Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Problems with Potter

I’ve read through the Harry Potter series four times finishing most recently yesterday. Some of the early books I’ve read many more times that that. It would be safe to say that I’ve enjoyed my excursions into that world, but I have some issues with the series both trivial and grave. On the trivial end are certain plot inconsistencies that shatter the illusion of a well thought out whole. These are two that nag me the most.

  1. In book 4 Barty Crouch Jr., in the appearance of Mad-Eye Moody, takes Harry’s Marauders Map and thus is able to continue to conceal himself. That he has the map and what the map does is revealed to Dumbledore, Snape, & McGonagall. No where is it ever mentioned that Harry gets the map back. A map that most surely all those teachers present would want to keep or at least keep out of the hands of a student. Yet without any mention of its return, there he is in book 5 fetching the map out of his trunk.
  2. Inconsistency number two also concerns a book 4 to 5 problem. Harry sees Cedric die and then goes home at the end of the 4th book riding to the train in a horseless carriage, but when he gets to Hogwarts in book 5 he can see that Thestrals are pulling the carriages and it upsets him. Why can he see them now? Well, because you can’t see them until you’ve seen someone die as Harry saw Cedric die. But then why didn’t he see them at the end of book 4? This brings up another issue. However young he may have been Harry did see his mother die so shouldn’t he have been able to see them from year one?

Now my more grave issues with Harry Potter. While it can be categorized as a battle between “good” and “evil’ this in no way means that we can somehow draw any Christian meaning from it. The story is simply Godless. Allegories and vain attempts at seeing Christ-like sacrifices all fail to grasp that this world at its core does not acknowledge a creator and the characters hold no hope of resurrection. In fact, to seek not to die or to bring back the dead is seen as folly. There are impressions of the departed left on those who choose to become ghosts or who have let portraits carry something of themselves, but the body and soul once separated cannot be reunited and any to attempt to create a new body for a soul is seen as the height of evil. There is a lot of talk of death as “moving on.” There is the goal to become a master of death. To quote Dumbledore, “You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.” But this fails to see what the Christian knows. We master death when we live in Christ. That Christ will preserve our soul and will reunite it with our body. A body not made from flesh of a servant, bone of a father and blood of an enemy. But a body whole and complete made from the love of our God. This is what is wrong with the series at its core. The dichotomy of good and evil is not paired as being between life and death but between those who die and those who are afraid to die.

It is this total lack of Christian understanding that makes itself known in some details, that children I’ve discussed these books with, find disturbing. First among these is the fact that Harry uses so called “unforgivable” curses. Curses whose use on another human should land one with a life term in Azkaban prison. Harry mostly uses them ineffectively and only against “Death Eaters” but he does not suffer any consequences at all for using them. Also disturbing is that aside from Dudley offering a handshake in the last book there is very little in the way of changed hearts and forgiveness among any of the principle characters. Even Snape who has a change of heart and vows to protect Harry can never repent of his hatred of Harry’s father and thus can not act kindly towards Harry, who look like his dad, even for the sake of his love for Harry’s mother. That Harry and Malfoy are enemies and hate each other is not seen as something to overcome but rather a fact to live with and work around. Friends fight and make up, but those who were never friends are never reprimanded for this or encouraged to love one another.

So while I enjoy the books as a form of escapism, I do not imagine them as teaching any great life lessons and certainly no good lessons about forgiveness, death, or even love. At best you can pick up a little pseudo Latin and some tips on good gift giving. The rest is just captivating but frivolous fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. For a complimentary response, but also one that sees more value in the books in their teaching of great lessons as well as "fostering a latent Christian conscience" See:

    Granger's book "Looking for God in Harry Potter" in also supposed to be very good, but I haven't had time to read it yet.