Saturday, April 18, 2009

Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles (A review)

Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles
By, Ari Armstrong

With over 400 million sales and having been translated into 67 languages, and making the author –J.K. Rowling – the first person to ever become a billionaire from book sales, the Harry Potter series has been a fantastic success. Fans enjoy the series for a vast assortment of reasons; ranging from simply finding a new realm in the fantasy genre, to the underlying philosophical premises presented in the novels. Over, 50 books have been written on the boy wizard. Many of these espouse the obvious religious morality of Harry potter. John Grangers’ Finding God in Harry Potter, and many other books seem to merely discuss Harry Potters’ morality from a religious standpoint. In a book entitled What’s A Christian To do with Harry Potter?, author Connie Neal says “If you are firmly set against Harry Potter, I won’t try to dissuade you, as that is one biblically viable position.” Fans desiring something more seem to have nowhere to go. These books shower their viewers with allegories of Christ, sacrifice for others, the afterlife and more. Yet, upon reading the books, these allegations don’t seem to match up. What does Harry really seek in his life? It doesn’t seem clear that he wishes to live his life as an altruistic Christian. After all, it is a Christian’s duty to turn the other cheek to evildoers. For example, Mathew 5:39 “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The philosophy of Harry is diametrically opposed to this. The Harry books are filled with opportunities for him to ‘turn the other way,’ yet he never does. The reason is the idea of altruistically sacrificing ourselves to anyone and everyone is simply not as prevalent in Harry Potter as many would like to believe.

Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles a book written by Harry Potter fan Ari Armstrong argues that the real theme of the series is the “heroic, courageous fight for values.” Rowling’s works not only renewed literacy in young people, but more importantly, renewed a sense of moral literacy. As Ari writes, “Adopting the virtues portrayed by the heroes of Harry Potter can make you a better person.” Ari makes it clear throughout his book what morals he speaks of. As he elucidates, the morality of the Potter series does not promote sacrificing life on earth, but instead supports the notion of living life fully.

In his first chapter, Ari clearly covers each value the characters embody-heroes and villains alike. If we are to understand why Harry’s morality is the correct one, we must contrast it with an incorrect one, namely that of Voldemort the antagonist in the Potter series. Values presents the real case against Voldemort: He isn’t evil because he was predisposed to be; it wasn’t some innate biological malfunction. It was a clear and conscious decision on his part to lead a life in which he has no true values.

Chapter two covers the independence of the characters throughout the story. Here Ari brings us a grand explanation of the difference between living first handedly and second handedly through others; or, as Ayn Rand made famous in her book The Fountainhead, the parasite vs. the primary movers. Although, Harry may not be a true primary mover in the sense of a Howard Roark, or Albus Dumbledore, by living his life for himself and based off of his own independent thinking, Harry is able to continuously lead a good and noble life. Here we learn how a simple book series designed for teens can show us all how to live proper lives.

On September 30th, 2008 Ari was invited to 9 News in order to explain how the Harry Potter series could teach politicians and leaders in general, how to act. He Includes such advice from the books as: “Do the right thing even when it’s difficult,” “Government is not always the answer,” and among others “Don’t cling to power.” Masterfully, Ari uses stories from the books to explicate the importance of morality in our lives.

In arguably one of the more important chapters of the book Values, chapter three discusses free will. By comparing individuals in the Potter series who grew up in good, bad and horrible situations, and their subsequent rise – or fall – Ari showcases to his readers that ‘it matters not what someone is born.” It is beneficial to anyone born in any circumstance anywhere in the world to comprehend that our future is determined by our choices. As Dumbledore points out to Harry in his second year, “it is not our abilities that determine who we are, but our choices.” Ari seems to argue that the philosophy of choice appears to be the most dominant theme Rowling chooses to explore.

In part two of Ari’s book he dives into a more literal and moral criticism. Chapter four “The Clash of Love and Sacrifice,” Ari points out many inferences people have in regards to Harry’s likeness to Jesus. In comparing Harry to the philosophy of Christianity and contrasting that idea with the philosophy of Aristotle and Ayn Rand, Ari gives sufficient evidence to some of the problems inherent in Rowling’s premises. Ari makes it clear that Harry does not act consistently in a self sacrificial manner throughout the books and, in fact, acts egoistical.

In the chapter entitled, “Materialism and Immortality,” Ari discusses such ideas as ‘materialism and the pathological fear of death,’ and ‘supernaturalism and death.’ Ari mentions the flaws in such thinking and how Rowling again mixes some of her premises. He also points to Rowling’s more prevalent Christian ideals being construed in an apologetic manner.

In the end, we must put down the last Harry Potter book and remember that the boy wizard and his friends are not real, yet the imagined work of a single mom. However, as in all great works of art, we can be left with a singular vision of the books impacts upon our lives. Works of art may show us we are going down a path not best suited to our true desires. It may teach us, make us laugh, cry, and change. Although, Potter isn’t real he can teach us all how to love better, enjoy a great conversation, and compete in our favorite sports. Most importantly the books can teach us how to attain the values best suited to each and every one of our lives. Ari Armstrong shows us that, through Harry, we can learn life isn’t just what is; but what can and ought to be.

If you would like to purchase Ari Armstrong's book Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles it is for sale on for 12.95, click HERE to purchase

1 comment:

Sean said...

great review! I'm looking forward to reading the book!