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Detective Mystery in the School Story - The Example of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Pre-University Paper 2010 12 Pages

English - Literature, Works

Excerpt

Content

1. Introduction
1.1. Assumption
1.2. Genre

2. Detective Mystery in general
2.1. Definition and Derivation
2.2. The Protagonist in a Detective Story
2.3. Assistants, Friends and False Suspects

3. The Example of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3.1. The Murder
3.2. The Mystery
3.3. The Investigation
3.4. The Detective

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

Detective Mystery in the School Story

The Example of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

1. Introduction

1.1. Assumption

J. K. Rowling's famous Harry Potter series which started with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997 is commonly known as a fantasy story. This is due to the fact that its most striking aspect is magic which is a typical sign for an ordinary fantasy novel. Accordingly, there has to be something more important than magic in the story in order to make it as popular, interesting and fascinating as it is. Of course magic is highly important for Harry Potter's popularity and to make a difference between the series and any other school story. Without magic the series would probably have been less popular than it is now, since it would not have been something special.

The story is neither only a fantasy story nor is it only a school story. It is something less striking that is -at least- as important as magic for the series. In the following Detective Mystery will be explained and revealed as one of the most important elements of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Moreover this paper seeks to prove that magic is not even necessary for the story itself.

Magic is a minor aspect of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

and even unimportant compared to Detective Mystery.

1.2. Genre

The Harry Potter series unites many genres. The world in which the action takes place is presented as our world from Harry's point of view who gets to know the world of magic by learning that he is a wizard and has to go to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is the point where the story becomes fantastic.

Due to the fact that Harry spends most of his time in school, the story could be classified as a School Story, as well. Moreover, Hogwarts is not only a school for him. It is the place where he belongs, the place he wants himself to be. (comp. Rowling 1998:22)

Those two are the most obvious genres the Harry Potter series is part of but indeed not the most important ones. The story of the series is build upon fantasy, magic and of course it mostly takes place in a school but the whole story grounds on a murder which is a presupposition and thus a typical sign for a detective novel. (comp. Van Dine pseud. for Willard Huntington Wright 1928:rule 7) It is the murder on Harry's parents and the attempted murder on Harry by Lord Voldemort that triggered the following events. That is to say that the story would not be possible without this crime.

2. Detective Mystery

2.1. Definition and Derivation

Detective Mystery is basically a synonym for Detective Fiction which includes essential elements of the literally Mystery. The literally Mystery is based on solving a riddle of some kind. It is to say that something is characterised as a mystery when there is something that is hidden, unknown or only not normal.

The focus in Mystery Fiction lays on the act of finding the hidden part and the missing information, “it highlights two forms of enigma, Who and How, with especial emphasis on the former” (Malmgren 2001:20) this is the striking aspect of this kind of literature. Moreover, it is the occasion for the term “whodunit” which is a common substitute for the classification Mystery Fiction. So Detective Mystery connects the pure riddle to the person who tries to solve it. The detective himself is one essential part of the story and the riddle he has to deal with is the other one. By emphasising his personal feelings and thoughts the story can become more touching. This helps to make the story attractive to a bigger audience due to the fact that in a traditional Mystery Novel “the emphasis was on investigation and only incidental concerned with characterization and human emotion” (Schwartz 1989:3) Subsequently, the character of the protagonist can be developed even better by using devices of Detective Fiction.

One criteria for a Mystery Fiction novel is a “centred world [...] a world which has a centre, an anchor, a ground” so that “effects can be connected to causes, where external signs can be connected to internal conditions.” (Malmgren 2001:13)

That implies that the main part of the story, in other words the investigation process, usually takes place in a limited and manageable area, e.g. a summer residence which is, at least in Mystery Fiction, always far from any semblance of civilisation as, for example, in At the Villa Rose by A. E. W. Mason.

This centred world is also necessary to make it easier for the reader to follow or to investigate on his own. Both, Mystery Fiction and Detective Fiction, are predestined to create a kind of interaction with the reader. Crime Fiction in general allows the reader to make up his own theories, to investigate on his own or -literally- to become the detective. Thus, protagonists in Crime Fiction are supposed to be special, either physical or mental, in order to make it easier for the reader to identify.

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Title: Detective Mystery in the School Story - The Example of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets