Category Archives: Themes

The Scariest Harry Potter Book Is . . . The Half-Blood Prince

pensieveWith the penultimate novel in the saga—Half-Blood Prince—we know that things must become much worse before they can become better and reach resolution in the seventh and last novel.  We should thus expect that it will be chilling in unmatched fashion, and I shall argue that it’s the scariest of them all!  Let’s take an eerie walk through the dark corners of Half-Blood Prince, to places seemingly devoid of light or hope . . . .

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The Scariest Harry Potter Book Is…The Order of the Phoenix

Though not quite my favorite book, The Order of the Phoenix is definitely the scariest in the Harry Potter series. The fact that two of us raised our hands to speak for it says much, but like its doppelgänger, Prisoner of Azkaban, Phoenix’s fear is primarily psychological and therefore far more upsetting than its more externally-focused counterparts. Continue reading

Harry Potter & The Hunger Games: Part 2, Dystopias

[This is the second essay comparing the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games trilogy.  Part 1 was posted on January 30, 2013.]

In the first entry of this series, we examined Harry Potter’s and Katniss Everdeen’s journeys along the “Hero’s Path”, what Joseph Campbell called the great human “monomyth”. This time, let’s look briefly at ways in which both series tap into another literary tradition: the Dystopia. Continue reading

Christmas and the Grave

One of the most emotionally charged passages in the Harry Potter books (for me anyways) is The PottersHarry at Godric’s hollow. It is at once beautiful and serene, yet full of anguish and bitter grief. This scene, along with all chapter 16 and 17, highlight a major theme in the entire Harry Potter story line: dying well. This is ultimately what Harry has to learn to defeat Voldemort (precisely because Voldemort refused to learn the value of a good death), and through the memory of his parents and their sacrifice, it is a lesson that Harry has been learning since his first year at Hogwarts.

Dying Well

In addition to the echos of Christmas in book one and Christmas in book seven Kelly addressed in her A Christmas Ring Composition post, the links of an immortality quest can’t be overlooked.

In book 1, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trying to uncover the identity of Nicolas Flamel, the alchemist who created the sorcerer’s/philosopher’s stone. With his elixir of life, Nicolas Flamel staved off death. In book 7, they are faced with the riddle of the Deathly Hallows, three pieces that united would master death itself. Both books lay out a story of one man trying to master death (Voldemort), and one boy learning to live with meaning because others died for him (Harry). Continue reading

You’re Invited to . . . a Deathday Party?

Halloween marks the occasion of the death of Nearly Headless Nick (a.k.a. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington), which was caused by having been “hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe” (CoS p. 123).

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We find out in Chapter 12 of Chamber of Secrets that October 31, 1992 is Nick’s five hundredth deathday. Hoping that Harry will attest to Nick’s being impressively frightening so that he might be allowed to join the Headless Hunt, Nick invites Harry and his friends to his Deathday Party. Ron skeptically asks a good question: “Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they died?” And Hermione characteristically looks forward to what she can learn from the experience: “A deathday party? . . . I bet there aren’t many living people who can say they’ve been to one of those—it’ll be fascinating!” (CoS p. 130).

With Hermione’s inquisitive spirit, let’s have a go at wrestling with Ron’s question. Is there something more going on here than a chillingly gothic setting for the horrors to be unleashed by the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets?

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House-Elves, Hogwarts, and Friendship

The next article in the June 2012 Harry Potter and Philosophy collection is “House-Elves, Hogwarts, and Friendship: Casting Away the Institutions which Made Voldemort’s Rise Possible,” written by Susan Peppers-Bates and Joshua Rust (both philosophy professors at Stetson University, FL). 

This essay begins the collection’s journey toward an exploration of some of the darker themes present in the Harry Potter series (though with the ray of hope that is friendship!).  For an abstract of their article, please read below the jump.  As always, questions and comments on the full article and its topic are welcome in the comments box below.

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Choices, Love, and Death

The third essay in the Imagining Better: Philosophical Issues in Harry Potter collection, is “buy viagra in uk href=””>Harry Potter and Humanity: Choices, Love, and Death,” by Shawn Klein, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College, PA. (He’s also a co-editor of Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts.)

After discussing the central role played by choice, which is best captured in Dumbledore’s famous quotation that it is “our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (CoS p. 333), Prof. Klein explores how Harry’s humanity is best shown in his recognition of his mortality. Harry’s acceptance of his mortality enables him to love and to be a whole person; having a limited life span allows one to realize just how precious and valuable life is. On the other hand, it is Voldemort’s rejection of mortality that undermines his ability to love–either others or himself.

(Coming soon: A guest post by Prof. Joel Hunter on his essay about the Mirror of Erised and existentialism.)


Un-Locke-ing Order of the Phoenix: Part III

Part III: Lockean Law of Nature

This is the third of a three-part series on Lockean political themes in Order of the Phoenix. (Click on these links, if you missed order cheap viagrarg/un-locke-ing-order-of-the-phoenix-part-i-7412/”>Part I: Creating a Legitimate Order and Part II: When Reason Rebels.) Here, I’d like to pick up on the mention made in Part I about Lockean pre-political moral standing, since this is both the source of the purpose of the state and the moral justification for a right to rebellion: In a State of Nature humans are free and equal, according to the Law of Nature. Locke’s natural law/natural rights theory about moral standing provides the philosophical grounding for protection of what he broadly terms “property” (i.e., life, health, liberty, and possessions). This post also picks up on a theme present in several comments made especially by Mary Ellen, namely, the unequal treatment of various (Lockean) moral agents (e.g., Elves, Centaurs, Half-Giants, Half-Bloods, Mud-Bloods, etc.) that serves as a strong sub-plot in the series.

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