Harry Potter: Good Or Evil Essay, Research Paper
Harry Potter: Good or Evil?
Throughout adolescents, a child is taught to use his or her imagination. A child is read stories of a talking cat or a silly old bear while still young and na?ve. The child is read such stories to encourage use of his or her creativity. The ideas of such characters are for pure amusement and are obviously fictional. Unfortunately, today there are issues of censorship that stifle a person’s creativity. The most recent book being criticized by censors is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Censors claim that the reading of such novels encourages witchcraft, and therefore should be banned. Although critics of the Harry Potter series are well intentioned in their ideas of banning this novel in schools, the actual banning of the novel is far more destructive. What these critics fail to recognize is that the reading of such an imaginative novel allows for children’s creativity to flourish, rather than allowing them to turn to negative forms of entertainment. The banning of certain novels in schools is extremely important in today’s society, but only when the novel is destructive to a child’s upbringing.
In past history, such classics as Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye have been banned. Critics justified their actions by stating that such novels are inappropriate for school age children. Critics have now targeted the highly creative Harry Potter series. At the beginning of the school term the American Library Association was bombarded with complaints from parents about potentially harmful content in the series. Unfortunately, opinions vary and there is no simple answer. Although citizens of the United States are given the right to Freedom of Press under the First Amendment, this does not allow schools to incorporate every piece of literature within the curriculum. Schools are torn because as Linda Harvey states in “USA Today”, “No school includes everything. Few public schools would accept books advocating drunken driving, bulimia or rape. And it’s rare to find novels in school libraries about teens who proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ” (Harvey). Reading material that encourages such horrendous acts as drunk driving and rape should be the focus of the countries problems, rather then a child’s fantasy series that only encourages use of ones imagination.
With larger issues such as racism and violence still in existence, it is ridiculous to think that parents are more concerned with a book that encourages a child’s imagination and desire to read. Dominic Schmidt, a father writes:
The manipulation, lying, violence and rebellion in Harry Potter books are without a doubt unfit for young minds that don’t have a strong safety net at home. This book series has the same sugarcoating used by the alcohol and tobacco industries and, for that matter, your local drug pusher, as well as the clever marketing that the publishing companies use to lure us into thoughtless choices—many with lifelong consequences (Schmidt).
Rather than the Harry Potter books being “unfit,” it is one of the best influences a child without “a strong safety net at home” can have. When a child is engulfed in a fantasy story, he or she uses their imagination to travel to another word, where all troubles are left behind. The Harry Potter series uses descriptive writing to tell a story of pictures that move, the enchanted castle of Hogwarts, and a wonderful sport called Quidditch.
Harry unwrapped his Chocolate Frog and picked up the card. It showed a man’s face. He wore half-moon glasses, had a long, crooked nose, and flowing silver hair, beard and mustache. Underneath the picture was the name Albus Dumbledore…Harry turned the card back over and saw, to his astonishment, that Dumbledore’s face had disappeared. ‘He’s gone!’ ‘Well you can’t expect him to hang around all day,’ said Ron. ‘He’ll be back…’ ‘But in, you know, the Muggle world, people just stay put in photos.’ ‘Do they? What, they don’t move at all?’ Ron sounded amazed. ‘Weird.’ (Rowling Harry Potter And the Sorcerer’s Stone 102-103)
Unfortunately because of the opinions of a few parents and religious right groups, many schools are conceding to the group’s demands. Renowned author Judy Blume had this to say about the recent banning of Harry Potter books:
The real danger is not in the books, but in laughing off those who would ban them. The protests against Harry Potter follow a tradition that has been growing since the early 1980’s and often leaves school principals trembling with fear that is then passed down to teachers and librarians. What began with the religious right has spread to the politically correct…And now the gate is open so wide that some parents believe they have the right to demand immediate removal of any book for any reason from school or classroom libraries. The list of gifted teachers and librarians who find their jobs in jeopardy for defending their students’ right to read, to imagine, to question, grows every year (Blume).
Judy Bloom, author of such titles as Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Forever, knows what it feels like to have a book banned. Not shocked by the recent uproar by censors, Blume stated that, “I knew this was coming. The only surprise is that it took so long – as long as it took for the zealots who claim they’re protecting children
from evil (and evil can be found lurking everywhere these days) to discover that children actually like these books. If children are excited about a book, it must be a suspect.”
The main reason that the Harry Potter series is objectionable to the religious right groups is that it poses the idea of situational ethics. There is no room for this newfound idea of situation ethics in Christian society. The Harry Potter series has, “roots in a devilish invention called situational ethics, the idea that values can be relative. The religious right, firmly believing in absolutes, does not want anyone discovering alternatives. Situational ethics has hit the schools like an epidemic, they feel it must be wiped out” (Cain 601). The group’s literal interpretation of that Bible calls for the idea that anything related to wizards, devils, and demons is real and dangerous, and they should have nothing to do with them.
Although the censors think that their efforts are benefiting children, in the long run it is destroying them. Plato makes the point that, “The beginning, as you know, is always the most important part, especially in dealing with anything young and tender” (Plato 587). Although Plato’s views are the same as the religious right groups, this quote does make sense (although I am not taking the quote the way Pluto had intended). Though it is important how a young child is brought up, I think that to place them in a utopian society is even more harmful. If all children’s books had to be “approved,” each child would be a mindless character. There would be no unique qualities to distinguish one from another, all children being of the same mold. Each child would only know what was “approved,” and nothing else, not allowing them to flourish into individuals.
Why should the idea’s of few, restrict the rights of so many? Although the Harry Potter series is fantasy, “It’s the very real forces of self-appointed censors who want to tell other people’s children what they can read” (USA Today “Harry Potter faces biggest foe yet in book censors”). If a child’s knowledge were restricted, each child would grow into a mindless adult, leaving the world mind numbing and meaningless. The Harry Potter series is encouraging the growth of a child’s imagination, allowing our children to grow into fully functioning, creative adults. If these ludicrous ideas of book banning continue, Judy Blume feels that next years headline will read: “‘ Goodnight Moon banned for encouraging children to communicate with furniture.’ And we all know where that can lead, don’t we” (Blume)?
Blume, Judy. “Is Harry Potter Evil?” The New York Times. 22 Oct. 1999. 17 Nov.
Cain, Michael Scott. “Crazies At The Gate.” Portals Reading, Writing, and Critical
Thinking. Eds. Mary T. Segall and William R. Brown. Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 599-608.
Harvey, Linda. “Protect our Kids.” USA Today. 6 Sept. 2000. 17 Nov. 2000
Plato. “On Censorship of Literature for School Use.” Portals Reading, Writing and
Critical Thinking. Eds. Mary T. Segall and William R. Brown. Fort Worth,
Texas: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 586-589.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc, 1998.
Schmidt, Dominic. “Choice, Not Censorship, Is the Issue Over ‘Harry Potter’ in School.”
Los Angeles Times. 7 Nov. 1999. 17 Nov. 2000 http://www.lexis-nexis.com/universe.
“Harry Potter faces biggest foe yet in book censors.” USA Today. 6 Sept. 2000. 17
Nov. 2000 http://www.lexis-nexis.com/universe.