Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English



Faculty Advisor(s)

Barbara Seidman & Katherine Kernberger

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


At the start of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling employs traditional gendered thinking in her construction of character roles, but as the series continues, the gender roles are complicated. In the three main communities of J.K. Rowling’s world – the Ministry, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the societies of the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix – a struggle between the constructive, equalizing force of white magic and the violent, dominating force of black magic influences the gender roles operative in each. As a vehicle for the exercise of magic, the nuclear family also influences wizarding society in similarly bipolar ways, perpetuating patriarchal ideas while simultaneously encouraging the power of motherhood and maternal love. One sees the patriarchal impact of the family paradigm on the novel’s central female character Hermione Granger, who defies gender norms in her adeptness in white magic and her heroic partnership with Harry himself, but who ultimately dwindles into a stereotypically feminine role as Ron’s wife in the series epilogue.

My analysis will focus on Rowling’s fictions rather than her adaptations and I use primarily gender and feminist critical lenses in a close textual reading. As a feminist critic, I will examine how J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world in the Harry Potter series handles the binary of black and white magic and the gender inclusiveness of both forms of magic in their relative spheres. I focus on the novels themselves rather than on J.K. Rowling’s intentionality and will not rely on much of the post-publication digital interplay Rowling and others have conducted to prevent any digression on my part into how fanbase bias may have influenced plot choices and character development. For that reason, I limit my use of the informational site to relevant historical 2 details and post-series character additions. My focus remains on the published volumes themselves and what they demonstrate regarding the gender dynamics that unfold across the series.

The gender dynamics present within the Harry Potter series are complex and dynamic, creating a world rife with possibilities for readers and for the characters themselves. Rowling writes several female characters who embody the Manichean struggle between the inclusive power of white magic and the hierarchical, dominating force of black magic. Through these women, Rowling attempts to collapse the binary between female and male traits and create a society free of polarizing gendered stereotypes, and through such women as Molly Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, and Hermione Granger, she succeeds.