Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Date Information

April 2017

Department

English

First Advisor

Scott Nowka

Abstract

Since the publication of the first installment in 1997, JK Rowling's Harry Potter series has endured in popular culture as nothing less than a phenomenon. Thanks in part to its charming cast of complex characters, heroic adventures, and entertaining litany of magical spells, the series has attained a sort of immortality. Beyond entertainment, however, Rowling's novels also contain a spectrum of compelling cultural issues that everyone eventually grapples with as their rose-tinted view of the world is compromised. Chief among these issues are the concepts of prejudice and racism, which are embodied in the series through the dispute over blood purity, specifically between those with entirely magical ancestry and those with mixed or non-magical ancestry. Racial purity has been a cornerstone of numerous historical regimes and conflicts and as such, many comparisons can be drawn from the Pureblood-Muggleborn struggle; however, given the lack of emphasis on physical appearance, as well as a number of additional parallels among characters and events, one historical conflict stands out from the rest: Nazi Germany's anti-Semitism during the World War II era. Much of the existing criticism of the novels notes these parallels, but this paper seeks to deepen the examination of the overall theme of racial purity and its relations to WWII, primarily by engaging the mythology of the series and drawing comparisons between fiction and history. The paper also seeks to examine how these parallels help further understanding and tolerance on the part of young readers as they navigate modern society at large.

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