Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Decline of the West

Robert Spengler is of course a professional pessimist about Western civilization, but an eloquent one, at least. I'm not sure I agree with him, being a Sci-fi and Fantasy buff myself. Aren't stories such as Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Narnia about struggling both with yourself as well as outside forces? At least two of these series were written by very devout Christians: Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Isn't it positive if they show that you may have untapped strength and potential within you?

Harry Potter and the Decline of the West

What accounts for the success of the Harry Potter series, as well as the "Star Wars" films whence they derive? The answer, I think, is their appeal to complacency and narcissism. Everyone likes to imagine that he possesses inborn powers that make him a master of magic as well as a hero at games. Harry Potter merely needs to tap his inner feelings to conjure up the needful spell. What characterizes the protagonists of great fiction in an ascendant culture? It is that they are not yet what they should be. The characters of Western literature in its time of flowering either must overcome defining flaws, or come to grief. Austen's Elizabeth Bennet must give up her pride; Dickens' Pip must look past the will-o'-the-wisp of his expectations; Mann's Hans Castorp must confront mortality; Tolstoy's Pierre must learn to love; Cervantes' Don Quixote must learn to help ordinary people rather than the personages of romance; Goethe's Wilhelm Meister must act in the real world rather than the stage. We are too complacent to wish upon ourselves such a transformation, and too lazy to attempt it. We find tiresome the old religions of the West that preach repentance and redemption, and instead wish to hear reassurance that God loves us and that everything is all right. We have lost the burning thirst for truth - for inner change - that drives men to learn ancient languages, pore over mathematical proofs, master musical instruments, or disappear into the wild. We want our thrills pre-packaged and micro-waveable.

Harry Potter & Frodo: the Family Romance and Mythology in a Time of War

Harry Potter comes along at a time when the world is changing for our children. (The analogy to Frodo holds, since Tolkien was germinating LOTR while the winds of war were rising in Europe.) The 1990's have been called a vacation from reality; since 9/11, reality has been only too present. Harry Potter is heroic in direct proportion to his lack of awareness of his own heroism (though he slowly has been growing up and into his heroism.) Harry is facing a great evil, a monster who forces innocents to submit or be tortured and killed. Despite the efforts of the MSM, et al, children, not being blinded by the Emperor's new clothes of Political Correctness, are quite able to recognize who resorts to torture and murder of innocents. Harry is powerful, but is a reluctant power. He does not seek the position of hero, but like Frodo, and like so many of our young men and women in harm's way, has heroism thrust upon him. Who else but Frodo could carry the ring to Mount Dom and destroy the dark Lord Sauron? Who else but Harry can confront the dark Lord Voldemort?


At July 19, 2005 5:21 PM, Blogger erp said...

Kids in my day read a lot of fairy tales as they were known then, The Grimm brother, Hans Christian Andersen, 1,001 Nights. They're fun and fantasy for kids minds to wonder.

Harry Potter is a melange of fairy tales, greek myths, indian folklore and a great imagination.

I haven't read one yet, but I think I may buy this latest one which I read stands alone and doesn't require prior knowledge of the earlier books.

I could stand to be borne away from this earth for a while. At least until the media stops lying about l'affaire plame.

At July 19, 2005 10:23 PM, Blogger Panteren said...

Did kids read 1001 nights? :D Well, they have extremly much sexual content wich of course don't make it more boring, but still don't think it is something for children. Perhaps in an rewritten edition. Dunno

I would recommend you read the other Harry Potter books first. The latest absolutely doesn't stand alone.

At July 20, 2005 1:54 AM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

"Did kids read 1001 nights?"

There were abridged versions when I was a kid. I read the real version in high school - what a difference!


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