Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Take on Harry Potter

I realize I am rather late to the whole "Harry Potter" discussion. Let me explain why: In 1997, when the first of the seven book series came out, my children were ages 9, 6, and 2. I heard about them almost immediately, both pros and cons. With all the controversy surrounding those "wicked" books, and since my children weren't at an age they were clamoring to read them, I avoided all vestiges of Harry Potter mania, keeping me and my children "clean".


Children grow up. That nine-year-old is now twenty; old enough to decide what he thinks about things. And so he did. Kyle, convinced by his mom that all things "Harry Potter" were evil and to be avoided like the plague, wanted to know exactly what was wrong with them and set out to read the series determined to prove his mother right. That was the plan. He, however, fell in love with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Hogwarts. He convinced his seventeen-year-old sister that she, too, would love the books, and so she did. She, in turn, insisted they would make great read-a-louds for her younger sister and me. Kyle insisted I shouldn't stand against something I knew nothing about; all my arguments were based on the opinions of others, and since the Harry Potter series was such a cultural phenomena I should at least read/hear them once and make my opinions my own. Out of curiosity and love for a good story I consented. We finished the book tonight, and I now feel qualified to offer some insight into the world of Harry Potter. I will divide my thoughts into three parts: The Bad, The Good, and the Neutral.

The Bad:

1. Most people in Christendom find the magical component the most offensive thing about the series. I'll be truthful; the story centers on a young wizard, his magical friends, and their "world"; there is lots of magic.

2. Harry and his friends often break the rules, and seldom experience real punishment for their misdeeds.

3. As the series progresses and Harry grows older, there are instances of "dating" and "kissing" (called snogging...which cracks me up). There isn't much and really isn't worth mentioning except that some people do try to avoid all boy/girl situations in their children's reading material.

4. As the children grow older some of them begin to swear. Sometimes it is merely mentioned that they "swore". Sometimes the actual words are used. I do find cursing offensive, but I try to keep in mind that J. K. Rowling is British and they don't always see things the way we do.

5. The story is dark and grows darker with each successive book. (Each book is its own story, yet together they form one large story.) It is a classic good vs. evil where the evil is very vile. These books are not for young children or those easily disturbed. (I will interject that humor is often used throughout the story relaxing some of the tension. I find that the movies are much darker than the books as producers have to stick to the main story due to time constraints and cut out many of the lighter moments.)

6. Alcohol is referred to quite frequently. "Butter beer" being a favorite drink of the Hog warts students. Butter beer appears to be mildly alcoholic.

The Good

1. There is a very clear distinction between good and evil.

2. This is good literature. Rowling's character development is amazing. Every character is "real" in that each has obvious strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, I found C.S. Lewis's Lucy Pevensie (who I adored, make no mistake) an almost perfect child; adorable, but almost unrealistically pure and true. Rowling's main characters are loveable, but they are very human. Her plot development, too, is well thought out and knit together. She makes good use of suspense, humor, mystery, and the dramatic. Many times I found myself saying, "I never saw that coming."

3. Sacrificial love conquers all. (I can't say too much here without giving key points away.)

4. The story is quite captivating and begs to be read. Each time Cassie has to stop reading (to go to work, to bed, or because her throat was sore) Candace and I beg for more and can't wait for the next chapter to be read.

5. This is a great read-aloud. Let's face it, some really good books don't make good read-alouds. The Harry Potter series is one of the best around.

The Neutral

1. Christians often hail Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as epic (I do too. I love LOTR!) Excusing his use of magic because it served a greater purpose. Make no mistake, there was magic in LOTR. Gandalf's staff produced magical results; it just wasn't called a "wand". (And don't forget Gandalf was referred to as a "wizard".) Just because the palentir were called "seeing stones" doesn't mean they weren't crystal balls.

2. I've heard the above notation explained away because Middle Earth and Narnia aren't real places. The magic there isn't real because the places aren't. LOTR and Narnia are total fantasy whereas Harry Potter, so they say, is set in the real country of England. I agree that England is a real place, and Potter's world occasionally intersects with that place. However, the farther one gets into the overall story, the clearer it becomes that Rowling's world is just as fanciful as Tolkien and Lewis's

3. The magic in Harry Potter is totally fictitious. The "spells" used are not true "spells". If you look at them closely you will see that some are loose Latin translations and some just sound like what they do. For example: "Lumos" is used to light wand tips. "Expecto Patronum" is used to bring protection and loosely means "I expect my protector" in Latin.

4. When I learned the Hogwarts students took a class in divination I immediately became concerned, wondering how it would be treated. I was relieved to find that few people in Potter's "wizarding world" took divination seriously. There were cases of "prophecy" that came true, but anything having to do with fortune telling, palm or tea leaf reading, etc. was actually made sport of.

Well, those are my thoughts on Harry Potter, even if they are a bit late. Taking into consideration all the good and the bad, I would (and hope to) read the Harry Potter series again. Right or wrong, I really, really enjoyed it.

1 comment:

Gayle @ thewestiecrew said...

We LOVE H.P. around here, but we don't say much about it because of all the debate.

It just drives me crazy that people will freak about H.P., but rave about Lord of the Rings (which we love, too) and other movies....heck, even Snow White that have "witches" in them...