Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stories in Focus: "Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling

I just finished reading Book 7 of the "Harry Potter" series by British author J. K. Rowling.  Overall, I think I would describe the stories as tedious and long winded, but ultimately delightful and satisfying.  The series of very long child and young adult friendly novels is about the secret world of magic, wizards and witches, and the years they spend studying their magical craft and talents in the schools of wizardry and witchcraft, under the noses of the largely non-magical "Muggles", who are unaware of their existence for the most part.  Rowling's story is mostly set in the British magical school called Hogwart's.  It begins with title character Harry Potter being put under the beastly care of his vicious aunt and uncle in law, after his parents are murdered by the evil and power hungry sorceror Lord Voldemort, constantly referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named.  Potter is notified that he is a wizard and will be attending the school of Hogwart's, which is under the management of noble wizard Dumbledore.  Each of the novels describes the events of one year of time at the school, as various professors and fellow students are introduced and the progress of their education in the magical arts is elaborated.  As the books progress, their is unfolded a plot of very sinister plans of the attempted return of the evil Lord Voldemort, and his scheme to create a world of Pure blood wizards and witches and the subjugation, eradication, and extermination of all non magical Mudblood and Muggle humans.  The story essentially lays out a plot similar to the history of Eugenics, racial "cleansing", and other genocidal movements in the real life history of Earth.  It turns out that Harry Potter is the one destined to end the evil plans of Voldemort once and for all.  Helped by his friends, especially Ron and Muggle born Hermione, he seeks to understand the forces at work in this epic battle between the powers of evil and good, and figure out how to end the oppression that is taking grip over the world.

There are many characters, and they are believable and interesting.  I particularly like the character of Hermione, who although born of non magical human parents, is very talented in the magical arts and very astute.  She loves to study, learn, read, and gain knowledge, and plays a very important role in the story and her intelligence and wisdom are very necessary to the success of Potter and his friends and allies.

There is a great deal of mischief and elucidation of the various spells, jinxes, hexes, curses, and other magical objects and works that are available to the wizarding world.  There is humor and silliness in abundance throughout, even as the plot begins to thicken and the story becomes more and more dark and the situation becomes very dire and dangerous in the later volumes of the series.

The books are very long, some volumes extending to over 700 or even 800 pages, and, to be honest, at some points it is tedious and boring.  I would say that the plot starts to become more interesting around the end of Book 4 (Goblet of Fire) and the beginning of Book 5 (Order of the Phoenix), but there is a lot of development of various characters, magical spells and lore, and there is a lot of dawdling and elucidation of typical nonchalant casual events and dialogue.  I won't say it is unnecessary to the story.  I think it helps to change the pace of the story so that when it gets interesting, you are rapt with attention, and as I got into the later books, I really wanted to know what sort of twists and surprises were in store.  There are a lot of secrets to uncover, quests to conquer, and mysteries to solve, and by the end, the tapestry of all this mystery and adventuring is brought to what I consider a fairly satisfying conclusion and wrap up.

  When I began to read these stories, I only did so because they were extremely popular, especially amongst young children and adolescents, and I wanted to see what the big deal was.  For the first few books, I felt like I was wasting my time, but as I delved further into the series, lent to me by a long time friend of mine, I began to notice that the story was more compelling and the theme more epic than I could have expected.  Although I do not think the Potter series rises to the level of other fantasy stories written by British authors such as "Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien, and "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis, the Potter story was very intelligent and compelling.  It is not just a popular story.  It has been woven into the fabric of English literature and world culture, having been translated into many languages.  It is a good demonstration of the power of universal love and critique of the evils of Eugenics ideologies and the philosophy and theology of genocide and racism.  If you do decide to start reading, I hope you don't get bogged down in some of the sections where the action drags on.  It is worth it to slog through the slow parts and ultimately read it to its dramatic conclusion.

  At the time of this writing, I have only seen the first four films.  I might update this after watching the rest.  The only big criticism I have of the movies so far is that there can seem to be a tendency on the part of many of the actors, particularly the extras and minor characters, to overact their parts.  But it is ok I think.  The story, while serious in many ways, has its elements and threads of comedy and silliness, which probably anyone acting in would have the tendency to overdo.  I expect that the rest of the films are even better, and become more interesting as much as the books progress in their intrigue and ability to grab the attention of the reader.  Also, the films have great special effects and visual profundity and beauty and imagination-inspired.  The visual effects bring the text to life in a wonderful way.  And the sound and music is well composed.

If you decide to read the books or watch the films, and I recommend both, as a result of reading this review, I hope that by the end you do not regret having done so.


At January 26, 2016 at 6:26 AM , Blogger Richard Rowell said...

I never thought of Eugenics when it came to Harry Potter, but I see how you made that connection. Great review!


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