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Post by Chance on Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:58 am

Samantha Waltz
Adam Renchen
GSW 1100
October 27, 2009

Harry Potter: Hero, or Villain?


Most of us know Harry Potter as ‘The Chosen One’, ‘The Boy Who Lived’, or as something equally exalting. It seems there isn’t a soul alive who hasn’t heard his name or of his achievements. He’s the good guy, the one we spent seven books, a total of 4,175 pages, rooting for. He’s the one that, after multiple battles, finally defeated the most evil dark wizard of all time, the one who saved all magical people and Muggles alike from certain death. Why then, did I use the word ‘most’?

Over the years that the Harry Potter books have been released, they haven’t only been spreading magic to those that read. In fact, there are quite a large amount of people that would claim the opposite—that Harry isn’t the hero I was depicting in the first paragraph, but that he is a villain instead, contaminating the minds of all Muggle children who read his story.

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Post by Chance on Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:53 pm

Samantha Waltz
Adam Renchen
GSW 1100
October 27, 2009
Harry Potter: Hero, or Villain?
Most of us know Harry Potter as ‘The Chosen One’, ‘The Boy Who Lived’, or as something equally exalting. It seems there isn’t a soul alive who hasn’t heard his name or of his achievements. He’s the good guy, the one we spent seven books, a total of 4,175 pages, rooting for. He’s the one that, after multiple battles, finally defeated the most evil dark wizard of all time, the one who saved all magical people and Muggles alike from certain death. Why then, did I use the word ‘most’?
Over the years that the Harry Potter books have been released, they haven’t only been spreading magic to those that read. In fact, there are quite a large amount of people that would claim the opposite—that Harry isn’t the hero I was depicting in the first paragraph, but that he is a villain instead, contaminating the minds of all Muggle children who read his story.
Incredibly, the series that has been on the New York Times best seller list for 79 straight weeks (that’s over a year and a half!), has been on another book list as well, one that is nowhere near as honorable—the banned book list. In several schools across the United States, the Harry Potter books have joined the ranks of The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and 1984, all of which are other books that schools across the nation have deemed fit to be banned.
The Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling, first started in England during June of 1997. It soon sparked the interest of millions around world, as the series grew in number and was published in over 67 languages. But while Harry and his friends were gaining a fan base, they were also drawing a hearty protest group as well. While eager children gobbled up the next adventure in the saga, worried adults from around the world watched.
If asked why they see Rowling’s stories as such a problematic series, the people protesting will quickly tell you all they see wrong about it. The reasons span from religious reasons to just concerns about the effect of fiction on younger children. Several will claim that the themes of the books are unsuitable for the age range they are targeted for and that it will skew the younger reader’s view of reality.
Diane Weaver Dune quotes Berit Kjos in her article, “Look Out Harry Potter! -- Book Banning Heats Up”, and adds her own input in, saying,
"Christianity clashes with a love for witchcraft," Kjos said. The biblical God doesn't fit into Potter's world of wizards, witches, and other gods. The Harry Potter series teaches an Earth-centered spirituality, the same religion as what the witch religions teach in the San Francisco area, she said. "It is a religion that is very real and is spreading throughout the country. It makes me very uncomfortable when [children] are immersed in topics that make witchcraft very exciting. It can be very confusing for them."
This quote shows us how many Christians feel about the wizarding themes in Harry Potter. It is a very real fear to them that if children read the books they might actually start to believe the fantasy that is written on the pages. They are nervous that if children read these books, they will get caught up in the make believe world, and try to substitute it for their own reality.
Those of us against book banning though, can easily come up with a counter argument. If the children reading these stories actually believe what is so obviously fantasy, is it really Rowling’s fault? Or the parents of the children who didn’t teach them better? The truth is, millions of children read the Harry Potter series every day, and the hearty majority of them never believe it’s true. They might wish, or dream about it being a reality, but they know that it’s just fiction, created purely for enjoyment purposes.
Can they honestly say they do not want to allow witches and other fantasy creatures in any of the literature that their children are reading? Take C.S. Lewis’ series about Narnia for example, these stories focus around fantasy. There are talking animals, mythological creatures, as well as witches and other things that could only exist in fiction. Something ironic to note is that not only does Harry Potter also have those three elements I mentioned, but they pretty much focus on the last two.
Of course, they’d have an argument for that too, claiming that in the Christian Chronicles of Narnia, there are good themes incorporated throughout it. Aslan, the talking lion in the series, represents Jesus, in the way that he is the lighting hope for the children in the story. He, in the first book of the series, sacrifices himself to save the creatures of Narnia, only to be brought back to life later in the same book, much as Jesus was crucified and then resurrected days later. The white witch, the main antagonist in the first book, shows witchcraft as evil, while in Harry Potter it is depicted as good.
One could counter back, however, that Harry Potter has its own good themes as well. In reading through the seven books of Rowling’s saga, you see that the underlying theme for each book is that the power of love can conquer anything. This is shown multiple times as Harry is battling his own demons as well as the evil around his family and friends. For example, Dumbledore explains to Harry that his mother’s undying love is what protects him from Voldemort, the main villain in the series. Dumbledore, as Harry’s mentor and fatherly figure, continues to guide Harry to make his choices through love instead of through hate or anger. In the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is finally put face to face with the man that betrayed his parents, leading to their deaths. Harry puts Dumbledore’s teachings into practice when he saves the traitor, knowing that even though he might deserve death for what he had done to his family, it still wasn’t right to kill him.
After arguing about what justifies Harry becoming a banned book, one might wonder why there are even such things as banned books in the first place. What could possibly make a book so terrible that no one should be allowed to read it?
In many people’s opinion, the answer to this question is ‘nothing’, but because there are people in the world who think that there are, in fact, some things that make books inappropriate, the banned booklist exists. New books are put on this list every year for all different reasons. It could be religious themes, inappropriate language, or even plots that go against the government, that decide whether the book will be banned or not.
While Harry Potter falls under the religious category, it is important to note the others. Books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird have been banned because of racial slurs and language that degrades the African American populations, while others such as 1984 have been banned for showing the government in a bad light.
Many say these bannings are ironic, simply for the fact that if you actually read and understand the stories, the reasons that they were banned don’t really make sense. In both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, they try to show that the prejudice against people of other skin colors is wrong, and yet they were banned for including racial slurs. George Orwell’s 1984 shows the government banning all books that they don’t agree with, so when schools ban the book, it almost just shows that maybe 1984 is more real than they would like to admit.
Harry Potter deals with both of these things as well. In the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort and his followers take over the magical world, creating a rift between pureblood wizards and witches and those that came from Muggle families. Harry and his friends fight to earn them equality, helping everyone no matter their backgrounds. It also deals with the government and them taking rights away from their people.
In the end, I think if you add everything up you will see that banning books really is ridiculous. Most of the pretenses on which books are banned don’t make much sense, and even if they do, is it really right to tell someone they just are not allowed to read something? Parents should be able to decided what books their children are and are not allowed to read, there shouldn’t be a social standard.

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