Thoroughly summarize the PDF document and include at least 10 key points. Then explain how you will apply what you learned to your research project. (My research project is analyzing a book which named “The Story of My Life by Helen Keller”)W
e started these lectures with Tolkien, the unexpected success of
the 20th century, and we will close with the equally unexpected
success of the 21st-century: J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The
Harry Potter story was, if anything, even more unexpected as a success
than Tolkien’s work. The tale of its creation is a heroic story in itself, with
its author, a divorced single mother, writing in a café because she couldn’t
afford to heat her own room. She has since become one of the richest women
on the planet. Returning to our theme of what creates such successes, in this
lecture, we’ll ask: What can Harry Potter teach us?
Harry has a strong element of the fairy tale about him, with a
cupboard under the stairs of Number 4, Privet Drive. He’s being
sheltered, reluctantly, by his aunt and her horrible husband, who
neglect and bully him.
Harry is saved by the half-giant Hagrid, who sweeps him out of
the hands of the muggles (ordinary people) and off to the great
school for wizards and witches, Hogwarts, with its headmaster,
survived the attack of Lord Voldemort. The attack killed his parents
but not him, and that failure is thought (wrongly) to have eliminated
One of the charms of the Harry Potter books is the immensely
And this world shows us how much Rowling has to draw on. She
takes ideas from myth, medieval romance, fairy tales, and her own
imagination. In addition, the Harry Potter books are a twist on the
high school story. Hogwarts isn’t an ordinary school, but in the
seven books, Harry advances a grade every year and undergoes the
usual teenage trials.
For all his fame and importance, Harry is quite normal. What has
made him so special to us?
As we said, the hobbits, Tolkien’s new-style heroes, were
created out of the trauma of two World Wars that had severely
shaken traditional models of heroism. That trauma is behind
us now, but it hasn’t quite gone away. Rowling’s Dark Lord
has been defeated, but he has every intention, like Tolkien’s
Sauron, of returning.
And the threat of the Dark Lord is a recognizable one. The
magic users will take over. They will become the master
race, overlords over us muggles. Rule will be restricted to
those of pure wizard blood. Everyone else will be known as
“mudbloods” or “half-bloods.” If they’re “pure bloods” who
sympathize with muggles, they’ll be called “blood traitors.”
We know all about that kind of racist ideology.
There are also new traumas and anxieties. The truly modern element
in Harry is that in his repeated struggles with the Dark Lord, he
Harry Potter and the Order of the
Phoenix, the magic community’s government refuses to face
up to the fact that the Dark Lord has returned and is rallying his
followers. Rather than address the situation, the powers that be
prefer to hush it up. This involves discrediting Harry and his
mentor, Dumbledore, and taking over Hogwarts.
The Ministry of Magic puts a stooge into Hogwarts, Dolores
Umbridge, to teach the class called Defense against the Dark
Arts. Her approach to her subject is to issue all students a new
handbook, the aim of which is, essentially, to do nothing.
group for learning magical self-defense, protests. He gets put
in detention, where he must write out “I must not tell lies”
repeatedly. Dumbledore and the other Hogwarts teachers who
sympathize with Harry can’t protect him because Umbridge
has the authority of the state behind her.
This war on two fronts is a contemporary situation. Just like Harry,
climate change, and more. We have to trust the state to protect us
from those threats, but do we trust the institutions of the state?
Skepticism about politicians, lobbyists, and bureaucrats is very
much a part of the modern mindset.
For this reason, ever since Watergate, we’ve had a word for another
new kind of hero: the whistle-blower. As a whistle-blower, Harry
tries to alert his community to one threat, but he also faces the other
threat of the forces that are trying to hush him up.
Harry is made to query himself and his own deepest attachments.
He is devoted to the memory of his dead parents, but when he
begins to receive access to other people’s memories, he learns that
his father was a bully. In fact, James Potter’s bullying has led one of
the teachers at Hogwarts, Severus Snape, to dislike Harry.
One other thing that creates self-doubt in Harry is his awareness
that he is, in some mysterious way, connected to the Dark Lord.
Lord, he can speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes. He even
snake Nagini, as it attacks his friend Ron’s father. Can Harry even
All these pressures naturally make Harry increasingly badtempered. He has the teenage sense that no one understands him,
and he’s repeatedly in danger of alienating even the people who
are on his side, especially his two closest companions, Ron and
One more strongly modern and original element is seen in the
Dementors. At the start of the series, these are the guards of the
wizards’ prison, but they change sides later on. They work by
sucking the happiness out of their victims, until everything seems
utterly depressing and all resistance ceases. Their last act is the
“Dementor’s kiss,” which sucks away the soul. A real-world
correlative, perhaps, is the loss of nerve, the reluctance to stand up
Western democracies in modern times.
Interestingly, in all seven books of the Harry Potter series, there’s
not the slightest trace of religious belief, in Christianity or any
faith. No one prays or even thinks about the possibility of divine
assistance. Magic itself seems to be just a variation of muggle
technology—broomsticks and hexes instead of planes and guns—
and is only occasionally superior to it.
Perhaps this is another major shift in cultural values: the erosion or
loss of the religious faith that upheld so many of our earlier heroes
and heroines. And this loss of faith may explain why the Dark Lord
is on a quest for personal immortality. Such a quest is natural in
a society that no longer has faith in a life after death; one must
abolish death instead.
The strange thing about Harry, in this world seemingly without
faith, is that at the end of his struggle with the Dark Lord, in order
to succeed, Harry must die himself, because he had one of the Dark
Lord’s souls within him. And then he comes back to life because of
the blood he shared with the Dark Lord. The symbolism of this is
This strange blank at the heart of the Rowling universe—this hole
where faith used to be—once again makes the point that Harry,
his friends, and the whole magic community are on their own.
The dangers arise from within themselves, and that’s where the
solutions will have to come from, as well.
Still, the moral values of Harry Potter don’t seem to have changed
dramatically. Tolerance is vital, as is kindliness, concern for the
vulnerable, and humility. The overall moral of the series seems
to be traditional. Despite the fact that Harry often has the feeling
that he stands alone against the world, the real power in Rowling’s
universe is love. Perhaps modern heroes, such as Harry, are thrown
back on themselves in a way that’s never been true before, but the
answer to loss of faith—to existential loneliness—is love.
Tolkien talked about the “Tree of Story,” which puts out new leaves
all the time, but in at least one way, that metaphor is inaccurate.
Trees put out leaves organically, but that’s not how stories get
written. For our purposes, then, let’s use the metaphor of a House
goddesses, such as Thor and Aeneas and, perhaps, Guinevere.
Lower down are people with extraordinary talents, such as Sherlock
people like us, such as Celie, Elizabeth Bennet, or the Wife of Bath,
who nevertheless get the chance to show what they’re made of.
Anyone can a build new room in this House of Legend and decorate
and furnish it to his or her liking. But it will always rest on deep,
strong foundations that go down to bedrock in the human heart.
No story, no hero or heroine, comes out of nothing. Even at the
dawn of history, the story of Odysseus and Polyphemus was already
old. We’re fortunate now that the House of Legend has become so
large, with unmeasurable amounts of human ingenuity poured into
it for everyone to draw on.
New rooms in the House of Legend are always welcome, and
people are building them right now. But they’re still building them
on the old foundations. The house possesses two resources, one of
which is sustainable and the other, always growing.
The growing resource is all the heroes and heroines in the
House of Legend. The old ones are still present, and we’re
adding new ones all the time.
The other resource—our most sustainable—is what’s adding
them: human creativity.
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
———, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
———, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
———, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
———, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
———, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
———, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Kirk, J. K. Rowling.
Saxena, The Subversive Harry Potter.
1. Can you think of real-world examples where a warning has been given,
a whistle blown, but the proper authorities have taken no notice or tried
to cover up the threat? What do you think causes such behavior?
2. How important has faith been to any of the heroes we have followed,
and what are the alternative sources of inner strength?
This overview of Harry Potter and exploration of major themes was really interesting to me.
Rowling did a great job of embodying the modern hero and using elements of myth, medieval
romance, and fairytales, to tell a beautiful story. He pointed out some similarities of the book to
the real world such as the aspect of racism. In the book, people that did not have pure wizard
blood were called mud bloods, and were looked at differently than those who were pure blooded.
He also talked about how the town did not want to admit the danger of the dark lord and would
rather act like it is not there. Doloris Unbridge was teaching a class on how to understand and
know when to use defense magic. Harry, being the story’s hero, protested and voiced his opinion
on what is actually happening around them, which resulted in detention where he had to write “i
will not lie” while a blood sucking bird was attached to him. The state backed this up because
they again, did not want people to be aware of the threat. This showed that he was fighting a war
at two fronts, one was against the dark lord, and the other was against the people who were
supposed to be against the dark lord. He asked the question do we really trust the state
and government? It is so easy for the media to spin things in this modern world, such as the
newspaper scandal in the book. He also mentioned that Harry potter was a whistleblower hero,
meaning he was trying to warn everybody of danger. Harry experienced loneliness as well in the
story because it is oftentimes a main characteristic. Harry had to learn to trust himself and not
distrust those around him and no longer give way to hatred, which is very relatable to the
majority of people today. Human creativity is the sustainable resource that helped Rowling to
create this work and millions of other authors and artists around the world. Ultimately, he said
that the main theme, and the real power in this universe is love and that showed throughout the
This related to my story The Nightingale, because one of the main themes of my book was love
as well. He asked the question “can love conquer death?”, and I believe that it will not
necessarily stop death, such as Rachel’s daughter being fatally shot during their failed
escape, but can ease the pain of dying when you’re surrounded by loved ones, and make life
more enjoyable while living. In the video he mentioned how the townspeople practiced the
motions of being religious but truly did not rely on the divine power, and rather relied on
themselves to solve problems. I felt this was the same scenario as my book because they did not
practice a whole lot of religious activity rather than going to church, and Vianne even mentioned
being completely zoned out of the message at church because she is concerned where their next
meal will come from and how she will get her family through the week. Lasty, he mentioned that
heroes do not just come out of nothing. There is always a reason or an event that takes place. In
the case of my book, I believe that the war was a direct reason that caused Isabelle and Vianne to
slowly turn into heros. Without the war going on, Isabelle would have never been as passionate
about her work or have had the opportunity to help downed airmen. And without the war along
with love for her family and friends, Vianne would have never changed her mind into helping the
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