Comparing the Families in Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Hoban’s The Mouse and His ChildCreating “worlds of their own, with particular kinds of boundaries separating them from the larger world”, families ideally provide encouragement and protection for each of their members (Handel, xxiv). In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, however, the Dursleys and Aunt Marge fail to fulfill their roles as Harry’s primary caregivers. In Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child, the father mouse is unable to give his child all that he needs and longs for. In these two children’s stories, the expectation that families will provide physical support, emotional support, and encouragement for their children is not met.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the orphaned Harry is physically neglected by his only living relatives, the Dursleys. Harry’s Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and cousin Dudley think that by endorsing Harry’s non-existence in their lives, their fear of non-Muggles would disappear. Treating Harry like a wild animal, the frightened Dursleys physically confine Harry to their home and do not allowing their nephew any contact with the outside world. When Harry finally runs away from the Dursleys, he panics because his family never gives him Muggle money. While forcing Harry to stay indoors, the Dursleys also encourage Harry “to stay out of their way, which Harry [is] only too happy to do” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 24). Shunning communication and distancing themselves physically from Harry, the Dursleys fail at being the loving family that Harry needs and craves. By giving Harry little to eat and old clothes to wear, the Dursleys continue to treat Harry as n…
…ting and abusing him. In The Mouse and His Child, the father mouse is fond of his little son, but he is inept at keeping his family of two stable. Being a passive and pessimistic parent, the father mouse, like Harry’s aunt and uncle, fail at providing the mouse child with physical support, emotional support, and moral encouragement. Although they are family, the Dursleys and the mouse father provide a dysfunctional setting for Harry and for the mouse child, forcing their children to grow up painfully faster.
Handel, G. Introduction to the first edition, 1967. In The Psychosocial Interior of the Family. Ed. G. Handel and G.G. Whitchurch. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1994. xxiii-xxx.
Hoban, Russell. The Mouse and His Child. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2000.