Sunday, August 05, 2007

Yes, the Very Christian J.K. Rowling

(Image from Wikipedia)

Anyone with some knowledge of Christianity who has read to the very end of volume seven in the Potter series cannot have missed the Christian symbolism.

In this last volume, Harry Potter becomes a pretty obvious symbol of Christ -- he doesn't become Christ, let's be clear, but acts as a symbol of Christ. This does not mean that every detail must match up, but rather that in certain crucial respects, the Harry Potter character reminds one of Christ. The most crucial point is that Potter must willingly die at the hands of the diabolical Lord Voldemort in order to defeat him and his evil. Here is the moment when Harry realizes his destiny:
Finally, the truth. Lying with his face pressed into the dusty carpet of the office where he had once thought he was learning the secrets of victory, Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death's welcoming arms. Along the way, he was to dispose of Voldemort's remaining links to life, so that when at last he flung himself across Voldemort's path, and did not raise a wand to defend himself, the end would be clean, and the job that ought to have been done in Godric's Hollow would be finished: Neither would live, neither could survive. (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, page 691)
Note that Harry must fling "himself across Voldemort's path." Would I be misreading to hear, as an echo, that Harry must be flung, 'himself a cross,' to defeat Voldemort? More Christian symbolism follows, though not in each particular:
Of course there had been a bigger plan: Harry ... realized that now .... Now he saw that his life span had always been determined by how long it took to eliminate all the Horcruxes .... How neat, how elegant, not to waste any more lives, but to give the dangerous task to the boy who had already been marked for slaughter, and whose death would not be a calamity, but another blow against Voldemort. (pages 692-693)
As the one already marked for slaughter, Harry stands once again as a symbol of Christ, that "lamb led to slaughter" in Christian readings of Isaiah 53:7.

Well, I could go on and on about this, but that could get tedious and miss its mark anyway, for all this Christian symbolism will do little toward rehabilitating Rowling's series in the eyes of those Christians who object to the 'occult' in the stories. That a story apparently non-Christian on the surface could carry deeper Christian significance is irrelevant to them, for the surface cannot be ignored. For such critics, using stories of witches and wizards as vehicles to carry a Christian message can be little better than using pornography to convey a deeper message on the importance of sexual purity.

Perhaps they have a point, in their own case, for they may feel a tug toward the 'occult' that they warn against, but such does not seem the case with most readers. Rowling herself tells us:
"I have met thousands of children and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, 'Ms Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a witch.'" (Emma Yates, "Rowling promises sex and death in Potter books," The Guardian, December 28, 2001)
Of course, Rowling would say that, wouldn't she, but I happen to think that she's right...

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At 7:36 AM, Blogger Dorian Gray said...

Oh nice!
As a big HP fan (who pre-ordered the book in Hamburg just to find out they are not opening the store at midnight JUST for me), I liked your analysis.Maybe because I am an Atheist I could not see this idea before but now, after reading your post it does make sense.

I know... I should be reading things about Judaism... Will do it soon!

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, DG. Hopefully, my analysis with be of some use to you or others interested in Rowling's Potter series.

On the Judaism article, if you can find one by the beginning of the fall semester (early September), I'll be able to integrate it into my course as required reading.

Thanks again.

Jeffery Hodges

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