“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 40: “Unpacking Petunia”

Take a surprising closer look at Petunia Dursley in this week’s episode.



Harry’s aunt Petunia is one of the lesser villains of Rowling’s fantasy series, but in this bonus episode, Katy and Emily hear Emma Nicholson’s rereading of Petunia in light of what we find out at the end of the last book. Considering how Petunia was rejected from the wizarding world in her childhood, and other hints of her humanity and vulnerability, we find some sympathy for Lily’s sister.

Petunia is at the center of the Muggle–wizard divide and reveals that the wizards – including Albus Dumbledore – have not always been in the right. Do you remember what Petunia’s last gift to Lily was? We explore the symbolism of the two flower sisters, the influence of Vernon Dursley on Petunia Evans, and the emotional difficulty living – and raising children – on the boundary between two worlds.

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Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.