Keep the Change, ya Filthy Muggle
Muggles. Mudbloods. Half bloods. Blood traitors. These are just a few of the words used in the wizarding world to indicate those who are not pure-blooded wizards or those who defend people of impure blood. In J.K. Rowling’s first installment of the Harry Potter series, The Sorcerer’s Stone, ill sentiments are revealed against these groups of people, though there is little evidence of violence between the groups for the first half of the series. There is simply the separation of wizards and muggles. Some go so far as to feel that halfbloods should not be considered wizards, but this feeling is reserved for a few extremists, all of whom reside in Slytherin.
However, even in the first book, the intensity of the separation between the magical and nonmagical worlds is immense. The Sorcerer’s Stone is full of obstacles for Muggles surrounded by a seemingly invisible world of witchcraft and wizardry. The Wizarding world goes to incredible lengths to disguise their existence from the Muggle world, going so far as to cast multiple enchantments around all of their buildings located within areas occupied by Muggles. Hogwarts, especially, is expertly hidden, made to look like an old, abandoned factory.
Whenever muggles do happen to notice anything magical, wizards have to go to the trouble to erase their memories, like whenever a dragon or a flying car is seen. There is an entire section of the Ministry of Magic dedicated to Muggle affairs and to making sure that the two sides remain completely, peacefully estranged.
Even though Muggles have a complete knowledge of the land covering earth — as in we have maps describing about every inch of the globe, and no area has been un-explored, especially in their own small homeland of Britain — the Wizards definitely have their own sections of land allotted for their houses, schools, government buildings.
Even though the land for Wizards is solely for their own use, Muggle land is shared. Muggles don’t really have their own set apart areas, as they don’t even know there’s a need to, or that an entirely different type of their species has (roughly) assimilated into their own. Wizard land is protected by enchantments and expertly disguised in both rural areas and in plain site in major cities, as well. London is full of wizard territory, including Diagon Alley with all its side streets and shops, the ministry of magic building, and of course, platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station.
There are few Wizards who are very much interested in Muggle lifestyles, as shown by Mr. Weasley being harassed and made out to be “nerdy” for being passionate about learning about Muggles. His ardent studies seem similar to the study of animals or history and. He has little actual knowledge about Muggles, and Harry corrects much of what Arthur thinks he knows.
All of the setting of the first novel takes place in England. We begin in the suburbs, in a place of cement and conformity. Upon traveling per the Hogwarts Express train, they travel across rural Britain. Hogwarts is hidden in the countryside, with cliffs, a lake and an ominous forest as a backdrop. The castle, like the land it is situated on, is ancient and made of stone, indicative of the hundreds of years of wizarding children who have passed through its walls.
The forest outside the castle is where most of the description of the land lies. Most are afraid of the Forbidden Forest, as Terrible creatures lurk within it, though it is said that Dumbledore and Hagrid have spent much time and effort attempting to keep Fred and George Weasley out of it. It is described as being strictly off limits to children, although first years are condemned to detention there in the first novel. It is also the temporary hideout of Voldemort and his merry band of Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, which is fitting as it is a terrifying place, reeking of anarchy and evil. Much like The Grimpen Mire in The Hounds of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, this Forbidden Forest is untamable, ancient, and mysterious and is therefore both respected and feared by all.
Back to muggle problems: the tone between wizards and muggles is very much a tug of war mine vs yours, with wizards condescending themselves to COMPENSATE? ALLOCATE? ADJUST? for the muggle problem. They more tolerate muggles as much as midwesterners tolerate the inevitable deer on the side of the road, and they treat them just the same — like unaware animals. Humans are lesser beings with no hope of Ascension up the social ladder to reach wizard status, rather like a sci fi aristocracy, based on the blood you’re born with.
Separating wizards from muggles seems to keep most characters safer and happier, though it causes estrangement between mixed families and a lot of paperwork for the Ministry of Magic. However, there are definite downsides to this sort of discrimination, which erupts later in the series.
The Harry Potter series arrives at the end of the twentieth century, and provides an interesting end tail to the visual spectrum of British culture. There are still parts of nature that are unknown and made to seem that they will remain that way. There is still racism and classism, though they attempt to reason the discrimination. This fantastic postmodern children’s work reiterates many of the same themes of other twentieth century British literature, but makes it accessible to children and acts as a satisfying bildungsroman to those who were lucky enough to be able to grow up with the beloved series.