Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and Absolutes- No Spoilers

Just some thoughts from the the 7th Harry Potter, nothing too serious, yet. I read it in a little over two days. I'd like to review it again, even take notes (I'm still a nerd!) and bring up some issues. I'm starting in general terms for those who haven't read it and are anxious to begin.

I've enjoyed the series.

I don't know if this surprises anyone. I know some people reacted vehemently against HP, usually from what they claim is a Christian perspective. I originally refused to read HP, not on religious or moral principle, but from my teenage streak of contrary behavior. The same behavior that made me scorn Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and especially Bush- in the 90s. I still have a hard time listening to popular radio for that reason.

When I finally picked up HP, it was out of desire to know what my parishioners are reading. I was quite surprised to find, from the beginning, a Christian view of good and evil. From the final confrontation in HP: and the Sorcerer's Stone, we receive a nascent view that evil cannot be used to accomplish good. That I did not expect. I was entrigued.

As the books developed, and got darker, this theme of absolute good and absolute evil are fleshed out. The choice for the hero is whether and how to direct himself toward goodness- love of friends and fellow man- especially in Goblet of Fire- where Harry grows in altruism/charity. Are there moments of immaturity, yes! But Harry is a teenager.

The notion of horcruxes, introduced in the Half-Blood Prince, develops the real difference between good and evil. It is the really evil actions of Voldemort that damage his soul, his being, to the point that he is fractured- not his whole self anymore- and able to be parceled into several horcruxes.

Broad overview? Certainly.

But does it correspond to the reallity of the novels? Mostly.

There are many passages in the seven book series that we can use to illustrate a Catholic Vision of right and wrong, good and evil. Freedom only makes sense, is only all it was meant to be, when it chooses well. And I'll take every moment, every opportunity, to teach that to my children.


Adoro te Devote said...

Thanks for your review.

I haven't read the books, although I'll confess I've wanted to. I have seen the movies...all but the last one.

From my own observations in the movies, Harry is acting very well for a teen who has been through what he's been through. I've worked with kids who were locked in closets and suffered emotional abuse of their families or foster families, etc...and Harry does not behave like those very damaged children. He's amazingly healthy and has a healthy sense of right and wrong. (I remember the scene with Malfoy in which he tries to "guide" Harry into choosing the "right kinds" of friends. Harry refuses, already knowing how to choose his friends.)

I see a lot of good in the books.

And another dimension from my own prespective; I HAVE dabbled in "the dark arts" of Tarot and Palm Reading. The former nearly got me killed. I know of the true Occult, and while, yes, these books discuss the occult, in the movies, at least, they are just the setting...not the content.

I have mixed feelings myself, but do plan to read the books eventually. From what I've seen, however, Harry is a teenager, as you observed. No, he's not a teenager to emulate, all the time, but he's a teen a lot of kids can identify with in one way or another, and perhaps some people can get a new perspective by paying attention to what Harry is doing and what his thought processes are....because they seem to be pretty accurate.

A lot of parents like to think their kids are angels...they're not. You know it. I know it. And I'm guessing we've both "been there, done that" in a lot of ways.

Harry is actually a much better kid than most of the kids who read about him.

Scary thought, but too true.

Fr. Andrew said...

I think, like with most youth literature, parents need to be informed. As you noted there is a proximate connection to the occult, this can be found in many other avenues.

I'm not approving the occult/near occult aspect. Parents need to be informed to engage their children and challenge them on what they've read.

Parents always being the key of a Catholic and human child-rearing.

Dare I say that many children you've experienced that are worse than Harry probably had one or more disinterested parents? Or would that be too general and insensitive?

Look for the books on the cheap at Amazon or other places. If you have youth contact, they provide avenues. for moral/ethical decision making.

PS- I really like html tags.

Adoro te Devote said...

Father ~ I definitely don't think you're approving the occult aspect of the books. Not at all, and I'm in complet agreement that parents need to get involved and know what their children are reading.

The kids I dealt with were very damaged. One little girl was so abused, at the age of 5, the only way she knew how to relate to people was sexually. (very disturbing!). Another little girl, age 7, tried to kill her brother with a scissors. One girl grew up in a cage. Another was very very abused by her stepfather between the ages of 9 and 15, I met her shortly after she was taken out of that house. She had a history of drug abuse and prostitution. A lot of kids were just pain violent - most of those were guys. I got clocked a few times! (I'm a woman, by the way - my handle doesn't make that obvious).

There were a few kids who were just mentally ill, chemical imbalances, and they were actually shocked at all the violence going on in that place. They had their issues, yes, but there was a line for them; because they hadn't been abused.

The vast majority were very abused children, some of the worst, perhaps. Some were actually criminals (and thus shouldn't have been there - we weren't equipped to deal with them and they seriously injured a few of the staff.).

So yes, when I look at Harry, he looks more like a normal kid to me, especially considering what he's been through. (Wow, I'm talking about him as though he's real. This is messed up).

Seriously, though, there ARE better role models, but it seems that people don't read books like Potter for examples as to how to live...they read them for entertainment.

And that's a whole different issue because what we read affects how we think and it can have a very serious and lasting impact. What are we allowing to come into our souls when we read any kind of book?

If these are available at the library I hope to check them out...about to start grad school, though, so maybe not just yet! :-)

Fr. Andrew said... seems that people don't read books like Potter for examples as to how to live...they read them for entertainment....And that's a whole different issue because what we read affects how we think and it can have a very serious and lasting impact.

That is why I want to read them and see where I can use them. I believe it was Aristotle who said that "The unexamined life is not worth living." By engaging popular culture in a thoughtful way, I hope to bring people to do that as well.

Joe on the street wants cultural engagement. That is why the Simpsons or Weird Al Yankovic have lasting power. They critically engage culture. If we can add that aspect to our catechesis, always from the Catholic perspective, we'll be in the right direction to win hearts.

And thanks also for the testimony on some of the kids you've been involved with.