The Casual Vacancy Book Club Part 2: Who Is Barry Potter?
The first rule of Book Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. Welcome back—to session two of The Casual Vacancy Book Club! (Did you join us for session one?)
I know at least one of you did. Sparkler summer<3 (who earns a golden noun for participation) made an interesting observation yesterday about deceased Councilman Barry Fairbrother's numerous similarities to wizard kingboy Harry Potter:
"Barry *cough cough Harry* dies in the first five pages where all he talks about his is headache *cough cough lightening scar*....hmmmm, maybe Rowling is trying to send us all a message here"
You may want to get that cough checked out, dude. Tuberculosis of the keyboard is what killed my eMac :(
But I think you're onto something! Besides the similarities in name and head-hurting-ness between Barry and Harry, Rowling mentions in this awesome interview with the New Yorker that Barry Fairbrother is meant to be the moral center of Pagford just as HP was the moral center of his world. With that in mind, there's some more similarities worth talking about.
We don't know much about Barry yet, except that he was born and raised in the nearby low-income public housing project called The Fields (*cough cough, under a staircase in Privet Drive?*) but quickly integrated into the advantageous Pagford school system (*cough cough, Hogwarts?*) before rising as a successful, respected, and popular figure in local government who fought for equality and inclusion (*cough cough, waging war on Voldemort?*).
Here's where the stories diverge, though: Barry dies before he has a chance to make change. As we learn in the brief intro chapter to the "Olden Days" section of the book, the great divisive conflict between Pagford locals is whether or not The Fields—technically built on Parish land, but inhabited by lower-class citizens of the neighboring city of Yarvil—should be allowed to take part in Pagford schools and government, or annexed fully to Yarvil. Barry, a Fielder-turned-Pagford celebrity, is justifiably in favor of integrating Field and Pagford citizens. Others, like 'ol dangle-belly Howard Mollison, detest The Fields (too much graffiti, not enough potato gardens, amirite?) and everyone who lives there—especially young Krystal Weedon, who on one occasion (and probably for good reason) punched Howard's granddaughter in the mouth.
Barry isn't around to finish his fight for inclusion. We'll have to root for new heroes in the battle against the Dark Lord of Bigotry and Hoighty-Toighty-ism. So far, the only character who has been outright identified as an ally to Barry's cause on the Parish Council is Dr. Parminder Jawanda. And we know for a fact that Howard and Shirley Mollison are totes against inclusion, so it sounds like the Council is pretty deadlocked—until now. The fate of The Fields may well rely on who in Pagford gets Barry Fairbrother's vacant Council seat.
A-ha! The plot thickens.
What do y'all think? Should a nice, affluent town like Pagford be responsible for schooling the disadvantaged youths in neighboring projects? Is Barry just a Harry stand-in, or something more? What roll will Krystal Weedon, a rowdy Fielder and one of Barry's favorite pupils/interview subjects, play in all this? How much fatter can Howard Mollison get before he has to commission a wheel-barrow for his spare stomachs?
I know lots of y'all are still rustling up a copy of the book, so we'll take it easy on reading this weekend while you catch up. Let's talk about the next chapter, "Tuesday" (up to page 101), on Monday. Take care of your potatoes, mugglebutts.