so two days ago was September 1st aka the day I was supposed to board the Hogwarts Express to begin my seventh year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry if only my letter hadn’t gotten lost six years ago.
I just wanted to write a post on how much I love Harry Potter. But no, actually I am going to write a post on symbolism in the Harry Potter series because that is what I want to write my graduational thesis on. So here we go.
In this blog post I am going to evaluate symbols in three categories: war, religion, and racism. With all three of them I am going to draw historical parallels using symbols used in the books. For this blog post I used the internet, in the real thing I will not only have to write ten times as much, I will also have to cite all my sources. So, I am still looking for books which analyze the series.
There is several symbols concerning wars in the Harry Potter series. Many parallels are drawn to Nazi Germany. There were roughly two decades between the two world wars, and the second was greatly caused by the first one, especially the Versailles treaty and the tensions it kept up and created. For a long time governments refused to believe there would be another war, as seen in Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement. Nazi Germany had a strong hierarchy and a dictator with Adolf Hitler.
There are also two connected wars in the wizarding world. Fourteen years lie between Voldemort’s first and second rise to power. The tensions between the “good” and “evil” are not released at the end of the first war, but kept. In Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix the Ministry of Magic did not want to believe Lord Voldemort had returned who is unchallenged dictator of his party and whose death would mean the end of the war and his army.
A quote of hers to an unknown media states: “I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world.”
In contrary to other fantasy literature such as The Chronicles of Narnia and to some degree Lord of the Rings, Christian reactions to Harry Potter have been almost nothing but negative. According to author Richard Abanes it is “dark, sinister, anti-Christian, and filled with occult imagery.”
Though there is a big controversy about Christian symbolism there are some parallels to be drawn between Rowling’s tale and the bible. Not only do both books address Christian values as courage, compassion, and love, but also center the topic of self-sacrifice. Jesus is predicted to come and save humanity many times in the bible. When he comes, he dies at the cross for the sins of all people. He dies to save their lives and resurrects shortly after.
Lily Potter also dies to save her son Harry’s life and to free him from his burden, in this case the prophecy (Order of the Phoenix) which fortold Harry to win over Voldemort. Harry Potter follows the example of his mother and sacrifices himself in Deathly Hallows to save his friends’ lives. The difference: He resurrects just as Jesus does and just as Aslan does in The Chronicles of Narnia. There is many more self-sacrifces in the series, for example all of the Marauders (James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew) give their lives more or less directly to save Harry’s.
J.K. Rowling told the Vancouver Sun: “If I talk too freely about me being a Christian I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”
Racism is one of the main problems wizards in Harry Potter have had for milennia, especially the pure-blood ideology which draws parallels to Nazi Germany and its treatment of Jews. Being a Jew very often wasn’t a concrete decision one made but something a person was born with. As in Harry Potter geneology played a big part: Family trees were carefully examined and, as the war progressed, Jews were deported and killed. The Holocaust was initiated and executed by the dictatorship in a horrific way. For Adolf Hitler the Final Solution was a big reason he started the war.
In the series, the drift between “purebloods” (wizards with a complete magical family) and so called “mudbloods” (wizards with no magical family), as well as the “halfbloods” (wizards with a mixed family) standing inbetween, causes tensions nonstop. The hype about blood and ancestry was initiated by the “purebloods” and partially causes the war(s) in the series. There are other discriminating labelings as “squib” (non magical person with a magical family), and “muggle” (non magical person who therefore doesn’t know about the wizarding world). Muggles are not actively involved, though, and squibs are not mentioned often, so mudbloods definitely suffer the most. Once the war’s started, they are tracked down by Voldemort’s executers, often killed, mistreated, and taken away their rights.
I am thinking about maybe adding the aspect “feminism” but that wouldn’t have a direct connection to history, and would rather consist of analysis’ of the female characters. My graduation thesis is a scientific work I have to do during this year. I don’t have to decide on my topic, the class it has most to do with and the counselor I want to do it with, until January. But I think “Symbolism in the Harry Potter Series” or “Historical Parallels in the Harry Potter Series” would be really interesting.
Oh, and I am writing it in English – duh.
Thanks for reading.