free hit counter code
Browse by:
Get daily news round-up
Columnists

The forgotten rape in Harry Potter

You have to admit, this picture is hilarious. The Feminist Wetlbanket is a weekly column where Liz looks at popular culture from a feminist point of view... and then beats it down with her sharp words. This week, she gives you a closer look inside something near and dear to her: Harry Potter.

I should probably preface this by explaining the background of this project. When I was a Women's Studies student, I wrote a topic for an advanced upper division core course doing a feminist analysis of Harry Potter. While only 6 books were out at the time (and I only had a quarter - 10 weeks - to work on the project), I pursued it with full force. I'm actually in the process of applying to graduate school in the hopes of turning this small (it was 25 pages, so not that small) paper into a thesis or dissertation. With that said, please know that this project involved mass amounts of research and is still an unfinished work.

When I began this investigation/obsession, the last things I thought I would find were rape and gay bashing (among others) ... but I did. Because this project was (is!) so intense, I have broken this up into several articles. This week? The rape of Dolores Umbridge.

It has been fairly well document in various interviews that J.K. Rowling heavily researches almost everything - from names to creatures - that go into the series. Nicolas Flamel, from Sorcerer’s Stone, is a real person and the story she used draws greatly from his legend. Many of Rowling’s mythical creatures, names, and spells have a root in some legend, fairy tale, or story that she has borrowed from (something her critics are quick to point out). Knowing this about Rowling, the way she utilized the mythical half-man half-horse centaurs in Order of the Phoenix came as quite a shock.

According to centaur legend, they are not the docile, kind, and all-knowing creatures that Rowling chose to portray them as. The first centaur was a production of rape, and this beginning defines the remainder of centaur legend (1, p59). When invited to a wedding, the centaurs “attempted to rape and abduct the bride and other women” (1, p63). Centaurs were considered dangerous because they had “exaggerated masculinity” due to their “human male element being combined with the sexual potency of stallions, and thus they were characterized by violent lust” (1, p63). There were very few female/women centaurs to use as companions, and this was also blamed for their voracious sexual appetite.

In Order of the Phoenix, Rowling creates Dolores Umbridge: the amazingly unlikable Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who works for the Minister of Magic. Umbridge searches unwaveringly for ways to discredit Dumbledore and expel Harry. When she threatens to perform an illegal curse on one of Harry’s friends in order to get information about Dumbledore’s whereabouts, Hermione comes up with a plan to save them all: she’ll lead Umbridge into the forest and let the centaurs take care of her. It is worth noting that Hermione, a female character who is extremely intelligent and known for her book-ish tendencies, is most likely sending Umbridge to this punishment knowingly. Rowling has made a point of using Hermione to provide the readers with information because she is considered to be very knowledgeable. It is worth arguing, then, that Hermione would know the violent history of centaurs and took Umbrdige into the forest knowing that she would suffer rape at the hands of a very violent group of half-men half-horses.

It is surprising that Rowling, known for the intense research of things she puts into her books, would use centaurs to “punish” Umbridge. Some evidence provided by Rowling helps to point us in the direction of discovering Umbridge’s true punishment. Umbridge’s usually neat appearance is changed in her hospital bed: her “mousy hair was very untidy and there were bits of twig and leaf in it, but otherwise she seemed to be quite unscathed” (2, p849). Despite lack of physical evidence, the students know something terrible has happened to her because of her physical and apparent mental states. When Ron jokingly makes the sound of hoof beats, Umbridge frantically sits up in her bed and looks for the source of the noise. Her reaction to this sound and her shock like state are symptoms commonly experienced by rape victims (RAINN). Why Rowling chose to punish Umbridge this way when she could have used many other means is unknown. The rape of Professor Umbridge is perhaps one of the most horrifying instances of violence against women in the entire series.

Next week? The stereotypes Rowling uses, and how they can be blamed for the gay bashing of several not-so-masculine characters.

Please note that this is a feminist reading of a text. It does not mean that I believe Rowling intended for these things to happen. When a work is published, it becomes something that is up for interpretation by many different disciplines. A feminist reading of a text finds hidden meanings and reads against the grain - it does not say anything about the author's intentions.

References:
(1) Lawrence, Elizabeth A. "The Centaur: Its History and Meaning in Human Culture." Journal of Popular Culture 27.4 (1994): 57-68.
(2) Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.

[images from getty]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Posted by on October 9, 2007

Comments

Er.... ok. It's an interesting theory. I don't doubt that Rowling knew all about the origin of centaurs when she wrote them in, but I can't help feeling that the idea came first and then evidence was found to back it up, rather than the other way round.

Posted by: Beth | October 10, 2007 1:32 AM

The idea did come first, and research did follow. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Sorry you do. However, I didn't find anything that went against my claims. If I did, I would have reported it. For most of the research I do and papers I write, the ideas do come first. I can't research something if I don't have an idea... but that's just me.

It's not a theory - it's an argument. It's a feminist reading of a text. It's about going against the grain. That's the whole point of doing a feminist reading of a text.

Posted by: Liz | October 10, 2007 2:22 AM

very interesting, very convincing!

Posted by: milly | October 10, 2007 9:31 AM

I think it's an interesting reading and agree with Liz in that her take on it is based on an idea, which she further researched. It's not a absolute truth, it's a feminist reading. You could also do a Marxist reading of Harry Potter and say that wizardry is presented as the socialist alternative to the capitalist human world (I don't actually think that but I do think a feasible argument could be made for that). So does that make Rowling a Communist? I doubt it.

Liz's research makes me think about the appropriation of mythology into main stream culture and the gendered aspects of those myths are either discarded or retained. Rowling kept the centaurs as violent beings but didn't overtly present their sexuality. Yet the violent interaction that occurs is between them and Umbridge, a woman, and thus retains some aspect of their mythological characteristics as being dangerous towards females.

Posted by: Carter-Ann | October 10, 2007 11:29 AM

I wish that the world would pay me to write papers about centaur rape in childrens books, and the devilish 14-year-olds who bring them their prey.

It'd be horrifying if rape was actually described or alluded to, true. To pick a book series this popular and crap out some cryptic "rape" to garner a shocking headline is just sad.

If you can find rape in Harry Potter of all places, I fear to ask your opinion of the Smurfs... that Papa Smurf gives me bad vibes.

Posted by: zhokuai | October 10, 2007 12:40 PM

What rubbish - that was never a rape. Umbridge loved every minute of it. When she sat up in bed like that, she was hoping the centaurs were coming back!

Posted by: Flinthart | October 10, 2007 1:41 PM

It was not my interpretation at all that Hermione was taking Umbridge to the centaurs. I believe she was attempting to take her to Grawp (Hagrid's brother). What he would have done with her I don't know, but probably nothing serious as Grawp at that point appeared to have calmed down some and would not hurt a strong female figure as evidenced by the way he reacted when Hermione scolded him for picking her up. When they found that Grawp was not where he was supposed to be it was just luck that the centaurs turned up at that point.

Posted by: korendir | October 10, 2007 2:40 PM

Flinhart - that's just crude and in poor taste.

Korendir - I considered that option as well. After reviewing the text several times, I came to this particular conclusion. In the fuller version of this essay, I do provide more detail about Grwap vs. the centaurs, and which Hermione could have intended. It was a sticky situation, but I went with the riskier factor. Either way, Hermione would have known the centaurs were a risk.

Posted by: Liz | October 10, 2007 3:49 PM

Yes it is true that JKR does do intense research on her charactors but, she also puts her own spin on their history and personality. So while the legend that is quoted my be "true" it does not apply to the books.

Posted by: Fez | October 10, 2007 3:59 PM

This did occur to me the first time I read the book, because the centaurs have certainly done _something_ traumatic. I'm not sure if I believe Rowling would deliberately have a character raped as punishment and treat it as a joke later on; then again, I don't believe she could have written that bit and _not_ realised it could be read as a rape scene (she's too skilled at foreshadowing and set-ups).

On the other hand, if she's been gang-raped by quadrupal and superhumanly strong creatures, surely there'd she wouldn't "quite unscathed". There'd be serious physical damage caused. It could have been something else entirely, though all I can think of offhand is that they roughly chucked her out of the forest and it was simply the total fear of being at the mercy of centaurs (which she viewed as animals) that did her in.

Posted by: Charles RB | October 10, 2007 4:28 PM

Interesting POV... I'm curious if the book mentions the condition of Umbridge's cloths, post-incident. Her untidy appearance implies she was out side. Her reaction to the sound of centaurs implies that she didn't like what happened. Everything beyond that is up to your own imagination. Fan fiction.

Rowling may or may not know how centaurs have been portrayed in other fictitious stories. Either way, it wouldn't support the theory that Rowling used those depictions in her world. Only Rowling can clarify the intentions of her centaur.

Posted by: nitsud stems | October 10, 2007 9:09 PM

I do hope this "research" is not funded from the public purse!

Posted by: Jules | October 11, 2007 5:11 PM

Jules: it's not, but is should be. The hidden meanings in children's literature are very important to understand, no matter their implications.

And it wouldn't be from your purse seeing as how I'm from California.

It's research. Not "research".

Posted by: Liz | October 12, 2007 11:16 PM

While I have to say that this theory is interesting and perhaps well-founded due to the research you have done on the original legends surrounding centaurs, I can't say I agree with you. Every writer uses the license to express any person or creature within the world they have created in a manner that the writer chooses. Take the Disney adaption of Hercules: Hera was not the loving mother depicted in the children's cartoon according to many a legend.

So, while Umbridge's behaviour at the hospital may have been akin to the behaviour of many rape victims, its also akin to someone who probably got the crap scared out of her by being handed over to a species that she had spent the majority of the book bashing and oppressing.

Posted by: Maggie | October 18, 2007 8:23 PM

Gay bashing?

JKR says that Albus Dumbledore is gay.

There is as much rape in Harry Potter as there are brains in your skull.

I do think it's amazing that you think a feminist reading means "going against the grain." This is why we have so many politically motivated outlandishly dipshitted deconstructions. And why young women flee from the label "feminist."

Posted by: Albus | October 20, 2007 4:13 AM

you say that this is a feminist reading and that "it does not say anything about the author's intentions."

But they why say, "Why Rowling chose to punish Umbridge this way when she could have used many other means is unknown."
As if it were Rowlings intentions?

Posted by: hib | October 20, 2007 7:45 AM

You are also laboring under the assumption that the history of centaurs in Rowling's world is similar to that of other mythology, and that not only did Hermione know this, but was vindictive enough to lead Umbridge to her rape.

There is no evidence to support Hermione is the kind of person who would want to see anyone sexually assaulted. Any time she was violent can be linked back to anger (punching Malfoy) or in self defense. Hermione was trying to buy time and possibly figure out an escape. There is no evidence in the text to indicated she wanted Umbridge raped.

Posted by: Wydok | October 20, 2007 7:56 AM

According to centaur legend, they are not the docile, kind, and all-knowing creatures that Rowling chose to portray them as.

Nope. Fail. Only Firenze was portayed that way, and he was kicked out of the herd for being that way.

Posted by: Elisa | October 20, 2007 12:02 PM

you really need to do something better with your time

Posted by: hib | October 20, 2007 12:30 PM

Obviously many readers of this site don't understand feminist literary theory.

The implied rape is sound and a valid, interesting topic. Those who disagree would do well to post counterexamples from the text rather than impassioned, reactionary screeds.

Posted by: RangerGordon | October 20, 2007 1:17 PM

I suppose the fact that these stories were originally made up to entertain J.K. Rowling's child at bedtime is not relevant here. They are stories! Fanciful works of fiction! Fantasy! To dissect them through one colored lens or another does them a crime of violation not dissimilar to the rape you say is implied in the text. An artist who paints a picture does not do so in order for high-minded navel-gazers to parse it down into miniscule bits of their own projected psychoses and insecurities.

When I write a thing, I expect people to read the words and enjoy them (or not), not try to offer some kind of reverse psychoanalysis of what they think I might have been thinking or feeling at the time. Or what childhood issues I have but never resolved. Or what I had for breakfast. The only rape here is what you have done to a marvelous piece of children's literature. You have taken a relatively pure, innocent children's fantasy and defiled it with your own prejudices and preconceived notions.

"Feminist interpretation" is not a license to disembowel someone's art, and it is a greater offense for a woman to do such a thing to another woman's art. Like we have not had enough trouble having our efforts in the arts appreciated and validated through the centuries. We expect grief and fabricated criticism from the established male-dominated system, but not from members of our own community. Don't you have something more productive and positive to do with your time besides violating the artistic efforts of a single mother? Why don't you try celebrating the accomplishments of women instead of eviscerating them with "feminist readings" of their efforts?

Posted by: Dawn in Maine | October 20, 2007 4:39 PM

This is Dolores frickin' Umbridge we're talking about here. I acknowledge the subtext, but she's barely a step up from Bellatrix in terms of personality. This isn't "violence against women" (and it was violence regardless -- ignoring subtext, they're still beating the crap about) but violence against scum barely worthy of qualifying as human. Hermione didn't think twice about it for a reason, and that reason wasn't "internalized hatred of women" or anything like that.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2007 5:46 PM

Actually, there is explicit rape in the books.

Tom Riddle Sr. by Merope Gaunt. Or is using the magical equivalent of roofies alright because Merope is female?

Posted by: Katrina | October 20, 2007 6:59 PM

You've got an interesting idea. It's not one I'd thought of, but looking over the text again, I can certainly see where you're coming from.

That brings me to my question. So? What, exactly, is the thesis of your paper? Simply that there is the possibility of reading this kind of event into the story, or that it is somehow warping the minds of the young (and older) readers?

If this is truely the after effects of a rape, what does it really matter? Violence against women has been a part of literature for a very long time. That doesn't make it any less wrong in the real world, however. But, violence of all kinds has been a major part of fiction since the beginning.

Posted by: Twitch | October 20, 2007 7:17 PM

I wish I'd thought of this before I posted my previous comment...

How would you compare this to the first book in Stephen R Donaldson's "The Chronicles o fThomas Covenant, the Unbeliever," (Lord Foul's Bane, c. 1977) where the protagonist, our hero and the focal, filtering character, rapes a girl a few chapters into the book?

Posted by: Twitch | October 20, 2007 7:25 PM

yeah, I guess I would agree with the article. I always suspected that's what happened when I read the book.

Posted by: 7up | October 20, 2007 8:13 PM

25 pages is hardly a "long" paper. I have grad students who sneeze that much before breakfast. What a joke.

Posted by: ambereyemonday | October 20, 2007 9:04 PM

Obviously many readers of this site don't understand feminist literary theory.

The implied rape is sound and a valid, interesting topic. Those who disagree would do well to post counterexamples from the text rather than impassioned, reactionary screeds.

Feminist literary interpretation includes not only looking at the subtext but tries to explain WHY things happen. In fact, the author supplies only two points as to her theory that Umbridge was raped:

1. Centaurs are traditionally rapists (doesn't this smack of stereotyping?)

2. Hermione KNEW the centaurs would rape Umbridge.

While centaurs are viloent creatures in Harry Potter, there is no evidence to suggest they would rape anyone. You have to look outside the text to come this conclusion.

While going through the woods together, Hermione tells Harry that she does NOT have a plan and was improvising. The author implies Hermione is lying to Harry. There is no example in Harry Potter where Hermione ever plots a violent attack on any other person or that she ever knowingly lies to her best friend, Harry.

While rape is a true feminist issue, I do not see evidence that Umbridge was raped, nor any explanation from the writer as to why the rape would have occured and how it would have affected Umbridge's character later.

There is an intersting dynamic here between Umbridge and the centaurs. Umbridge represents the government, who was keeping the centaurs from having equals rights. That's a race issue. Umbridge herself was bigotted against half-breeds and other non-humans, including mudbloods, giants, half-giants, centaurs, and house elves. Again, that's a race issue.

If the author wants to look at feminist issues, that's fine, but there was no rape of Umbridge. Her character does NOT change when we see her again in the seventh book. In fact, the entire "centaur encounter" turns into a jook when the last book comes around. Umbridge is not to be in any physical distress and is fully clothed when we finally find her in the hospital. Besides her being afraid of horseclopping, there is no evidence to indicate any rape too place.

If the author feels the need to look for a rape scene in Harry Potter, she should focus on the incident between Ariana Dumbledore and a group of Muggle boys who attacked her. After the attack, Albus Dumbledore became very anti-Muggle, their father attacked and KILLED the boys, and Ariana never used her magic again and was apparently mentally affected by the attack. I think there is more evidence to suggest that attack was a rape. You also have to ask WHY these women were attacked. Umbridge was attacked because of what she represented (the establishment) and what she believed (she was a bigot). Ariana was attached for who she was (a wizard and a girl).

And as for next week? Stereotypes that cause gay bashing? How is that part of a feminist viewpoint of the series?

I don't think the author truly understand feminist reader-response criticism. She explains it as "going against the grain." A feminist reader-response criticism to a text by definition focuses on FEMALE issues brought forwards in a text. Maybe that's going against the grain (in, say, maybe "The Old Man and the Sea") and sometimes it's not (in, say, maybe, "The Bell Jar"). She thinks there was a implied rape but never follows up on it, and also thinks stereotyping that leads to gay bashing is a feminist issue, but it's not.

Posted by: Wydok | October 20, 2007 9:10 PM

I think you're thinking of the wrong type of centaurs, Liz. In greek mythology there were two, the "wild" centaurs which are what you describe here, who were dedicates of Pan and thus VERY violent WHEN DRUNK, and the wise and noble Chiron.
Chiron was "intelligent, civilized and kind. He was known for his knowledge and skill with medicine.... A great healer, astrologer, and respected oracle, the last remaining centaur was most revered as a teacher and tutor." (wikipedia, for brevity's sake)
I think you'd find that Rowling's centaurs are much more in THIS mold, and not the wine crazed, rape-crazy creatures you'd like to drag into the mix. Capable of torment, certainly, but principled and civilized nonetheless.

Posted by: kitty | October 20, 2007 9:21 PM

There are some really smart people of all sexes and genders at FARK.com. And very little political correctness.

It's a great place to hone your bullshit detection and bullshit refutation skills. And a terrible place to come off like an expert if in fact you're a dipshit.

Posted by: Albus | October 21, 2007 1:15 AM

It's not a theory - it's an argument. It's a feminist reading of a text. It's about going against the grain. That's the whole point of doing a feminist reading of a text.

The point of a feminist reading of the text is NOT "to go against the grain." That's ridiculous.

You actually contradict yourself:
According to centaur legend, they are not the docile, kind, and all-knowing creatures that Rowling chose to portray them as.

Rowling portrays them as docile, kind... and rapists? (Considering that they attacked Firenze and threatened to kill Hagrid, it's amazing that you think that Rowling portrayed centaurs as docile and kind.)

A feminist reading of a text finds hidden meanings and reads against the grain - it does not say anything about the author's intentions.

That makes me think that deep down, you know that Rowling didn't have the centaurs rape Umbridge.

It's not a absolute truth, it's a feminist reading. You could also do a Marxist reading of Harry Potter and say that wizardry is presented as the socialist alternative to the capitalist human world (I don't actually think that but I do think a feasible argument could be made for that). So does that make Rowling a Communist? I doubt it.

I absolutely despise this kind of academic garbage. The idea that you can read something, cherry pick a few "facts" that support whatever random theory you may have, and still produce a valid analysis, makes me livid.

A 3rd grader could cite all of the "evidence" that ______ is about _______. An adult should be capable of performing a more impartial analysis.

Jules: it's not, but is should be. The hidden meanings in children's literature are very important to understand, no matter their implications.
It's research. Not "research".

No, it's "research." It's a pet theory that flies in the face of common sense. I want money to study my theory that moonlight cures cancer!

You base your assumptions on 2 facts:
1.) Other mythological centaurs were rapists, and
2.) Umbridge's hair and dress were untidy and she seemed to be in a state of shock.

1.) The fact that there are instances of centaurs being rapists is largely irrelevant. Centaurs in Harry Potter are never referred to, or implied to be, rapists by any of the characters prior to Umbridge being taken. Therefore, it makes little sense to use Umbridge's kidnapping to "confirm" that they were rapists. If Hermione did think that centaurs were rapists, why would she take the chance that she, herself, might be raped?

2.) While she was clearly traumatized, it is likely because she was kidnapped by "lesser beings" and was terrified that they might kill her. There is NOTHING to imply that they sexually assaulted her.

You have completely taken the incidents out of context. The idea that Rowling would have one of the characters gang raped is absurd. The idea that Hermione would lead a woman to be gang raped is absurd. The idea that Harry and Ron would JOKE about a woman being gang raped is absurd. Even if that woman were an enemy.

Why Rowling chose to punish Umbridge this way when she could have used many other means is unknown.

It's not unknown. There was no rape. Therefore, the answer is, as Steven Hawking might say, "Turtles all the way down!"

And 25 pages is NOT long for a paper written over 10 weeks.

Posted by: Melinda | October 21, 2007 2:00 AM

Reading this, I have to wonder what kind of reading is going on here: are you doing an Eve Sedgewick thing that says that there is narrative space in the novel where this character actually gets raped by centaurs? If you are, then you're dealing with issues of what's actually _in_ the text. That means that you have to prove that the centaurs of the Harry Potter universe are the celebrated anarchic rapists of the classical tradition. I suspect this will be very difficult to do in a convincing way, since Rowling probably sets up exactly what they are and how they behave. Since she's writing books for children, her centaurs are probably a good deal more kid-friendly and, based on what you've written, probably befriend any human who doesn't judge them or think of them as inferior or monstrous. Even if there is a lacuna within the text where a rape _could_ occur, it will be because the text says nothing at all on the matter and not because the text suggests it at all. You could take the well-worn deconstructive move of saying that anything could fill the gap, that there could be a rape in _Harry Potter_, but that will only ultimately do the old deconstructive trick of proving that meaning is made from disorder and presence requires absence and therefore all attempts to make meaning fall in upon themselves. You'll only be arguing that the story has no meaning, not that the meaning is that anybody gets raped. For this reason, it will be an impossible matter to prove that the events of the novel indicate an actual rape, and that's why Eve Sedgewick will never be more than a joke within the academy.

However, if you'd like to use the figure of the centaur as a way into a discussion of why a character like this Umbridge appears as such a site of disgust and revulsion, this centaur thing sounds like a great way in. In this case, you'd be using the novel as a site of cultural discourse that works through larger issues that are of consequence elsewhere in the society. By using a historical link, and remarking upon the likelihood that Rowling is at some level aware of the connection between centaurs and sexual violence, you can make a very provocative argument about why it's ok in this culture for a certain kind of woman--one with authority, expertise, a career, and no children or husband--gets consigned to the category of grotesque caricature, whose misery gets celebrated with relish not only by the men she threatens to castrate, but also by a young woman who ostensibly hopes to achieve some version of what Umbridge has. In fact it's probably very important that it is this _heroine_ of the novel who cruelly exacts the punishment here, a punishment that, if not actually a rape, is certainly physical and disempowering in the extreme. Bakhtin's notion of the grotesque will be helpful here, if you haven't already considered it. I like this possibility because it doesn't derive its argumentative force from what is or is not present in the text, but rather uses the text as an example of a cultural conversation about women and authority where all you would have to do is draw a series of sufficiently strong connections, which you've certainly done here. I wish you luck in your studies.

Posted by: Sr. Cardgage | October 21, 2007 2:58 AM

Your arguements in favor of a rape occuring are:
1. Previous centaur myth
2. Dissheveled clothes and hair
3. Jumps at the sound of Ron making hoof sounds

1. As the previous poster kitty mentioned, not all centaurs have been portrayed as rapists. Even withing the same Greek myth, there were drunken violent centaurs and there were wise, intelligent centaurs. The centaurs in Harry Potter are much more similar to Chiron in greek myth, with great knowledge of healing and astrology.
In the books, the centaurs are violent, but they are never portrayed as being innately violent like the centaurs you compare them to. Their violence is the result of oppression from humans. The Ministry of Magic has taken away their rights to use magic and forced them onto a small patch of forest. They're treated as sub-humans (and even described by the ministry as having sub-human intelligence). So it's not that they're just naturally violent angry creatures, as you imply, they are rather expressing the expected level of violence as any group would in a state of rebellion against oppressors. It's incorrect to assume that, since they are centaurs and acting violent, and other myth has described centaurs as being both violent and prone to rape, the centaurs in the book MUST accompany their own violence with rape.

2. Her appearance is similar to what it should have been considering she'd run through the forest and been chased and possibly attacked by centaurs; she would have looked much worse if she had been raped. Just the running and being in the forest would muss her clothes (she wasn't wearing jeans and hiking boots, she was wearing frilly lacy robes) and her hair. She had twigs on her again, because she was in the forest. If she fell down just once (again, she wasn't wearing hiking boots here, more likely she was wearing the wizard equivalent of pink tweed high heels) this would have happened. It doesn't necessarily imply rape. If there HAD been a rape, her clothes would have likely been ripped and torn, at least around her legs and genitals. If the centaurs were so eager to rape her, they would have been neither gentle nor concerned with preserving her clothes.

3. True, rape victims tend to be jumpy at sounds similar to those heard during their attack. Similarly, soldiers tend to jump and freak out when they hear loud noises similar to gunshots. This is called post traumatic stress disorder and it is not restricted to instances of rape.

Posted by: Becca | October 21, 2007 7:40 PM

Becca | October 21, 2007 7:40 PM

you can make a very provocative argument about why it's ok in this culture for a certain kind of woman--one with authority, expertise, a career, and no children or husband--gets consigned to the category of grotesque caricature

There is no way to know whether Umbridge actually was married or had children. Should it be an assumption that any teacher at Hogwarts is unmarried, just because we aren't told of his or her loved ones?

whose misery gets celebrated with relish not only by the men she threatens to castrate, but also by a young woman who ostensibly hopes to achieve some version of what Umbridge has. In fact it's probably very important that it is this _heroine_ of the novel who cruelly exacts the punishment here, a punishment that, if not actually a rape, is certainly physical and disempowering in the extreme.

First, I would argue that Hermione, while very smart indeed, has shown no signs of wishing to work for the Ministry of Magic. While it is not certain what her career is in the future, there is no sign of megalomania or cruelity in the character through the seven books. Also, the text states that Hermione had no plan when she brought Umbridge out into the forest, and perhaps was hoping just to use Gwrap (instead of the centaurs) as a way to escape.

Posted by: Wydok | October 22, 2007 12:31 AM

A few days earlier, I would not have agreed that J.K. Rowling implied the rape of Dolores Umbridge by the Centaurs in the books because the books are after all a series for children. I wouldn't have thought that something as disturbing as rape would be portrayed in books meant for children. But with the latest revelation from Rowling that Dumbledore was a gay it is clear that the author does not shy from touching on adult issues in children's book. In the light of this knowledge it seems very probable that the centaurs in the forest indeed raped Dolores Umbridge. It is never clarified in the books as to what kind of punishment Umbridge received from the Centaurs. It is left completely to the imagination of the readers. And the state Umbridge is found in later points largely to rape. Nevertheless, I do not agree that Hermione deliberately lead Umbridge to this fate. The book is very clear on this aspect that Hermione did not have any concrete plan at the time. She led Umbridge into the forest to save Harry from further torture and to gain time.

Posted by: Zulekha Alam | October 28, 2007 4:34 AM

I know you said this is a feminist reading, but there is no point to it if what you say is based on guesses supported only by random things from the research you did. I don't think you have a right to call this an argument if you have no facts, it seems as if you're just looking for the tiniest things in the story and making something big out of them. I know you didn't accuse the author of anything, but if you didn't what is the point of this if it only seemed like a rape in some way? If no one has offended feminism and you have no real facts for your argument and no one to blame for anything then why did you write about this?

Posted by: Justine | February 22, 2008 4:41 AM

You lesbos have way too much time on your hands.

Posted by: JohnnyWadd | February 24, 2008 5:21 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.