Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Boy Who Lived to Become the Chosen One

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Boy Who Lived to Become the Chosen One

Article excerpt

This paper explores the dynamics of celebrity culture in the Harry Potter books by examining how the eponymous protagonist functions as a locus for intersecting and often conflicting notions of heroism and fame. I demonstrate how Harry Potter is implicated in popular, social structures of celebrity that frame both his private 'self' and his public 'persona' within discourses of exceptional individual achievement and moral responsibility towards the wizarding community. I argue that Harry embodies the tensions between the movement towards self-knowledge and realization integral to the heroic narrative and the workings of fame crucial to the perpetuation of a celebrity's popular image. I analyze Harry's celebrity status as one that (i) functions as a ' sign' that exists, in the collective imagination of the magical community, as a counter to the evil represented by Voldemort; (ii) prods him towards and increasingly poses a challenge to his discovery of his true identity; and (iii) leads to his ultimate realization of his social role and responsibility in the final culmination of his personal heroism with his public persona. Therefore, I argue that in negotiating and realizing his fame, Harry Potter goes through a journey that results in self-discovery and moves from being a celebrity-hero to a heroic celebrity.

The Harry Potter series combines elements of the heroic quest tale with those of the bildungsroman. It presents a world where learning to distinguish between appearance and reality is crucial to and concurrent with discovering one's 'true' self. Such a process of 'discovery' is not only central to the resolution of the various 'magical ' complications in the plot but also integral to the moral traj ectory that any coming- of-age narrative must chart. Naturally, therefore, the current scholarship on the Harry Potter series is largely focused on the mythic, generic and literary patterns that the books follow (Cockrell, 2002; Pennington, 2002; Alton, 2003; and Billone, 2004), and on the issues of individual choice, agency and morality that constitute the thematic core of the books (Deavel and Deavel, 2002; Chappell, 2008; Pond, 2010; and Wandinger, 2010). However, little critical attention has been paid to the popular cultural structures and processes through which characters are identified by the magical community in the series. Thus, in this paper, I examine how Harry Potter, the eponymous protagonist of the series negotiates between his private 'self' and his public 'image' and thereby functions as a 'celebrity- hero'. I demonstrate that (1) as "The Boy Who Lived", Harry functions as a popular ' sign' on which the magical community inscribes meanings that are more a projection of its collective fears and desires than an index of his 'true'self; (2) Harry's journey towards self-knowledge involves an increasing conflict between his private thoughts and actions and his public persona, thereby revealing the potentially harmful effects of celebrity culture on an individual; and (3) by choosing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of his community, Harry not only displays personal heroism but ultimately also fulfills popular expectations as 'The Chosen One', thereby matching up to his celebrity persona through real individual achievement. Therefore, I argue that the dynamics of celebrity culture in the Harry Potter books offer a significant insight into how individual achievement is interpreted and appropriated within the larger social context of collective anxieties and aspirations.

In this section, I argue that Harry's 'identity' as "The Boy Who Lived" derives its popular currency not from a common understanding of his real self but from his (perceived) exceptional position within his society, and therefore serves as a celebrity 'sign' that counters the threat Voldemort represents in the collective imagination. In the opening chapter of Philosopher's Stone (Rowling, 1997), Rowling introduces us to a world where the popular construction of a celebrity's public persona does not necessarily depend on his own participation in, or even awareness of, such a process. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.