Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why We'll Be Watching "The Deathly Hallows, Part 2"

L'Osservatore Romano is catching flak because its culture critic is praising the movie "Deathly Hallows," the eighth and final movie in the Harry Potter saga. Critics say the Vatican's official newspaper is endorsing paganism and the occult. I don't agree with the critics. I've read every Harry Potter book and been captivated by the world the author's imagination created. The books do not glamorize evil. Instead, they emphasize the value of personal sacrifice in building human relationships. In Rowling's world, in the battle between good and evil, good ultimately prevails.

I wish the Harry Potter critics could have heard the animated conversation in our family room this morning. I listened nearby as our 11-year-old son and his friend P. spoke with great passion to one another for more than an hour about the series. As a high school English teacher, I would say the questions they were asking each other could be worthy of a literary analysis paper.
  • Which book advanced the plot the most?
  • Why was Book Five, Order of the Phoenix, so dense? Was it because it was a book that transform Harry's problems at Hogwarts to deeper moral problems?
  • What is the importance of Dudley to the overall plot?
  • Which character developed the most during the series?
  • Should children be the age of Harry is before they read a specific book? What are the benefits and drawbacks to reading these books when one is younger than Harry is?
  • Why is reading a series more compelling than reading an individual book? 
Both boys come from devout Catholic families and understand Harry Potter's world is pure fantasy. They attribute no more real-world power to the magic described in these books than they do to the Cinderella's Fairy Godmother or to the Fox and the Cat in Pinocchio. Both boys are special-education students who have struggled with reading and writing. Both of them find excitement, drama and meaning in reading Rowling's books. This sparked enthusiasm for reading still more fictional series by a wide range of writers, including Rick Riordan, Anthony Horowitz and Cordelia Funke.

We've always insisted our sons read a book before they see its movie adaptation. And so the thrill of seeing this final installment will be to see how faithful the movie makers are to J.K. Rowling's words. I am grateful to this writer, who has helped encourage so many youngsters to find beauty in literature, in the tales of a unwitting hero who learns that sacrifice of self is the path to greatness. While we won't be going to Thursday's midnight opening of this movie, we will see it sometime this summer. 

Throughout the series Harry Potter battles against Lord Voldemort, who personifies evil.  And Harry (SPOILER ALERT) defeats him. Always, we have an understanding that Lord Voldemort does not embrace the beauty and truth of this world. We know he is merely out for his own personal gain. We understand that true power lies in what is lasting and beautiful, not in Lord Voldemort's false promises.

As Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, says: "That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to understand. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped."


  1. Lovely! I have had similar discussions with my kids. Going to the new movie very soon....

  2. @lorel: Let me know what you think of the movie. Isn't it great to have these conversations with our children?

  3. I really think that I see both sides of the argument when it comes to HP. (If you know me, or read my blog you know I am usually not a fence post sitter.)

    As someone that came to the series during mid run I have had both the mindsets inside my head. I think the best way to approach it, is the way that you do. If your kinds treat it in a healthy and realistic way (realistic in terms of the way reality IS) then reading the books are fine.

    I do think that there can be problems with the books, and not because I think kids are going to run off and join the Occult. I do think that there are plot and character elements that are bad, that have nothing to do with Witchcraft. But this is true of almost any fiction...

    I think the nice thing about the Catholic faith is that is is a Mirror of Truth. In fact, Mary is referred to as the Mirror of Justice. But when we hold anything up to it, we can see that which is congruent and that which is skewed. I think the case can be made for HP that when help up to the faith, certain things will appear just fine while others horribly distorted.

  4. I am looking forward to the final movie too- but more for shear entertainment! the first part of the Deathly Hollows was so good!
    I read the first five Harry Potter books when they first came out and I didn't see anything wrong with them. But didn't J.K Rowling herself say that the Dumbledoor and Snapes have tension because they have a disordered attraction toward each other i.e. gay?? What was up with that? Personally, I think she's just making that up to try to get on the bandwagon with gay pride.

  5. My 21-year-old daughter started the books when she was 10 and read every one at least once. She dragged her dad and me to the theater when the last movie was released and filled us in on the details we missed since we last saw Harry (#3 or 4, I think). We may go see this one when we visit her next weekend! She has begged me to read the books but I only got as far as halfway through #2. Fantasy is so hard for me, even Lord of the Rings and The Lion,the Witch,and the Wardrobe. I must be too reality-bound to enjoy the fantasy world, no matter how well-written it is.