Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Life(and)death in Harry Potter: The Immortality of Love and Soul

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Life(and)death in Harry Potter: The Immortality of Love and Soul

Article excerpt

Today, when one hears the name Harry, the most immediate association which comes to mind is probably either Prince Harry of Wales, or the hero of seven J.K. Rowling novels--our well-known and beloved Harry Potter. It is hard to say who of the two would win the flattering title of Britain's most popular Harry. While Prince Harry's official name is Henry Mountbatten-Windsor, his fictitious namesake is presented to us simply as Harry Potter--bearing a common, inconspicuous name. However, some critics suggest that there is possibly much more to the meaning of Harry Potter's name. Could this actually be an allusive wordplay on the true nature of the character? According to John Granger, toward the end of the series, the readers should interpret Harry as "the Heir of the Potter" (115), the Potter in question being Our Lord, the creator of all living beings and non-living things.

What is certain is that with 450 million copies of the books in print ("Birthday"), the love for the good British wizard has become a worldwide phenomenon, though lagging behind the all-time bestseller professing the teachings of the original Heir, the Holy Bible. Granger is one among many scholars who perceive Rowling's books as profoundly religious. Being "largely about death," as Rowling herself stated (Greig), it does not come as a surprise that the books initiated a long-running and manifold debate over the underlying spiritual and philosophical concepts which the author tried to promulgate. On the one hand, there are harsh Christian critics who denigrate the story for supporting occult practices and witchcraft (Heilman 3), to the point of raising petitions for the complete censorship of the novels. Be that as it may, these critics are outnumbered by readers and reviewers who recognize a plot and a message suffused with (Christian) theology, fit for metaphysical, religious, social, or moral analysis, a convenient growing-up story, or a catalyst which adults could use to explain more easily the normality and inevitability of death to children (Taub and Servaty-Seib).

The purpose of this essay is to address all the books' phenomena connected to the questions of life and death, and particularly those "unfiled" ones, falling into neither category, the liminal and mostly supernatural elements of the story. Having observed these features separately, I will try to indicate the ideas and concepts, both Western, whether Christian or not, and Eastern ones, which inspired and influenced Rowling to synthesize the rules of her magical world. Finally, the essay presents a personal view on the author's general understanding of the human soul.

Harry Potter is a patchwork of a bildungsroman and a boarding school novel, but even more so of an adventure story, a detective novel, a gothic romance, and medieval legends and, as such, features death and dying from the very beginning. The eponymous hero becomes an orphan practically as a baby, which according to Maria Nikolajeva is a very common narrative hook, since "parents' foremost obligation in children's fiction is to be absent, preferably dead" (237). Harry spends ten years living with his dreadful, cold-hearted relatives, absolutely unaware of his renown among the magical folk. After a decade of loneliness, maltreatment, and neglect, "The Boy Who Lived" (Rowling, Sorcerer's 17) is initiated into a parallel, fairy tale-like world where he is celebrated as a kind of messiah, or a wizarding prodigy, the only one who survived the killing curse shot by the wickedest dark wizard of the time. Not only is he the one unaffected by the deadly magic, he is also "The Chosen One" (Half-Blood 21) who thwarted Lord Voldemort. The horrid Halloween ended fatally for Harry's parents, whereas he and the Dark Lord had many future occasions on which to meet and confront each other. It took seven books and seven corresponding years for Harry to finally stop Voldemort's diabolical actions. The sole way for this to be achieved was to put him to death for good. …

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