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Megan Voegele

Mrs. Hackett

English Composition 2 Section 017

Exploratory Analysis

2/1/2009

Harry Potter and the Modern Witch Hunt

The infamous Harry Potter series has drawn more than 400 million eyes to its pages

since its release in 1997. There are few books that parallel the teen literature’s

popularity, and like any figurehead, Harry has become a target. Fundamentalist

Christians stand poised and ready to hurl the novels into the fire pit, laying a very serious

charge upon the writer herself: Joanne Kathleen Rowling. Her crime? Leading children

into the devil’s arms with a detailed witchery instruction manual, of course. Today, the

United States must decide what to do with this controversial series.

In September of 2005, Laura Mallory became the face of this assault when she

pressed for the books to be banned from her children’s public school library. This was

claimed on the grounds that they violated the separation of church and state by promoting

the Wicca religion. She has never read any of the books, but is absolutely positive they

contain "evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells and

teaching children all of this."(Mallory). In general, Christians are divided on the issue.

Some believe that the novels are harmless and “in good fun”. Those that side with

Mallory criticize the stories for blatantly flaunting witchcraft, magic

spells derived from occult origins, and promoting homosexuality.

The criticism is understandable, considering that Harry and his friends wave
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wands, mutter Latin incantations, stir potions and turn into animals. Christians worry that

children are too small to clearly distinguish reality from fantasy, and that they will get

swept away with the spell of the story. Even if the child understands what fiction is,

there remains the concern that he will be influenced by the novels in a subtle way. It is

the same reasoning that parents use to restrict their children from befriending

troublemaking children: the influence could “rub off” on them.

Another issue to consider is the Christian stance on homosexuality. In an

interview released after Deathly Hallows, Rowling revealed that one of her characters,

the beloved Albus Dumbledore, was a homosexual. This caused quite a stir in the

Christian community. Extremist parents conclude that Rowling’s disclosure only slaps

the seal of evil on novels already full of satanic ideals. The announcement shouldn’t

really be relevant anyway, since there was no mention of it in the books, and thus

couldn’t possibly teach the kids “it’s okay to be gay.”

The same ones who would cast Potter into the ashes would also have Twilight, the

Ann Rice novels, and various other controversial books banned. Fundamentalists argue

that vampires and witches have no place in this world, and only lead America’s young

down the immoral path of no return. They are the fuel behind banned books of the world.

They are a minority, but a powerful minority at that. Most Christians do not want to

disrupt the ways of the country, and simply want the right to expose their children to the

things they wish. More vociferous crusaders like Mallory yearn for something more.

They seek the destruction of fantastical thought on a distorted accusation. The motivation

to destroy doesn’t stem from malice: it stems from fear. For some, it stems from

attention-seeking goals. When one looks beyond the radicalism, the issue at heart is
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whether books viewed as a danger should be allowed on the shelves. What must be

considered first are the author’s intentions.

JK Rowling chuckles in response to reporters’ questions about the

controversy. In a CNN interview in 1999, she said:

I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into

witchcraft. I'm laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd. I have met

thousands of children and not even one time has a child come up to me and said,

“Ms Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a

witch.” (Rowling.)

Even more amusingly, when journalist Max Wyman asked if she

was a Christian, she responded:

Yes, I am, which seems to offend the religious right far

worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I've been asked if I

believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any

more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk

too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to

guess what's coming in the books. (Rowling.)

JK Rowling clearly had no intention of writing witch craft for children, and has no

experience with Wicca. Her spell incantations derive from her background in

mythology and Latin. Her autobiography, JK Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter

, describes her history of picking out funny-looking names, and her love of the odd and

delightful. For Rowling, the magic was a plot device used to weave the true substance:

character, value, and story.


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Rowling was careful not to color her story with any one religion, but the avid

reader could argue there are a few sections that cry, “Christian allegory!” For example,

one scene entails Harry facing an evil spirit in the Chamber of Secrets, Lord Voldemort.

In this theoretical allegory, Voldemort is the Satan figure, and Dumbledore is the Christ

figure. Harry counts on Dumbledore for help while he rescues the young Ginny Weasley

from a sure death. In Deathly Hallows, it could be argued that Harry is also a Christ

figure because he willingly sacrifices his life for the good of the world.

Even if JK Rowling didn’t intend the books to lead children to evil, fundamentalists

could still argue that they did anyway. There are no statistics to support or deny a

Harry-Potter-driven rise in Wicca. However, Potter clearly did increase the amount

of readers in the world. With an audience of nearly 400 million, the books are translated

into 67 different languages. Many children will say that their journey into literature

began with the Harry Potter novels, and that it has encouraged them to read other tales. It

goes without saying that a series that transforms a child from not reading any books at all

to swallowing 870 pages of Order of the Phoenix is truly magic.

If the fundamentalist crusade won this debate and managed to ban all Potter

books, it is amusing to think that Rowling would probably smile. After all, in Order of

the Phoenix , the loathed Professor Umbridge bans a magazine that contains Harry’s

interview and his truth. It has a chaotic effect. Instead of keeping the magazine out of the

school, the students smuggle it in and read it out of curiosity. Banning the magazine was

the worst thing Umbridge could have done, because it stoked the intrigue more. In the

same way, if controversial books are hushed, they will kindle in the fire of rebellion and

spread further than ever. Let us not forget that if Potter gets the axe, so should the
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Chronicles of Narnia and Macbeth. They too contain witches, but no one seems to think

they are leading children astray.

Though fundamentalist concerns are valid and mostly of good intent, the populace

should weigh this against the fruits that the Potter novels have produced. Children are

not as gullible and mindless as those activists would paint them. It is possible to

distinguish fiction from reality. When Rowling set pen to paper, she sought

entertainment instead of fame, and wrote a strapping tale that spanned the life of a boy

and his decisions. She didn’t want to write about witches and wizards: she wanted to

write about people. They just happened to have magic.


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Works Cited

Associated Press. “Georgia Mom Seeks Ban on Harry Potter.” MSNBC. 4 October 2006.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15127464/#storyContinued

Bowyer, Jeff. “Harry Potter and the Fire Breathing Fundamentalists.” Town Hall. 18
August 2007. http://townhall.com/columnists/default.aspx

Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. United States: Scholastic, 1999.

Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. United States: Scholastic, 2007.

Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. United States: Scholastic, 2003.

Shapiro, Marc. JK Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter. United States: St Martin’s
Press, 2000.

“Success of Harry Potter Bowls Author Over.” CNN. 21 October 1999.


http://www.cnn.com/books/news/9910/21/rowling.intvu/index.html

Wyman, Max.. “You Can Lead A Fool to a Book but you Can’t Make Them Think.”
Accio Quote! 26 October 2000. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-
vancouversun-wyman.htm