Sunday, February 27, 2005

Harry Potter!!!

Yes, it is true. I read Harry Potter. I just finished reading the first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I had to see for myself what all that fuss was about. When these books first came out people protested and said they were anti-Christian, and it happens again every time a Potter movie comes out. So, I rented it from the Herreid, SD library, and read for myself. My conclusions is the book is harmless. I do reserve the right to change my opinion after I read more of the series because it is only book one, but so far so good.

The main objection is that it glorifies witchcraft, which it does to a certain extend, but this is a children’s fantasy book. It is just a book to make kids use their imagination, take them to another place. I do not believe that this is a bad thing. If it is then we must censor every book where magic is practiced including The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, not to mention every book where robots talk or the mystical “Force” is used. This is needless. A child can use one’s imagination without going over to worship Satan. As long as this is not the only book one’s child reads then there is nothing to worry about. Biblical knowledge is of course the best antidote to all things, so make sure Bible reading is part of a child’s reading list and you should not have to worry about too much in the Harry Potter books.

That being said, I do believe that there are two things that should be addressed by parents, or at least things they should be aware of about Harry Potter.
1. There is a tendency to promote a ‘elitism’ of sorts. The idea of ‘muggles’ or non-magic folk could lead toward elitist attitudes. The only muggles portrayed in this book are Harry’s family, which of course are horrible people. They are self-centered, undisciplined, and mean. You have an idea that there are good muggles out there, but they are still referred to as muggles. Anytime people that are different than you have a group name, it is bad, and will lead to an elitist outlook. For example, I grew up in the South, and everyone who is not a Southerner is a ‘Yankee’. Now this promotes sectional strife, and all kinds of stereotypes, but in the end, this is a label that means ‘everyone else is worse than me’. Although I believe it is unintended, Rowlings has done just that in her novels.
2. The book promotes breaking of rules, and indeed rewards the breaking of rules. Harry Potter and his friends break the rules all the time. It is often full of good intentions, but they break them none-the-less. Not only that subtle hints show that breaking the rules is a good idea. Harry’s female friend was considered a know-it-all, and stuck up until she broke the rules and lied to a teacher. From that point on they were good friends, and she broke the rules much more often, changing her character for the better. One also finds out in the end that the headmaster of the school encouraged Potter to brake the rules by giving him an invisibility cloak. And then Potter’s ‘house’ in school is given the ‘house cup’ when the headmaster steps in at the last second and gives Potter and his friends loads of points for doing things that were against the rules, and that they were specifically forbidden from doing. This probably should be addressed with any children who read this book.

Since I have given the bad, I should also point out some good in the book. Lessons that you would want your child to learn.
1. There is a pronounced theme of good vs. evil. The ‘Dark Arts’ are bad and the rest of magic is good. One must stop the evil and promote the good. This is the conflict that drives the book. How can we stop those who are evil and are out to corrupt and ruin the good things we love, mainly the school and one’s friends? Evil must be fought, and stopped. Harry comes to realize that he must take a stand against evil, and that is a good thing. Children can learn the value of good and the necessity of stopping evil by reading these books.
2. There is a second theme that is much more subtle, but worth while. Things that are scary or fearful are made worse by our fear. The book has a story line about not saying the name of a certain evil wizard. Yet, the headmaster always makes a point of calling out the name, and in the end Harry does as well. He learns that by refusing to call something by its name only adds to the fear, and is counterproductive. I hope the other books continue on this theme. By the way, this is one that the movie left out. It probably shouldn’t have.

All in all, don’t go to any great lengths to stop your kids from reading this book. It is not that bad. It is an easy read and entertaining. It could help children love reading, which is important. While this book is not of the quality of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R Tolkien, it is still a decent book.