Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

J.K. Rowling and Harriet Beecher Stowe

The final movie, drawn from the last in the Harry Potter series opened to startling numbers; it generated cash and crowds, and commentary that psychologists might need to help “muggles” (Non-wizards) come to terms with the ending of their childhood, which some have expressed over this last movie.  One fan said: "I love Harry Potter," she said. "It's been such a big part of my life. I don't know what I'll do without it." (source) Indeed on a recent Charlie Rose Show (PBS) a critic said the Harry Potter series “ . . . have become part of the canon of English literature – comparable to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. “

I can spot some similarities – but which ones make Ms. Rowling’s series comparable to Mrs. Stowe’s serials?

Disclaimer: I haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s books; I have seen a few of the movies and enjoyed them thoroughly. I can’t say if or how Ms Rowling portrayed the hot topics convulsing our times, as Mrs. Stowe depicted slavery.  So, it’s my sense that the battles her heroes fight are against mythological evil  -- and are not an allegory of contemporary problems, even as the times in which Ms. Rowling wrote the series became dark. 

J.K. Rowling said her series, Harry Potter, is about death:

According to Rowling, a major theme in the series is death: "My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry's parents. There is Voldemort's obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We're all frightened of it." (Wikipedia)

And she is reported to have said that she struggles with her Christian faith.

Mrs. Stowe wrote, wrestling with such topics as slavery and Calvinism, (The Minister’s Wooing).   And Mrs. Stowe struggled with her faith, especially when she lost two of her sons to premature deaths.  Mrs. Stowe created authentic characters who were men and women crippled by real-life horrors.  Mrs. Stowe showed a way through the horror that [any] death is. (“A Little Bit of a Woman”)  

Ms. Rowling’s books are extolled because not only are they great tales, they have generated movie jobs and wealth for many; Mrs. Stowe’s one book is said to have sparked the Civil War – a war that freed millions of African slaves.  But it made an unfortunate motion picture!

Writing about death and evil in such a way that makes readers reflect without recoiling and rejecting such a simple truth is tough.   Both Mrs. Stowe and Ms Rowling have set a high bar for aspiring writers who wish to engage readers and make them think about forces and powers that are personal, powerful and yet unseen. Whether Ms. Rowling has helped us look at the evil that afflicts us today, making us weep for the lives that are crushed – and then be willing to fight for them – as the North did, remains to be seen. 

Who today could create an engrossing series exposing the human cost of abortion,  illegal immigration  and the moral failure of our governmental, judicial, and financial institutions, the several generations of Americans we have permitted to become enslaved to handouts from a government that is spending itself onto bankruptcy? 

And what would the movie version look like?

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