discover that the tasks are taxing. Harry makes several attempts to ameliorate the tension in the home by not complaining. Petunia and Vernon never take the time to understand Harry or be support for him after his parents’ deaths. Selfishness is at the heart of this theme. Children and the natural world is another theme that permeates both novels. Matilda’s natural world was tyrannical because of her parents, so she was able to immerse her imagination into the stories of all those authors. She was able to make parts of her imagination become a part of her natural world. Naturally, powers to move objects with the mind, but through Matilda’s powers she sends the message; out of oppression, extraordinary things can happen. Harry takes a different approach to confronting the natural world. The times when he thought about his parents were times of sadness. These were areas of his mind that he couldn’t use magic to restore. It seems Harry’s use of magic kept him occupied from remembering the tragic events of his natural world. The magical in this story made it easier for Harry to deal with the natural. As the reader analyzes child’s power and authority within the two texts, one must acknowledge the gender involved. Matilda is a girl whose voice remains unheard and disrespected. It is likely because she wasn’t a boy. For example, Michael was her brother and was treated with all the royalties a prince of the home would have. He was offered the opportunity to take over his father’s car dealership in the future. Matilda was able to make something out of the nothing she was given. It is through her actions that her intent to save others is established and her voice is heard through her brilliance and magical ability. Harry’s power and authority is established as a baby. Although his powers were transferred to him by accident, he is revered and feared by many. This gave him the influence over the students at Hogwarts to lead them to safety. Like Matilda, his abilities rather than his voice maintained the state of prominence he remained in. He used these abilities to save lives, schools, teach lessons, and forge friendships. In conclusion, an important thing to acknowledge in these two texts is the parent to child relationships. It is important for the reader to know that children cannot pick their parents or aunts and uncles. However, it is necessary to understand that parents and authority figures had to be who they are for the characters to become the extraordinary human beings they became. If this was not the case, the plot of the story, the circumstances presented, and the actions that followed would be completely different. This is the power of story books and storytelling; the ability to convince the reader that there is hope even in what seems to be the most hopeless situations.…...

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