Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter, Christianity, and Literature

I finished Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows on Sunday. Thoroughly enjoyed the beginning and the ending of the book, so I decided to see what other people thought of it. To my surprise, Jimmy Akin posted something Potter-related on his blog. But it wasn't about Deathly Hallows, it's about why he didn't like the book series based on what he saw in Book 1. Can you believe that? I like that Jimmy is a good Catholic apologist, but I'm a Harry Potter geek, so I just had to react. Here is part of my last comment (I had several; realize that I wrote this at midnight, so I'll probably be regretting this after a few hours' sleep):

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!

Look, there are a lot of bad things that can be said about the books, especially if seen as children's books. I personally think that little kids should not read beyond Book 2, because some of the disturbing images will damage their minds. Yes, there's the crude jokes and the questionable puppy-love themes. But allow me to give you the gist of Book 7, just to prove a point.

Voldemort lived most of his life murdering people and maiming his own soul to attempt immortality. Albus Dumbledore, the man who Harry thought so highly of, was shown to be himself a morally-flawed person who, for the supposed "greater good", planned to die conveniently on his own terms. Harry, on the other hand, rejected both the obvious evil and the subtle one. He chose to face his fear of a death he did not want by offering himself as a sacrifice, to be humiliated and killed by Voldemort, in order save everyone. I hope I didn't spoil anyone, but my point is that this is at least a nice if imperfect attempt at a moral story; this is a Christian theme, not a pagan one.

Jimmy, I know you're not saying the books are morally unacceptable, so let me just explain why even your literary complaints might not be fair: Ham-fisted? Harry never had a hint of why he was even targeted as an infant until Book 5, and never fully realized its significance until the end of Book 7. He never even showed any extraordinary magical skill until Book 3!

His future was not given to him on a silver platter because the next six years of his life could never realistically be called envious. Often he wished he never had the scar and that he wasn't famous, and he resented other wizards being jealous of him due to their false image of his life. What's the good of occasionally getting a few of life's pleasures if you live with your unpleasant aunt's family every summer, you're often not trusted by anybody, you have to escape almost-certain death more times than anyone would like, and you're trapped in a prophesied destiny of being murderer or murder-victim? Honestly, I'd rather be a Muggle.

***
I was planning to also mention how Snape represented Christ's "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" as an example of how remorse can change people, but I thought it might be too much. Anyway, I feel that Harry Potter's journey to his "death" was the most Christian chapter in the series. Fearing pain and death, but accepting it as a price to pay for saving people. The way he was almost overwhelmed by fear when he saw what he ultimately must do reminds me of Christ's Agony in the Garden, when the Savior was asking the Father to spare him the cup of suffering, yet in the end accepting his fate for the salvation of mankind. For once, I actually liked Joanne Rowling's main character.

Now, if only Jo posts a lengthier, more substantial epilogue on her site...