Blood status and prejudice Books and Writing Essays
Canon discussion / Essays

Prejudice: A Great Theme of the Books


The wizards represent all that the true "muggle" most fears: They are plainly outcasts and comfortable with being so. Nothing is more unnerving to the truly conventional than the unashamed misfit!
-- J. K. Rowling, "Of Magic and Single Motherhood" (Interview with J. K. Rowling) by Margaret Weir ("Salon," March 31, 1999) (

From the beginning of Philosopher's Stone, prejudice is a very strong theme. It is plausible that Harry enters the world wide-eyed: everything will be wonderful and it's the sort of place where injustices don't happen. Then he finds out that it does happen and it's a shock to him. He finds out that he is a half-blood: to a wizard like Lucius Malfoy, he will never be a true wizard, because his mother was of Muggle parentage. It's a very important theme.
-- J. K. Rowling (Nr)


Prejudice against Muggles

  • compared to the attitude of Arthur Weasley (“bless them”)
  • “Muggle-baiting”—the Shrinking Keys
  • during the Voldemort years: Muggle killing and torturing
  • at the Quidditch World Cup—Muggle torture, connected to Death Eaters

Prejudice against Muggle-borns (Mudbloods)

  • Salazar Slytherin—argued with Godric Gryffindor about admitting Muggle-born students
  • Lucius and Draco Malfoy
  • Mr. Borgin
  • Voldemort (as Tom Riddle)—carried on Salazar Slytherin’s work

Prejudice against other races

  • house-elves
  • goblins
  • giants
  • werewolves

Prejudice as evidence of baser qualities

  • Vernon Dursley
    • Japanese golfer joke, American plumber joke
    • motorcyclists
    • anyone different, including the people in cloaks
    • doesn’t approve of imagination
  • Gilderoy Lockhart
    • ugly old Armenian warlock (“No dress sense at all.”)
      • witch with a harelip (changted to “hairy chin” in later editions)

Ethnic or gender prejudice at Hogwarts

  • students of many ethnic backgrounds, accepted apparently without question
  • girls play Quidditch (but not for Slytherin, interestingly enough)
  • Hagrid’s attitude toward foreign students, especially those from Durmstrang
    • “The less you lot ‘ave ter do with these foreigners, the happier yeh’ll be. Yeh can trust any of ’em.” (GF28)

Dumbledore’s non-prejudicial attitude

  • gives second chances
    • Snape
    • Hagrid
  • accepts anyone
    • Lupin, as a student and later as a professor
    • various speeches connected to Triwizard Tournament
  • his attitude
    • is not accepted by everyone (e.g. Lucius, Fudge)
    • stark contrast to that of Vernon
      • Vernon is the epitome of mundane-ness
      • Dumbledore is the epitome of enlightened magic and the representative of Gryffindor
      • “Albus Dumbledore didn’t seem to realize that he had just arrived in a street where everything from his name to his boots was unwelcome,” upon his arrival in Privet Drive. (PS1)

A great theme of the books:

“Every guest in this Hall,” said Dumbledore, and his eyes lingered upon the Durmstrang students, “will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again—in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” (GF37)



Added links.

Pensieve (Comments)

Tags: prejudice