[Note: [Fiction and fantasy are neutral and can
be fine vehicles for literature, but fantasy and fiction are given shape by
their content. Fiction can be quite influential, especially on children. Note:
Magic is spelled here as "magick" to refer to occult magick; "pagan" is used in
the generic sense to refer to non-Christian or pagan beliefs of the ancient
world rather than to modern Neopagan religions. The bulk of this article is on
the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, although there are opening
brief comments on the sixth book.]
There is not much to say about this book that would not be repetitive
of previous articles on the earlier books. The book is very dark,
especially the section on Harry and Dumbledore's journey into a cave
where Harry must make Dumbledore drink a potion that is clearly
torturing him (Dumbledore) and making him want to die. Yet Harry must
keep giving this drink to Dumbledore. This goes on for several pages.
Then, in a terrifying scene, they are set upon by Inferi, dead embodied
people who have been enchanted by a "dark wizard" - they are somewhat
like zombies - that clamber out of the water and go after Harry and
Dumbledore, who barely escape. Dumbledore later is murdered as Harry
Despite being a supposed role model and, according to some, part of a "hidden" Christian message, Harry nurtures a burning hatred for Prof. Snape, even wishing for his death at one point (160-61; 167). Naturally, spells are used throughout the book. This sixth book only gives more grounds for all the objections made by this writer to the preceding books.
The "Good" Characters As Role Models
As with the other books, there is no moral center in this one. Harry
is driven by revenge for many of his actions, often has contempt for
others, and even derives a cruel pleasure in others' suffering. The fact
that these feelings are mostly for his enemies, who are cruel
themselves, does not justify it from a Biblical viewpoint. A spell used
by Harry and his friends causes injury to others, yet Harry and friends
are uncaring except for being repulsed by the vomit that results from
making one of the victims ill (237ff). A much harsher example is when
Harry casts the forbidden Cruciatus curse, a spell that torments its
victim with almost unbearable pain. Harry casts this spell on Death
Eater Amycus because Amycus spat in Prof. McGonagall's face (593). Harry
even gives this as the reason for doing it, so there is no way to deny
this. Even worse, Harry states that he realizes "you need to really mean
it" in order to perform this spell; in other words, he had to truly
desire to cause harm for the spell to work.
Yet there are those asserting that this last book proves that the Harry Potter series is Christian in nature or carries a hidden Christian significance. These examples, however, boldly flout Jesus' message to love one's enemies, to forgive those who persecute you, and to leave vengeance to God.
An unpleasant and unsavory passage occurs when the werewolf Greyback gives a "grunt of pleasure" at the prospect of having "a bite of" Hermione, and makes other remarks that plainly indicate a perverse desire for Hermione over the boys (463ff).
There are also quite a few scenes where Harry and his friends have alcoholic drinks (this is done in previous books as well when they were even younger).
Harry lies often, as he did in previous books, and this is discounting the lies told when he is on a mission seemingly to save lives. Yet, when he wants the truth, he is very self-righteous about it. In fact, on page 185, Harry lies to Hermione, and just a few sentences later, Harry "wanted the truth." Harry orders Kreacher to answer truthfully (191), and Prof. McGonagall tells a Death Eater that her side cares about "the difference between truth and lies" (593). Harry and Ron, who plan to double-cross the goblin Griphook, are incensed when Griphook double-crosses them first. How ironic and hypocritical!
Rude or undesirable language from the "good" characters abounds, such as Harry saying to his uncle, "Are you actually as stupid as you look?" (32). "We already knew you were an unreliable bit of scum," is said by Harry to Mundungus (220). Mundungus is a thief, but Harry has stolen, too. Several characters use the word "damn" and "git," the latter being English slang for a stupid person or an idiot. Ron says "effing" (307). When Harry hears singing in a nearby church at Christmas, he becomes nostalgic for "rude versions of carols" sung by the ghost Peeves at Hogwarts (324; this event with Peeves actually occurs in an earlier book and may have inspired a Harry Potter fan group to post "Harry Potter Christmas Carols" that include "Away in a Rude Hut" and "Silent Night, Ominous Night," http://ivory.150m.com/Tower/Fiction/Carols.html ). Aberforth uses the word "bastards" (564), and Ron yells at Draco Malfoy, "you two-faced bastard" (645). Prof. McGonagall says "you blithering idiot" to the "aged" caretaker, Filch (602).
The most brazen example of a bad word is spoken by Mrs. Weasley, Ron's mother and a mother figure to Harry, who calls Bellatrix the "b" word (the one that rhymes with "witch") on page 736. This word is spelled out in all caps because Mrs. Weasley is shouting it. Yes, Bellatrix is an evil character and she has just tried to kill Ginny, along with others. Nevertheless, for a Christian, there is no justification for using this word or the other words, and certainly there is no good reason for an author to use these words in a children's book. Danger and evil have been expressed in other children's books without the use of such crude expressions or obscenities. If it is argued that the evil is extreme enough to warrant such a word (and this could still be refuted from a Biblical view), then perhaps it is the evil act itself that should not be presented to children. Is childhood now open to the sordid side of the adult world with impunity?
In today's coarsened climate this kind of language is undoubtedly considered mild. That only shows how desensitized the culture has become. But it was Jesus who said, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matthew 12.34).
Even if one were to set aside misgivings about the occult references, the moral objections would remain as a concern when considering the age of many of this book's readers. Keep in mind that the above examples are but the tip of an iceberg. However, even such obvious examples of skewed morals seem to have sunk in the sea of adulation for Harry Potter.
There are quite a few scenes in the book where people are tortured, suffer
excruciating pain, or are killed. For example, there are a total of ten
references in eight consecutive pages to Hermione screaming in pain as she is
being tortured (463-471). The Gray Lady, a ghost who used to be Helena
Ravenclaw, tells Harry how another ghost, the Bloody Baron, when alive, had
stabbed and killed her in anger and then killed himself (616). A story is told
about Dumbledore's sister who was driven insane when her "magic . . . turned
inward . . . it exploded out of her when she couldn't control it," apparently
causing her to kill her mother (564-65). This certainly makes for gloomy reading
In a letter to the Washington Post's Book World (from John Hall, Aug. 5, 2007, p. 14), a parent who likes the Harry Potter books writes that he is disturbed by the increasing "hopeless" tone of the last three books "which constitute a long, oppressive mess in which children are hunted by adults who want to kill them, while their protectors are murdered one by one." Mr. Hall goes on to say that as a parent he is bothered by the frightening tenor of the books, and he suspects that many children find the books scary but do not want to admit this. Hall states that the review of the last book in the Post should have "warned parents of the tragedies that make the later books less suitable for younger readers."