Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Religious Agenda in Harry Potter?

I mentioned in a previous blog that J.K. Rowling is a Christian, giving evidence from her own mouth that the reason why she does not elaborate on her faith is because "the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books" and that "there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I’ve written book seven. But then maybe you won’t need to even say it ’cause you’ll have found it out anyway. You’ll have read it". Both statements, spoken within months of each other, point to a possible ending of the series that will inform her faith.

This potential scenario may shock many fans of the Potterverse, particularly the non-Christian fans of the series. But there is a distinction. Several times JKR has said that she does not set out to preach. In her acceptance speech for the Príncipe de Asturias Prize, JKR said, "I didn’t intend to teach or preach to children. In fact, I think that, except for some rare exceptions, fiction literature works for children lose interest when the author is more focused in teaching morals to their readers than in captivating them with his or her tale." Another time, JKR contrasts the world she created with that of Narnia:

Narnia is literally a different world, whereas in the Harry books you go into a world within a world that you can see if you happen to belong. A lot of the humour comes from collisions between the magic and the everyday worlds. Generally there isn't much humour in the Narnia books, although I adored them when I was a child. I got so caught up I didn't think C.S. Lewis was especially preachy. Reading them now I find that his subliminal message isn't very subliminal at all. Really, C.S. Lewis had very different objectives to mine. When I write, I don't intend to make a point or teach philosophy of life (Renton, Jennie. "The story behind the Potter legend: JK Rowling talks about how she created the Harry Potter books and the magic of Harry Potter's world," Sydney Morning Herald, October 28, 2001).
JKR's words on the matter go along with her response to the inevitable comparisons to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. She simply says, "I've read both of them, er - both of them were geniuses, I'm immensely flattered to be compared to them, but I think I'm doing something slightly different again" (Lydon, Christopher. J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October, 1999). How can we reconcile JKR's "Christianity" as a clue to the ending of the series to her abhorrence over "preaching" in her writing? Is there a contradiction here? Not necessarily. JKR has said many times that her novels have a moral framework and many times morals are drawn, although it appears unconsciously while she's writing. It is important to remember that hidden religious meaning, especially one that flows from the author's own beliefs, will not scare readers as an overt religious agenda.

Now I do not believe that JKR has an overt religious agenda or wants to preach "Christianity" and convert the masses. However I do believe based on her statements and others that her beliefs will spill forth in Deathly Hallows. Maybe it won’t be as obvious as what C.S. Lewis did in Narnia for Christianity and Philip Pullman in His Dark Materials did for atheism. But I’m hoping she will. All we know is that we will get a clear idea of her beliefs in book seven on the matter. Just look at this gem of an article:

“Rowling, aware of the protest, said she couldn’t answer the questions about the book’s religious content until the conclusion of book seven” (Tucker, Ernest. “No end in sight for Pottermania,” Chicago Sun-Times, October 22, 1999).
Mark those calendars.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I think the subtle difference that Rowling percieves between her writing and, let's say...Lewis's, is subtle but important. She didn't pour the story into a mould, she wrote the story and it began to form a spiritual shape after she began. She didn't force it by laying out the religious bits first and then filling in the empty spaces with her own innovations, she began writing the story and the spiritual depth grew naturally because of her own deeply held beliefs. I don't think it was unintentional, but I do think that it happened more naturally.

But, of course, this is total speculation on my part because (as much as I wish I were) I'm certainly not Rowling herself. ;)