By Marcia Montenegro (page 1 of 4)

Written April, 2004

[Note: To get the fullest view of what is being said about the Harry Potter books, please read the article on the first Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter, Sorcery, and Fantasy," and the article on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books,"Harry Potter: A Journey to Power." This article is neither a book review nor a summary, but rather an overview of problematic themes in the 5th book. It is written, with no apologies, from a Christian and Biblical point of view. As a former professional astrologer for many years and as someone who was involved in occult practices, I reject the popular notion that the Harry Potter books are harmless because they are fiction. Fantasy itself is a fine vehicle for literature, but what it consists of and teaches should be evaluated. Please do not email me and tell me I want to ban Harry Potter. I do not support banning Harry Potter. I am merely using my freedom of speech rights in an attempt to fairly critique the books. I welcome polite and thoughtful feedback.]

 "Ultimately symbolism means nothing if the characters don't embody -- either in a positive or negative light -- the morals and ethics that are desired. Would the symbolism of the Narnia series be significant in the desired way if the heroes were little rats?" (L A Solinas, fantasy fan and online reviewer, used with permission by email, 7/4/03).

"Git" - Noun. An idiot or contemptible person. (from "A Dictionary of Slang") http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/g.htm 

The comment above and the definition of "git" give a pretty good idea of the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as well as the other books. I am not hurling the word "git" at anyone – it is hurled by Harry and his friends at others in the books.

As for the comment on symbolism, many have made unusual efforts at giving the Harry Potter books Christian symbolism. Although these attempts are without any substance, in my view, there still remains the problem of the character of the characters, so to speak. With lying, cheating, disobedience, drugging and other immoral acts rife amongst Harry and his friends, whatever symbolism may be grasped at is with little merit when the books' characters themselves lack any lasting core of morality. The theme that the ends justify the means continues in this book.

This latest book offers nothing hopeful to the reader searching for Harry as a moral role model or for seeking any indication that practice of the occult is regrettable, the two main problems in the previous four books. Examples of these problems are given in this article. When page numbers are given, it does not mean that all the relevant examples are given for that topic. Sometimes the examples are too numerous to list. This article uses page numbers from the 2003 Warner Bros. Edition in hardback.

The Language

Harry is disrespectful and rude to adults and to many of his peers throughout the book. His language and those of his friends is less than charming; he is sarcastic, he shouts, he and his friends use words like "dammit" (77) and "git" (194, 299), Harry swears (735), and the infamous Uranus joke from a previous book is used again. Though he is reprimanded at times, Harry is not one for moral regrets. Even Ron, Harry's friend, points out that Harry gets away with everything (156).

Sirius, Harry's beloved godfather and protector, tells his dead mother (but who "lives" and "talks" in a portrait), "Shut up, you horrible old hag, shut up!" and shows and expresses a vehement hatred for her (78, 109-111). It is true that apparently Sirius' mother was not pleasant and was on the side of evil, but from a Christian viewpoint, one should not speak like this about one's mother, however bad she may have been. To even set up a situation like this in a children's book is somewhat disturbing.

Immorality and Lying

Harry continues his pattern of cheating, disobedience, and desire for revenge. It is natural for someone to want revenge on those who hurt you, but it is not a behavior condoned by God. In fact, most Christians know that taking revenge is wrong and, therefore, they should be bothered by Harry's naked hatred, contempt for certain characters, and desires for revenge in this book. Harry gets back at his cousin Dudley by taunting him (13); Harry points his wand in anger at Seamus (218); Harry wants to place a magical curse on Malfoy (638); Ginny places a disgusting curse on Malfoy (760); James (Harry's father) and Sirius are shown in their younger years taunting Snape (646-648); the professors at Hogwarts do not discourage the ghost, Peeves, from playing mean tricks, and one even encourages it (678); Harry and Ron are indifferent to a curse placed on a student, even when Hermione is concerned it might be permanent – "Who cares?" is Ron's response (679); Harry swears at Luna (735); Harry attempts to kill Bellatrix, who had killed Sirius (809); Harry has an almost overwhelming hatred of Professor Snape (529, 591, and 832-833); Hermione jinxes a student so she can't speak (613), yet a few pages later, Dumbledore hypocritically scolds the villain Umbridge for "manhandling" the students (616). There is only one mention of Harry feeling guilty and it's when he wonders if he should have given his Triwizard winnings (from the tournament that he cheated on when preparing for it) to Fred and George Weasley (172).

Harry and Ron cheat and pass their subjects by copying Hermione's notes (229); Hermione does Harry and Ron's homework (299, 300); Fred and George, Ron's brothers, drug students (253) among many other rebellious and sometimes dangerous stunts; Harry's godfather, Sirius, encourages disobedience (371); and Harry, Ron, and Hermione sneak out of Hogwarts against the rules (420). Ironically, Harry and Hermione are banking on Harry not being expelled for using his wand around Muggles because they see the exception for this "if they [Ministry of Magic] abide by their own laws," (75). In other words, Harry and friends count on others to uphold the rules and laws when it favors them, but when Harry wants to flout the rules for his own purposes, he sees no problem with this. It is one of the great ironies of the book, and it reveals a relativistic morality that is ingrained in all the books.

One of Harry's key problems has been his tendency to lie and to have no problem with it. This showed up strongly in the second book and has continued in the other books. Harry lies for all kinds of reasons – to cover his real feelings, which is sometimes understandable (64, 173), when he is scared about something confusing to him (475, 591), to protect Sirius (742 – one of the rare instances when it is justified); but he also lies to cover up things he's done (611) or has not done (638), and lies out of meanness to his friend Ron (682). He even experiences a "vindictive pleasure" in telling the lie to Ron. All of us have lied, but we supposedly have learned it is wrong, or have suffered consequences for it. This does not happen to Harry. The adults do not reprimand him for this and sometimes even engage in it themselves. In fact, Dumbledore tells Harry to lie in one instance (611), and lies himself to Fudge, head of the Ministry of Magic (618). While it is true that at times they are trying to avoid some dangerous situations or people, the lies are not always for this reason. If the author can set up situations where Harry or Dumbledore must lie to protect someone, cannot the author set up situations where Harry can learn that, in most cases, lying is wrong?

It has become a hallmark of the Harry Potter books for the "good" characters to lie and cheat with aplomb when necessary, thus signaling a lax attitude towards the value of truth and the moral need to avoid lying. In fact, Harry's adventures and heroic deeds almost seem to demand cheating and lying, as though one cannot be heroic without doing these things. I receive much feedback from younger people (pre-teens and teens) angrily reprimanding me for being upset about Harry's lying and cheating. Because he is doing "good" deeds and being brave, they tell me, Harry should be allowed these transgressions. This disturbs me and causes me to wonder if these future adults are learning that in order to do good or be brave, not only is it okay to lie and cheat, but maybe it's to be expected. It is relativism gone amok.

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