73 pages 2 hours read

Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1986

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Before Reading

Reading Context

Use these questions or activities to help gauge students’ familiarity with and spark their interest in the context of the work, giving them an entry point into the text itself.

Short Answer

1. What does fantasy mean when we are talking about literature? What kinds of characters, plots, and settings are most common in stories you have read, viewed, or played in this genre? What does the word subvert mean? How might a fantasy author subvert readers’ expectations of this genre?

Teaching Suggestion: Howl’s Moving Castle is genre-subverting in several key ways that contribute to the novel’s themes. The protagonist is female, and when she sets off on her grand quest in order to seek her fortune and escape exploitation, she does not go far—in fact, she ends up in a moving castle where she provides free domestic labor. The novel focuses the reader’s attention on the real world’s problematic gender expectations and suggests that, in such a world, “perfect” endings and relationships are not really possible. This prompt is intended to raise students’ awareness of subversion as a strategy—as a way to increase their comprehension of the novel’s themes. If your students are not yet familiar with the term irony, it might be helpful to introduce it now as a way of talking about the effects of subverting genre expectations.