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Evil in Harry Potter’s World and Ours

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SPOILERS!

“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!” Albus Dumbledore

With her books about the young wizard Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling has created a story containing timeless ideals. The Harry Potter series reaches beyond the children in all of us to leave us with thoughts that can’t be ignored in today’s modern world.

Each book successively takes on a darker tone as Potter matures. As Potter approaches adulthood, the innocence that he took with him to Hogworts dissipates. The young boy that first stepped into Hogworts is now becoming a man and as the sixth book ends, the battle line has been drawn between Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter. Upon the shoulders of Harry Potter lies the fate of the wizard community.

One thing has become obvious: the fear of Voldemort and the past war with him has left the wizard community wary of another war. No one even dares to say his name, except Dumbledore and Harry Potter. How can you talk or deal with evil if you are unwilling to name it? It is not apathy as much as it is fear of evil. It is easier to deny that evil exists than to deal with it.

Throughout much of the series, the Ministry of Magic has seemed intent on denying the possibility of evil exiting in the form of Voldemort, as opposed to stopping it from coming back. Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last writes, “Ms. Rowling’s wizards, like the British of the 1930s, are exhausted from their last war and unwilling to believe that it’s time to take up arms again.”

In the 1930’s, appeasement came as much of response to the bloodshed of World War I as anything else. Politicians in both Britain and France remembered the carnage that saw an entire generation nearly wiped out in the trenches of the Western Front. Every family member saw a relative dead or severely crippled as a result, so appeasement was a policy of hope against the reality of Hitler.

Ultimate evil is hard to digest or understand. It is hard to comprehend that if a man writes that he plans to kill all the Jews, or take over the world, that he actually means it. Mein Kempf detailed Hitler’s plan for the Europe and the rest of the world but few truly believed that Hitler meant what he wrote. There is a line that Hitler’s secretary muttered in the movie Downfall that supports this attitude. She tells Eva Braun how Hitler is so caring and kind in private but says just terrible things in public. It is as if Hitler’s words had no meaning.

It is at the end of the fifth book when Lord Voldemort and his allies attack the ministry that the reality of his comeback is evident. The Ministry that has previously denied his existence now finds that it is for real, and the time has come to fight back. The war’s begun.

Another aspect of evil is that it is chosen. Both Tom Riddle and Harry Potter had similar childhoods. Both suffered rejection. Riddle’s mortal father and even his own wizard family rejected him and Potter was forced to endure the neglect and mistreatment of the Dursley’s. Uncle Vernon was forever afflicting all sorts of punishment upon Harry and spoiling his own son, Dudley. Yet Potter reached out to the good in others and Riddle turned into Lord Voldemort and evil.

In the book 1984, Big Brother is only about Power. George Orwell made it clear that the Party was not interested in creating a new society or propagating a new ideology. The Party dispensed with the notion of right or wrong, and simply settled for wrong. Lord Voldemort is J.K. Rowling’s version of Big Brother as he attracts loyal followers, but as Dumbledore notes, he is not interested even in his followers and no one is really close to him. He is the definition of narcissism.

In the The Goblet of Fire, Harry witnessed the reemergence of Lord Voldemort and told Dumbledore, who promptly warned the Ministry. Dumbledore’s reward was to be discredited and only at the end, when the Ministry was attacked, did the wizard community realize the war they thought over 15 years earlier had begun again.

In the sixth book, The Half Blood Prince, we see a more mature Potter who is tiptoeing out of his teenage years and approaching adulthood. While his friends worry about the their own lives and who is dating whom, Potter unites with his mentor, astute Professor Dumbledore, to go into the past to study Voldemort. (Okay, I should add that Potter still has some of his teenage angst but at the end of the book, Potter realizes his destiny.)

Learning about his enemy, Potter begins to piece together the puzzle that is Voldemort. Potter realizes that evil is chosen but so is good. While Dumbledore explains that Potter can choose his course of action, this is not really true. Voldemort has already chosen for the both of them the final course of action.

Rowling’s point is that evil is a choice but it is also shown that when evil is chosen by one, it leaves others with no choice but to resist. Potter can’t really choose not to resist Voldemort since Voldemort’s goal is to pursue and kill Potter. For Voldemort, Potter must be killed or Voldemort’s goal of control of the wizard world will remain threatened.

Throughout the Half Blood Prince, Rowling points out the evil that is occurring as numerous disappearances are reported in the Wizards newspapers. In the beginning of the book, the British Prime Minister becomes aware that many of the natural disasters that have occurred are the results of witchcraft. Evil is not just staying within the Wizard community but spreading in the muggle community as well.

Over the first six books, Rowling introduced a wizard world that is divided by class and blood. There is the conflict between the full-blooded wizards and wizards marked by human heritage, the mud-bloods. There is also the class warfare symbolized by the conflict between the Malfoys and Weasleys. The interesting aspect is how many of the full-bloods are perfectly willing to follow a mud-blood like Voldemort. Voldemort takes advantage of prejudices of some in the wizard community to garner his own power base.

Rowling combines realpolitik thinking with the romantic. Dumbledore proclaims, “You are protected, in short, by your ability to love! The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort’s!” Potter has not been seduced by the dark arts whereas Voldemort has surrendered to evil. Evil can’t be ignored but must be confronted. With the seventh book yet to be written, Potter now faces Voldemort without the aid of a key character. (You just have to read the book to see who will be missing from the next episode.)

Outside the imagination of J.K. Rowling, evil exists in the real world. Potter can’t escape his destiny as Voldemort has made Potter’s choice for him.

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About Tom Donelson

  • Super Dave

    That has 2 be the best article i have read on HARRY POTTER 2 thumbs up

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