The Themes of Harry Potter

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!

If you havenít read the Harry Potter books, but plan to do so, do NOT read the following as it contains spoilers!!

When reading the Harry Potter series, you quickly realise that J. K. Rowling has one thing in common with the Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen: they both use other peopleís stories as the sources for their own. Where Hans Christian Andersen mostly used myths and older fairytales as a model for his stories, Rowling uses mythology, British folklore, the Bible, Homerís "Iliad", works of Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, Jill Murphy, Nancy K. Stouffer, Orson Scott Card and many, many more, not to mention Star Wars! That way in the Harry Potter series, Rowling has created a veritable Babel Tower consisting of the best of other peopleís works, which I am sure is why her series is so popular.

Because of the many sources, J. K. Rowlingís seven books about Harry Potter have many themes. The major theme of the books is clear (love conquers all), but there are others as well that are almost as important, but as hardly anyone addresses them, I thought Iíd point out a few problematic ones here.

 

Death

A major theme of the books is death, but unfortunately Rowlingís protagonists die pretty ridiculous deaths, I mean, Sirius suffers death by curtain and Fred death by wall! Thatís no way to end two of the most popular characters in the books and others like Remus and Tonks just die. You donít even hear any more about it. Itís pretty annoying that we have to spend so much time grieving over Dobby and Hedwig, when the deaths of Sirius, Fred, Remus, Tonk and Colin Creevy are just shrugged off. Itís like saying that the deaths of human beings arenít as important as the deaths of owls and house elves! In the books only Dumbledore and Snape die decent deaths, whereas the rest just snuff it. End of story.

Peopleís reactions to the deaths are equally strange. No one seems to care. I mean, the fact that George doesnít react at all to his twin brotherís death is totally incomprehensible. Of course it echoes Fred being petrified when George loses an ear, but you canít help but think that Percyís reaction to Fredís death should have been Georgeís. Fredís death wasnít that big a surprise, anyway. I saw it coming way back in HP2, chapter 3 and at least by HP5, chapter 9, no one in their right mind could overlook it. Not with Mrs. Weasleyís woes and the mentioning of her brothers Gideon and Fabian, although Rowling tries to lure her readers into believing that it is George who is going to die. She mentions that Gideon and Fabian Prewett were killed during the first war, especially concentrating on the bravery of Gideon. And because of the likeness in names (Gideon/George and Fabian/Fred) youíd think that George is the one who is going to snuff it. But in fact Fred is the Gideon of the Weasley twins, the one to be mentioned first etc. And throughout the books Harry has been close to George and Ron to Fred, but it is Fabianís watch that Harry gets for his 17th birthday in HP7, showing that George equals Fabian, whereas Ron gets Gideonís, mirroring that Fred is Gideon.

Harryís own death is also pretty annoying. So he dies, but he canít die, because his blood runs in the veins of Voldemort who is still alive??? Voldemort seems perfectly capable of dying despite Harryís blood! Inconsistencies, inconsistencies, Iím so tired of them!! Furthermore, I find it very pompous that Harry is made like a new Jesus. Iím not a Christian myself, so itís not like Iím hurt on behalf of my religion, but frankly, only the Beatles had the format to be as big as Jesus! Harry saves the lives of three of the Weasleys alright, first Ginny, then Mr. Weasley and Ron, but the Weasleys pay for it: Bill with his looks, George with his ear and Fred with his life. So when Mrs. Weasley in HP6 says, that it was a lucky day when Ron decided to sit in Harryís compartment, she isnít quite right. Had Ron not walked into that compartment she probably would still have had all her sons, alive and unharmed. So what kind of Jesus is that? Yes, he saves some but at the expense of others? Not good enough.

 

Time

Another theme of the Harry Potter books is time. Rowling plays around with time, goes back into the past, jumps ahead to the future, parallels same-time happenings etc. She even suspends time when Harry dies, but it doesnít quite add up. In the books thereís a clear timeline and Rowling mentions it in HP2 where she tells that the year is 1992, which means that Harry is born in 1980. But in HP7 when Harry is close to being 18, we suddenly miss a year. In a TV-interview Rowling listed Fredís death as having happened in 1997, but if you follow her own time line he dies in 1998. Very strange indeed.

Another strange thing is that the HP characters never act their age. Rowling tries to write for an audience that is the same age as her young hero. This way HP1 is written for children around 11 years of age, whereas HP7 is for the 17 year olds, but it doesnít really work. In the first books the protagonists act way too young and especially in HP5 when Harry is 15, he acts way below his age, having fits at the beginning of the story like a 6 year old. In HP7, however, Harry seems too mature, thinking and acting like a middle-aged man. And the tone of the young heroes isnít quite right. The twins, and to a certain degree Ron, are depicted okay, but most of the time Harry and Hermione donít seem to be children at all. The characters clearly do not mature the way they would, if the progress of time had been considered, and itís too bad that a major phenomenon like Harry Potter has to suffer from flaws like this.

 

Sex

To me the most intriguing theme in HP is sex, or rather the lack of it. Although thereís no direct sex in the HP series, you know that people have sex. Married people like Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Remus and Tonks, that is. As for the young protagonists they donít have sex, not even when they come of age, and that is not believable. I mean, how many 17 year old virgins do you know? The young HP protagonists are left to holding hands and snogging, although they are of age before the series end. Actually the only ones who probably have sex are the twins at Bill and Fleurís wedding when they disappear into the darkness with a couple of Veela cousins! But as for Harry, Ron and Hermione: no. Ron and Hermione even seem to date for almost a year before they kiss!!

As the protagonists canít have sex with the opposite sex, they have to compensate in other ways. Charlie Weasley for instance seems to be gay, but it turns out that he prefers dragons to people. Well, hello, then he has something in common with Donkey from Shrek! To be absolutely sure that we donít miss Charlieís disposition, Rowling mentions the book "Men Who Love Dragons Too Much" in HP4. And Charlie is not the only one to suffer from zoophilia. Dumbledoreís brother Aberforth has been convicted for fiddling about with goats. What kind of message is that to send to young people? You canít sleep with the opposite sex until you are married, but it is okay with goats?

Not everyone is willing to sleep with animals, though, so instead youíll find a lot of gay crushes in the books. The female characters donít seem to have very close bonds with each other, but the males do. For one, Dumbledore is gay (which Rowling told in a TV-interview) and he seems to have been the lover of the evil wizard Grindelwald in his youth. And what about James Potter and Sirius Black for instance? Or Sirius Black and Remus Lupin? Not to mention the ambiguously symbiotic dependence between the Weasley twins, who after they come of age and leave home insist on living with each other in a small flat above their shop? Although Fred brings Angelina to the Yule Ball and George knows a girl in the village of Ottery St Catchpole, the twins are only truly happy when they are together. It is clear that one cannot live without the other - the reverse of Harry and Voldemort, where one cannot die unless the other dies too.

As for Harry Potter, he himself says, that heís Dumbledoreís man through and through, and there are some rather touching moments between the headmaster and Harry. In HP7 it is even hinted at that their relationship is "unhealthy" and Harry keeps wondering whether or not Dumbledore loves him. Throughout the series youíll also find several tender moments between Harry and Ron. And isnít it a bit odd that in the end they both choose to marry women who are far from their own personalities, but who resemble the other bloke? It isnít very plausible that Harry should end up with Ginny and Ron with Hermione and even Rowling struggles to make her readers believe in these liaisons. She changes Ginny from a shy victim in HP2 to an independent sex bomb in HP5 in order for her to match Harry and she suddenly increases Ronís IQ in HP7 for him to match the intellectual Hermione. As I see it, the only reason Rowling would make these absurd twists of the protagonistsí personalities is for Harry to marry a female version of Ron and Ron a female version of Harry.

Reading between the lines youíll find a lot of (maybe) involuntary male/male crushes and people do. Fans are swamping the Internet with slash-fiction about the male protagonists and to my best knowledge Rowling has caused this herself by indicating sexual ambiguity in almost every leading male character. Donít get me wrong, I enjoy a good m/m romance and thereís plenty of fuel for it in the books! So if you need a soundtrack to the books, instead of listening to the official ones, try Gred and Forgeís "Brotherly Love" from the "Siriusly Smiling" album. Thatís what Iím talking about!

@Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2010

Back