The Gene of Magic and Its Importance in the Fascist World of Harry Potter


Term Paper, 2018
14 Pages, Grade: 1,3

Excerpt

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Basic Genetics in the World of Harry Potter
2.1. Mendel in Theory
2.2. Mendel and Magic

3. Relationships based on Genetics
3.1. National Socialism and Pure Blood
3.2. Blood in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”

4. Conclusion

Bibliography

1. Introduction

Since the last few years, Germany is again facing the dangers of right winged extremism. Due to tensions caused by the organisation of refugee acceptance and accommodation, the group of right winged people grew more and more, forming extremist groups and pulling several politicians and political parties into a farther right direction. As it is commonly known, Germany has a terrible past that was caused by right winged extremists, resulting in a World War that has taken millions of innocent lives. This past of radical dictatorship, also known as the Third Reich, is naturally a part of every child’s school education. At some point in history class everybody learns about the Nazis and what they did to humanity. Today Germany’s right winged minority demands that these memories should no longer be part of the curriculum at school in the extent that they are now but reduced to a minimum and replaced by more pleasant memories of German history1. Whatever the advocates of the removal/reduction are trying to achieve, they will not be able to remove this point of history from the minds of the people, since the motif of the racist is so strong that it can even be easily found in children’s literature such as J. K. Rowling’s novels of Harry Potter.

Reading Harry Potter as a child leads to a vast number of questions. The young readership may ask themselves how somebody could become a wizard or a witch and whether someday they would receive a letter from Hogwarts and become wizards or witches, too. The books taught us that not only children of other witches and wizards can obtain the ability to use magic, but “regular” human offspring, too, so the question about how magic finds its way into the human body is arises. Since the novels show that there is a high importance of who the ancestors of somebody are, it can be concluded that genetics might be behind the appearance of magic. In fact, the family tree of the respective characters is highlighted enormously; not as much by the narrator as by the other characters through dialogue. Although the novels are highly imprecise about the genetics of wizards, the importance of ancestral history shows that the genetic background of a wizard is still of utmost importance in the wizarding society and that, consequently, the relationship between the different types of wizards can definitely be compared to the harsh and tensed interrelations between people in the Third Reich.

In order to find out how magic is passed on and to what extent the relationships between the different wizards are analogue to those of the interrelation of people in the Nazi regime, two aspects will be analysed. The first and more detailed aspect will be the analysis of the information about inheritance of magical gene using the information that is given in the novels, newspaper articles and textbooks on human genetics. The basis of this analysis will be the ground-breaking work of Gregor Mendel, who decoded the inheritance of certain features from one generation to the other by (cross-) breeding differently looking plants. The second aspect will be the interrelation between the different kinds of wizarding humans and their analogy to the Nazi regime. Due to the limited length of this term paper, the object of analysis will primarily be the first novel of the “Harry Potter”-series, the book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, however the other six books will also be considered in the argumentation and partly cited in order to demonstrate developments that were not mentioned in the first book, but are too important to ignore.

2. Basic Genetics in the World of Harry Potter

2.1. Mendel in Theory

People often hear about them looking just like their parents and grandparents or sharing some special traits with their relatives. As it is already commonly known, living organisms do indeed share the basis of their existence – their genes – with their ancestors. Genetics are an extraordinarily wide field of research, but the basics, Mendel’s laws, are as easily comprehendible as relevant for the first steps of analysing the origin of features a living being shows. To understand the following analysis of the genetic heredity of magical powers, a few key words of genetics have to be defined.

The first important distinction to define is the difference between “genotype” and “phenotype”. While describing one’s phenotype, being solely the appearance and physical features of an organism, is very simple, someone’s genotype, the genetic composition of the pertained object, is highly complex. Two objects with the same phenotype might have very different genotypes, that just turned out to appear in a similar way. The reason why one phenotype can have more than one genotype is that there are the different “alleles” that are responsible for the outcome of the genetic combination a child inherits from its parents. One gene always consists of two copies, which are the aforementioned alleles. One copy, or allele, is inherited from the father and the other one from the mother2.

Genes and alleles can be differentiated in four ways. The first distinction is whether a gene is “homozygous” or “heterozygous”. Homozygous genes have two alleles which carry identical information, e.g. blue eyes from the mother and blue eyes from the father. This child will definitely have blue eyes, since there is no other information given. Heterozygous genes, on the contrary, have two alleles with two different pieces of information, e.g. blue eyes from the mother and brown eyes from the father. Considering only what has been explained so far, in this case, three possible phenotypes could develop. The child could either have blue eyes, brown eyes or a mixture of both. Which of those features will be seen depends on whether the allele is “dominant”, “recessive” or “codominant”.3 Taking Harry Potter himself as an example, it is clear that the genetic background of his eyes must be heterozygous, since he is always told his eyes looked exactly like his mother’s every time he gets to know someone new4. This means that the allele his mother provided is dominant to the recessive allele his father gave him. If his eyes looked like a mixture of both, they would be codominant.

2.2. Mendel and Magic

The biological background of the popular universe around Harry Potter and his adventures has not been of much interest so far. However, there are publications that do try to get behind the science of the magical world of witches, wizards and Muggles. “Muggle” is the term for “human” used in the wizarding society5. Both Muggles and magical beings have a rather complicated relationship. Usually Muggles do not know about the magical world, however, some circumstances make them find out about the secret. Such a situation occurs when, for example a family member turns out to be a so-called “muggle-born wizard/witch” as in the case of Lilly Potter or Hermine Granger. Both women had nonmagical parents and were invited to Hogwarts, one of the schools to train witches and wizards6. Interracial marriage between magical and nonmagical people usually also ends up in the Muggle finding out about magic, especially when children are involved7.

Presupposing that magic can only be obtained through genetic heredity, the question how Muggles are supposed to become wizards arises. There are two different possibilities and, therefore, also two logical theories: One theory suggests that the gene for magic lies on a dominant allele.8 This theory is confirmed by the rare occasion when two magical parents have a child with no magical powers at all, so-called “Squibs”9. According to Mendel, this can happen when both parents have a dominant and recessive gene and both reproductive cells end up with the recessive chromosome. Being a rather seldom case, this means that both parents must have had nonmagical ancestors. Argus Filch, the care taker of Hogwarts, is an example of a wizard-born nonmagical person. Also, Neville Longbottom was believed to not have magical powers by his family, since he has not shown any traces of magic until a very advanced age.10

This theory, although it seems plausible at first, has many challenges to face: If the allele that enables magic was dominant, it would mean that any combination which contains at least one part that is magical, created children with magical powers. The result of this would be that the majority of human beings had to be able to perform magic, which is not the case. Explanations for this inconsistency are that either the genetic mutation is yet too young to have spread so far or that their might have been hereditary curses in the early generations of witches and wizards preventing the gene from being activated. While there is no evidence proving such hereditary curses ever having been performed in the historic information provided in the novels, it can surely be said that the gene of magic must be very old, since the first trace of magic mentioned in the books, being the establishment of Ollivander’s Fine Wands, was 382 B.C. – two years after the birth of Aristotle.11

Answering the question how mixed-race children gain their power, the issue of muggle-born mages is still unclear. If the gene of magic is dominant, then one of the parents must carry this gene and therefore must be a magical being, too. Considering this, it seems far more logical that the allele that enables magic is recessive. Taking the British Isles, where all wizarding children from the age of eleven to eighteen are attending only one school, as an example, it can be concluded that only approximately one of 10,000 children has magical power, not counting squibs or expelled students12. Magical children from Muggle families, like Hermine Granger or Lilly Potter, are born from parents with heterozygous genes, who both had one dominant human allele and one recessive magical allele, and both passed on the recessive allele as it is depicted in the table:

Table 1: p-generation = Parent 1 and 2; f1-generation = Child

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to this theory, all wizards and witches have homozygous genes, meaning that also their children can only have homozygous genes with two recessive alleles:

Table 2:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Children who are Half-Mages and Half-Muggle, like Seamus Finnigan13, are more likely to be non-magical than magical. In fact, they can only have magical powers if the Muggle parent is heterozygous, as it is shown in table four:

Table 3: only non-magical children

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 4: magical and non-magical children

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

[...]


1 Cf. Agentur für Bildungsjournalismus (2017)

2 Cf. Watson, James D. (2014: 7)

3 Cf. Tariverdian, G. (2004)

4 Cf. Rowling, J. K. (2001: 39)

5 Cf. Rowling, J. K. (2001: 43)

6 Cf. Rowling, J. K. (2001: 44)

7 Cf. Rowling, J. K. (2001: 93)

8 Cf. Focus (2007)

9 Cf. Reagin (2011: 129)

10 Cf. Rowling J. K. (2001: 93)

11 Cf. Reagin, Nancy R. (2011: xiii)

12 Cf. Lichtenstein, C. (2010)

13 Cf. Rowling, J. K. (2001: 93)

Excerpt out of 14 pages

Details

Title
The Gene of Magic and Its Importance in the Fascist World of Harry Potter
College
University of Regensburg
Grade
1,3
Author
Year
2018
Pages
14
Catalog Number
V458769
ISBN (eBook)
9783668893221
ISBN (Book)
9783668893238
Language
English
Tags
Harry Potter, Genetics, Magic, Fascism, Muggle, Wizard, Witch, Mendel, Biology, Class, Literary Theory, J. K. Rowling
Quote paper
Emilia Schwebel (Author), 2018, The Gene of Magic and Its Importance in the Fascist World of Harry Potter, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/458769

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