July 8, 2003

The Themes of Harry Potter

Warning: Some of these links lead to spoilers.

While not all encompassing there are a lot of interesting discussions going on about the political/moral implications of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And most of them that I've run across seem to run counter to Jesse Cohen's 2001 Slate piece suggesting an anti-Thatcher pro welfare state view of the Potter series through volume 4:

Aside from being a politically corrected reconstruction of the English public school, Hogwarts is a microcosmic welfare state, stepping in to care for orphan Harry when his nightmarishly bourgeois relatives fail him.
Natalie Solent enumerates libertarian aspects of the book.

Mindles suggests a Randian connection.

Brian at Catallarchy looks at market regulation and money and banking.

Update: Hanah at Quare suggests some non-libertarian themes:
There are definitely some good libertarian themes in the books. But there are also some blatant non-libertarian ones.
The Philosophical Cowboy tells us "there's some great comparisons to be drawn between the events in the book, and Britain under New Labour."

Greg, who has a blog entitled Harry Potter Prognostications tells us (in the comment thread to the above Mindles link)
I thought that HP5 was most similar to George Orwell's 1984 - the overall theme of the book having to do with truth and trust. The ministry installed Umbridge as a functioning Minister of Truth at Hogwarts, suppressing facts that the ministry felt were incompatabile with their agenda.
And this from Julian Sanchez:
While most parents celebrate anything that gets adolescents to put down the remote and pick up a book-a powerful bit of magic in itself-others are concerned that the series celebrates the "dark arts." An Australian school is only the most recent to have banned the bespectacled mage. Perhaps parents and teachers who relish unquestioned obedience are right to be concerned about Harry Potter, but their focus is misplaced. It is not the magic, but the morality of Harry Potter that is truly subversive.
In response to the AS Byatt Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, Jessica Crispen chimes in with this in response:
A. S. Byatt is full of shit. I may not understand the Harry Potter obsession among (most) adults, but I don't go as far as Byatt. I don't think reading a children's book is regressing or a symptom of our society's decay.
Frail and Bedazzled agrees with Crispin and argues:
As for there being no heavy issues or themes presented in the books, well, I think she's wrong, and if she's read PoA, GoF or OotP, she obviously hasn't done so very closely, because the books are teeming with issues, simplistic at first, but still - the issues are there.
I enjoyed the book and am thrilled at the wide variety of discussion that is occurring. I don't remember anything quite like this after book 4...but then I wasn't participating in the blogosphere 2 years ago.

Posted by Steve on July 8, 2003

Thanks for the link! Lots of good posts to take a look at. I just posted a long analysis of Book 5 on Harry Potter Prognostications which examines the themes of knowledge and truth with a bit more depth.

I think that JK Rowling definetly inserts contemporary political references, but I dont think that is her aim with the book, the references are more sort of side-handed. I think she more concentrates on the moral development of Harry relating to a central theme.

Posted by Greg Gershman at July 9, 2003 7:28 AM


Posted by Creno at February 20, 2004 4:55 AM
follow me on Twitter