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Symbolism in Harry Potter Research Papers

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The Harry Potter series is popular amongst people of all ages. Because of its compelling delivery style, it is easy to get lost in the words on the pages. However, if explored further, people will discover that within the Harry Potter stories are other messages, or hidden meanings. Symbolism is apparent throughout the series. While intended for a specific purpose, certain references were strategically made in the story because they had deeper significance, particularly the characters themselves. Consider, for instance, the characters Lily, Harry, Voldemort, and Sirius; their characters were all representations of something bigger than themselves.

Symbolism in the Characters of Harry Potter

  • Symbolism in Harry PotterLily is a representation of the immortal good that resides within everyone’s heart; she epitomizes the belief that everyone is inherently good and capable of being compassionate.
  • Harry is symbolic of liberation; this is illustrated through his ability to break individuals’ attachment to space and time.
  • Voldemort is symbolic of power and people’s need to obtain it, often times at any cost.
  • Sirius signifies the divine plan, a plan that is predetermined for each person’s life.

All of these characters, and others, are ones readers can identify with. When analyzed closely, readers have the ability to gain further appreciation for the Harry Potter series, both for its entertainment value as well as its hidden purpose.

From the start, it is evident that Rowling has endeavored to use the names and descriptions of her characters to symbolize the conflict between good and evil. It is not mere coincidence, for example, that Harry Potter’s enemy arch-rival is the malicious Draco Malfoy or that the evil Snapes exhibits a starkly different approach to leadership than the benevolent Dumbledore. It is interesting to note that while some critics argue that the Harry Potter series supports negative, destructive or otherwise evil concepts, Rowling is also credited with using numerous examples of symbolism that can be associated with the Christian faith including the Unicorn as “the symbol of Christ” and the Phoenix and Griffin as symbolic of the hope of eternal life in Christ”.

Rowling approaches character development in a very interesting and successful way that works to generate continued interest in the series and its characters, which is by allowing them to mature emotionally, physically as well as spiritually in a very gradual way from one book to the next. It is fair to suggest that the way that Rowling develops her characters indicates that she anticipated writing a series of several books before the story of Harry Potter reached its completion. For example, Rowling does not have key characters like Harry, Hermione and Ron and their nemeses reaching full maturity by the end of the first or even the latest book in the series. Unfortunately, Rowling’s propensity for secrecy surrounding the contents of each unpublished book precludes knowing how much further she takes the development of her characters in the seventh and final edition.

Overview of the Harry Potter Series

The plot and structure of the HP series also works to captivate both young people and adults because at the core of each novel is a detective mystery, with Harry and his friend Hermione and Ron endeavoring to solve such mysteries as “mistaken identity” and to “uncover the perpetrators of evil deeds”. The emphasis on the latter confirms the fact that there are a number of themes that can be identified in the Harry Potter series, primary of which is the conflict between good and evil.

Many of the themes in the Harry Potter series, including good versus evil, are common to other pieces of literature in the same genre such as the use of magic as well as the evidence or use of supernatural powers, one or both of which exists in almost every literary work classified under the adventure-fantasy genre. In the HP series however, the themes of the use of magic and evidence of supernatural powers are woven throughout each book with ease because they are presented as such as normal part of the lives of the HP characters. After the first book in the series at least readers are no longer shocked to imagine their young heroes and heroine engaged in serious magical and often supernatural battles with their evil counterparts.

One of the distinguishing elements of the HP series is that it does not succumb to “the veneer of wizardry and fantasy” but rather spurs readers on with fascinating adventures that are made real by the fact that they are a regular part of life for its characters. At the same time, the effective combination of folklore, myth, and the supernatural in the Harry Potter series is regularly credited with expanding the success of these elements in similar types of literature. For example, it has worked to influence the renewed success of long-standing fiction including the works of Tolkien such as the “Ring” series and C.S. Lewis including the “Chronicles of Narnia” series.

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