“Is it still Children´s Literature?: A Comparison between Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”
J. K. Rowling is one of the most famous authors in modern times. By inventing the character of Harry Potter, she created a completely new fantastic world, full of wizards, magical creatures, and wondrous elements. Alongside the fantastic sorcerer's apprentice saga, Rowling thematises in her seven books how the main character Harry Potter grows up from a childlike hero to a young adult. Moreover, Harry Potter experiences the essential levels of adolescence, thus uncertainty, disorientation, first love, and the creation of a balance between his duties and challenges of life (see Barg). The Harry Potter series is nowadays one of the world´s best known stories. In July 2011, more than 450 million copies of the books were sold worldwide (see telegraph.co.uk). The story of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone begins in our real world, where Harry has to learn that he is actually a wizard who has been invited to attend the “Hogwards School for Witchcraft and Wizardry (see Rowling 1, 60). Everything is just as new for Harry as it is for the reader. In this way Rowling leads the reader through her newly created world and helps everyone to slip easily into the story. Harry soon finds out that the wizarding world is far more dangerous for him than he would have imagined, and he quickly learns that not all wizards are ones to be trusted. Eventually, every book of the series leads to the final issue, meaning that Harry has to face and to defeat his worst enemy, namely Lord Voldemort, to rebalance the wizarding world. The Harry Potter series starts with Harry being a child who experiences many exciting adventures. However, the older Harry gets the more exciting and cruel get the adventures he and his friends have to cope with. On this basis I will explain that the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in contrast to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, is not a children´s book and will demonstrate that on the basis of the characteristics of children´s literature as well as the depiction of evil in the books.
Since there are numerous characteristics of children´s literature, this essay will only focus on a few of them. Following characteristics will be examined: children´s literature should include a form of pastoral idyll, should be about childhood, and furthermore focus on action (see Nodelman 80, 81, 83).
First of all, based on the characteristics above, it will be shown that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a children´s book. “[…] Children´s literature is intended for an audience of children and is supposed to relate to the interests of children (Nodelman 81). As a consequence should children´s books be about childhood. “Childhood is defined as “the state of a child between infancy and adolescence” (thefreedictionary.com). Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first volume of the Harry Potter series. Fairly at the beginning it is mentioned that Harry is going to move up to secondary school soon (see Rowling 1, 39) and, moreover, that he is having his eleventh birthday (see Rowling 1, 54). Dudley, his cousin, and Harry are fooling each other like, for instance, when Dudley twits Harry because Harry will only go to Stonewall, the local comprehensive, while Dudley himself “had a place at Uncle Vernon´s old school, Smeltings” (Rowling 1, 40), which appears to be a venerable school in the muggleworld. “‘They stuff people´s heads down the toilet first day at Stonewall, ‘he told Harry. ‘Want to come upstairs and practice?’ ‘No thanks, ‘said Harry. ‘The poor toilet´s never had anything as horrible as your head down it – it might be sick.’ Then he ran, before Dudley could work out what he´d said” (Rowling 1, 40). The story, moreover, is strongly market by narratives about everyday school life. Harry, Hermione, and Ron have to orientate at the new school and have to learn a lot about magic. School routine is irrevocably linked with childhood. Hence, changing to secondary school, being around Harry´s age, and dealing with every day school life shows that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is about childhood.
Additionally, a children´s book should include a form of pastoral idyll. The pastoral idyll “celebrates the joys of rural life, close to nature and in the company of friends” (Nodelman 83). The majority of the storyline in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone takes place at “Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry” (see Rowling 60). Hogwarts is probably located in Scotland, in any case this “corresponds with the description of landscape” (Fenske 115) as it is embedded in a beautiful, rural countryside, nestled from mountains and forests (see Rowling 1, 122) and is situated close to a large lake (see Rowling 1, 123). “There were woods, twisting rivers and dark green hills” (Rowling 1, 115). There is also a forest in the grounds where magical creatures like unicorns and centaurs live (see Rowling 1, 273). Furthermore, students are allowed to play quidditch in the grounds, a game which is played outdoors while riding on a broomstick (see Rowling 1, 119). So Hogwarts has a quite peaceful adjacence. Moreover, Harry makes friends rather quickly there. He meets Ron Weasley in the train on the journey to Hogwarts. They become housemates at Gryffindor and even share a room at Hogwarts later on. After having lived together through a series of adventures, Hermione, Ron, and Harry eventually became best friends. So the story of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone offers pastoral idyll by being placed in Hogwarts and the main character being surrounded by friends.
Furthermore, children´s books focus on action. Subtle psychological events are often implied through narration and comment on actions (see Nodelman 81). Therefore the reader does not get a direct insight into feelings of the individual characters but if he gets to know them he gets them through narration. For instance, when Harry discovers the “Mirror of Erised” (Rowling 1, 231), it was not necessary for Rowling to write that Harry misses his parents badly and wants to be with them. “The Potters smiled and waved at Harry and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them” (Rowling 1, 226). This passage shows clearly that it is not essential to formulate feelings directly but the reader can still figure out how the character feels. However, the emphasis in children´s books is primarily devoted to action. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry entries a completely new world. This is characteristic to children´s fiction. “The main characters of children´s fiction often have to deal with an alien environment, a place strange and new to them […]. Children are new to it, and must come to terms with it (Nodelman 191). Before Hagrid told him, Harry did not know that he is a magician or that his parent´s died due to Lord Voldemort´s curses. Even though he experiences all this new and partly terrible facts, he does not pore over them. Harry accepts everything fairly quick. When he and his friends detect that someone plans to steal the philosopher´s stone to help Voldemort regaining his former strength, they do not ponder on how extremely dangerous it could be to face evil or Voldemort himself (see Rowling 1, 291), they just “try and get to the Stone first” (Rowling 1, 291). Through action, fear and doubts are overlaid. That implies a secure feeling for the reader. The characters, like Harry, Hermione, or Ron, feel safe without inner conflicts. These examples prove that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone focuses on action.
In the following it will be analysed if Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a children´s book as well. Therefore it should be about childhood likewise. Quite at the beginning, Harry is having his seventeenth birthday. In the wizarding world of Harry Potter this implies to attain full age. Like in our world, it is also an important step to reach majority in the wizarding world. This means that childhood is definitely finalized. Another important point is that Harry, Ron, and Hermione are not going back to Hogwarts to graduate school but head out to seek and destroy Horcruxes. This is a rather dangerous undertaking and cannot be fulfilled by children. If they were not mature and experienced enough they could not even hope to survive this task. As a consequence, it is obvious that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is not about childhood.
Moreover, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should also include a form of pastoral idyll. The storyline of the book mostly takes place somewhere outdoors on the search for Horcruxes. Even places that were formerly safe and comfortable like the Dursley´s house or Hogwarts become dangerous places. For instance, when Harry comes of age the protection charm, who keeps the Death Eaters away from the Dursley´s house, will break and the Death Eaters would easily track Harry down and probably kill him (see Rowling 7, 33). At Hogwarts two cruel Death Eaters, Amycus and Alecto Carrow, have become teachers when Lord Voldemort seized power (see Rowling 7, 462). They like punishment and torture pupils whenever possible. Furthermore, when Harry, Hermione, and Ron are on the move to seek Horcruxes, they always have to hide themselves and cast spells around their tent “to ensure their protection” (see Rowling 7, 256). They even have to fight for their lives several times like, for example, when they are faced with Nagini, Lord Voldemort´s giant snake, at Bathilda Bagshot´s house (see Rowling 7, 278). In addition, the whole wizarding world is in an uproar because Lord Voldemort wants every muggle-born, meaning every wizard who has muggle parents, to register (see Rowling 7, 212, 213). Those who cannot prove to be at least a half-blood are not allowed to carry a wand any more. They get expelled from the wizarding community. So there is a real chase for muggle-born people and therefore many wizards are in hiding (see Rowling 7, 364). Moreover, even though Harry is with his best fiends Ron and Hermione most of the time, there appears to be a huge conflict. Ron is very disappointed and sour. “’ We thought you knew what you were doing!’ shouted Ron, standing up; and his words pierced Harry like scalding knives. ‘We thought Dumbledore had told you what to do, we thought you had a real plan!’” (Rowling 7, 252). Ron is at one point of their journey so frustrated about them not making any progress that he finally leaves Harry and Hermione. It is just a temporary quarrel but still a deep incision in their friendship since something like that had never happened before. In summary it can be said, therefore, that as nature and Hogwarts are not idyllic and safe anymore, the atmosphere of fear and instability through Voldemort and his Death Eaters dominate the storyline. For this reasons it is clearly visible that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does not take place in a pastoral idyll.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should focus on action, too. There are, of course, many scenes where there is a focus on action. But in this seventh book are also several scenes where especially Harry reflects about how his life could have been if his parents would not have been killed, about how he could find and destroy all the horcruxes and which role Dumbledore had envisaged to him. He also bickers with Dumbledore, why “Dumbledore had left him virtually nothing. […] Hopelessness threatened to engulf him. He was staggered, now, to think of his own presumption in accepting his friends offer to accompany him on this meandering, pointless journey. He knew nothing, he had no ideas […]” (Rowling 7, 257). Harry is really desperate and he is racked by self-doubts. He is not sure if he is able to fulfill the task of destroying all Horcruxes and finally Lord Voldemort. Sometimes he even feels lonely (see Rowling 7, 146) and has frequently misgivings about Dumbledore. There are rumours about Dumbledore having slighted and abused his siblings (see Rowling 7, 146). Harry is not sure if he knew Dumbledore at all and if Dumbledore had actually cared about him. “Or had Harry been nothing more than a tool to be polished and honed, but not trusted, never confided in?”(Rowling 7, 147). All in all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does not only focus on action. In this book Harry is very thoughtful, muses about his tasks and is assailed by doubts. So the reader gets a good insight into Harry´s character.