Dark marks, curse scars and corporal punishment
Criminality and the function of bodily marks in the Harry Potter series
in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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This chapter explores the function of tattoos and scars in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and considers the contribution of these marks to the series’ overarching crime narrative. Focusing primarily on the final four books, the chapter addresses three major instances of tattooing and scarring: the Dark Mark – the brand of Voldemort’s Death Eaters; Harry’s lightning-bolt scar – the product of Voldemort’s failed killing curse; and the message imprinted on Harry’s arm through his use of Professor Umbridge’s ‘special’ quill to write lines during detention. This chapter considers the various conscious functions of these bodily marks – as a signifier of gang membership, a means of intimidation, a statement of possession and a punitive measure to control and modify behaviour through pain. It also examines the subconscious role of bodily marks in constructing the identities of and relationships between criminal, victim and seeker of justice. This chapter explores how the analysis of scars and tattoos illuminates the series’ treatment of crucial issues within crime literature, such as morality, criminal origins, the process of detection and the possibility of redemption.

Editors: Kate Watson and Katharine Cox

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