Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -1

Published May 9, 2012 by sidmary

I have been thinking on the lines of these topics for quite some time now. I have the feeling that in almost every modern piece of literature that i read, there is a theme of rebellion; if not a major theme, then an underlying theme. This trend takes me aback. It makes me apprehensive and cautious andΒ exhilarated. There is an itching, everywhere i go in that dream-land of books, to break the rules; change the pattern; rise up against tyrants, customs, routines; Rebel.

What is more interesting i feel, is that the books with such themes are more welcomed by the mass majorities. I will give the examples of just three books/ series, that you are sure to have read; and if not, then definitely heard of.

First you go to “Harry Potter.” Did you start? Is it just pure, simple magic; adventure; good against evil? No. There is Rebellion too. See Fred and George, the two most loved characters of the book: they are practically the symbols of rebellion! They break rules, and rules after rules. They don’t submit to what others decide for them, unless they themselves agree to it. Then the antagonist Voldemort: he too shuns good. Breaks away from its ties and creates his own freedom. However constricting evil is, freedom is freedom for one who considers it freedom!

Then you look at the protagonist Harry himself. In the very first induction to the wizarding world, he finds no reason to NOT call Voldemort by his Β name! This continues through the books. Where others succumb to his power and evil, and accept and submit to it, he outright disregards it! Does not even acknowledge it! He too breaks rules. He takes his first flight against the instructions of Madame Hooch in Book 1 on being incited by Malfoy. And he actually gets rewarded for it! Look again: what exactly is encouraged here?

In Book 2, he breaks another 100 or so rules to concoct the potion and then enter the Chamber. Rebellion, Rebellion, Rebellion. Same in Book 3 where he does not only undo what has already been done, but also in that act, defies time. Isn’t that rebellion again? Fast forward to Book 7 where he actually goes on a quest to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes. Had anyone ever, in all the years before him, acted in such defiance of his power? No. And thus the main theme of the book after good versus evil surfaces of rebellion. There is good rebellion and bad rebellion. The bad by Voldemort, the good by Harry. It shows how rebellion can cause pandemonium, calm it down and make life it bearable. (Regards to Fred and George). And what else is the lure of the novel than defiance, and encouragement of it?

(More is coming, stay tuned πŸ™‚ )

-Sidra Maryam

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21 comments on “Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -1

  • okayyyyy…
    so firstly: I am too surprised that you actually deciphered this out yourself
    secondly: even as a literature student…it all passed over me..
    thirdly: I love HP πŸ˜›

  • It’s so true! I commented on a similar topic in my own blog. I noticed how in the original “Of Mars” series, John Carter is a typical white toothed blue eyed white knight who never ever did anything wrong and who excelled in any field he tried to undertake. While in the recent box office flop, he was suddenly a rebel and a misfit who was in trouble with the law and “Didn’t play by the rules.” These days we want outsiders, rebels, and misfits.

    • Yeah. I suppose that is because we are not very comfortable with our own world; because we daren’t rebel, we like to know that someone somewhere else is doing what they think is right.

      • I also think it’s a difference in how kids are raised. After the 1960s, the “Power to the people” and idea of bucking the powers that be, and then later the “I’m ok you’re ok” and “Dare to be different” attitudes that have created this attitude that a hero isn’t someone who protects the status quo from outsiders who threaten it, but who buck against an oppressive status quo. I think we have just started raising children differently. Multiculturalism is heavily valued, so the idea of this sort of homogenous, idealized “norm” that we all aspire to that we need to defend against people who are different really isn’t a core value the way it used to be.

      • Oh, I don’t know. I’d say they were different, but not necessarily worse. I don’t think these “Good Old Days” and simpler times where everyone lived in an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” ever really existed. It was something that was held up as the norm, and everyone pretended live that way. But, the reality was that behind closed doors, things weren’t any better. And I think the idea that everything had to be hushed up for the sake of appearances made certain experiences a lot more traumatic.

      • I can’t say i would disagree with that, but where our values have not dropped, they have remained the same. I don’t like being pessimistic, but except in confined circles, there hasn’t been such a lot of good brought into this world over the past few decades. And as for things hushed up for appearances, believe me as a citizen of a third world country, that this attitude still exists, and is widespread. Then I suppose good and bad have always been there, sometime one powerful, sometime the other; and what we look to as different periods of history, are in fact the period of the domination of one…

  • Rebellion encouraged in the Potter books? Hmmm, maybe…
    What sort of rebellion though. We have Voldemort too, you know, as a rebel.
    “I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal – to conquer death.” (but you’ve already pointed that out :P)
    Rebellion against nature. Against the ultimate destroyer Death itself. THAT unnatural rebellion is certainly not encouraged.
    Then again, we have Hermione. Good ol’ Miss-We-Must-Follow-All-Hogwarts-Rules-Hermione, in whose maturation as a character, a major part is her loosening up and bending a few rules.
    Then there’s the whole “how-to-rebel” guide in the Potter books (Ootp, going to save Sirius, ends badly, hero complex, yada yada yada…).
    So,uh,basically ( I’m sorry…I went on for so long just repeating what you’ve already said! CIEs have fried my brain cells!) rebellion of a certain sort is encouraged in the Potter books…

    • Oh yes! (and wow! you are a greater fan: you can actually quote the book!) and thank you for explaining that further: all the types of rebellion πŸ™‚ I won’t exactly say that the Potter books are a “how-to-rebel” guide, as that feels too harsh, but Rowling does make a good analysis and comparison of rebellions and their effects πŸ™‚
      p.s. all the best for your CIEs πŸ™‚

      • ahan. praying πŸ™‚ and congrats for the award from LUMS writing competition πŸ˜› I have been intending for so long to email and congratulate you…but here’s this belated wish πŸ™‚

  • In regards to GENERAL literature, you’re absolutely right. The Hunger Games, The Potter books, etc. and may I just point out though that usually (in my opinion) books these days focus more on rebellion against incompetent, lying , tyrannical governments and the hoodwinking media!! (the Ministry of Magic, the Daily Prophet, The whole point of the Hunger games, V for Vandetta, blah blah) because it seems that a lot of authors out there are interested in screaming WAKE THE HELL UP, THEY ARE LYING TO YOU, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!! (which is a pretty obvious theme these days)

    • And that is why I feel; no, i am sure that the world is at the brink of another major major change. Literature no doubt, has the great capability of arousing people.
      AND you hit it! My next part was planned on the Hunger Games!!! πŸ˜›

  • AND also, the type of rebellion that books today mostly encourage is rebellion against your own perception. Waking up to believe that the world is not what “they” want you to believe. (Read “the final reckoning” by sam bourne)

    • I’ll definitely do that. Meanwhile, you take a go at “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver. That too is changing perception. And perhaps you read that play in grade 7 from “About Literature” (i cant seem to remember the name :/). It was about changing traditions too. Now that this set me thinking, i feel there’s a theme of rebellion in almost every good book i have ever read!! πŸ˜›

  • true as it is…..but u always surprise me with all these “deep insights” of urs sid….
    i totally agree with u and twisted……ther’re telling us to step out of the crowd and do “something” (or shud i say “anything”)…….CHANGE! that is what they have in mind……let’s hope it is for the betterment of the masses….gudluck wid da next parts!

    • LOL πŸ˜› keep surprised…i don’t intend on starting to be “un-insightful” πŸ˜‰
      I do also totally hope that all the changes taking place and about to take place are for the better…they say that when things can’t get worse, it means they can only get better πŸ˜›
      thank you. i’ll put my best in them πŸ™‚

  • iyt’s an interesting observation re the prevalence of rebellion as \a theme in contemporary literature. You may well be right. I do know that I have had a number of attemps at reading Harry Potter but I find the prose clunky . I thought maybew it’s my age but no! i have read chunks from the Twilight saga and really enjoyed the lyrical prose

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