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June 22, 2013

Essay On Historical Reality in Children’s Literature

There is no doubt that J .k. Rawlings, in her book Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, goes about to explore the social themes of love and sacrifice which are also the main Christian ethos, albeit in a controversial manner. As she takes help of entirely non-Christian tools of magic and witchcraft. The fact that the greatest magic for Rowling is and will always be “love loyalty and innocence”, the values forming the pillars of Christianity shows that this seemingly fictional piece of children’s literature has realistic parallels of traditional values embedded implicitly in it. As we see that the protagonist, Harry, has been taught to value friendship and love since the beginning through his own experiences and through Dumbledore, for that reason we see him loving his equals and the oppressed, house elves, Goblins etc, unconditionally. 
This last book explores the idea of death as explored historically to perpetuate the Christian idea of accepting death graciously. As it is known that death plays an important part in Christian theology so the book inevitably gives this message to the young readers. The Christian theology behind death is that it is the consequence of Adam’s sin and this is why Jesus delivered humankind from sin and death so when we see, at the Godric’s Hollow graveyard, James and Lilly Potter’s tombstone read “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (Rowling 269;1 Cor. 15.26) this quote is the ultimate effect of Jesus’ sacrifice. The Church considers the sacrifice of Christian martyrs as a proof of Christ’s defeat of death. And Dumbledore, unlike Voldemort, believed in choosing to die courageously far better choice in which the soul is finally granted freedom.
         Rowling uses strong characterization and unity of theme to give the message of adhering to the social values. Apart from the strong characterization of Harry as the savior of magical world like Jesus Christ of the Christian world and the depiction of evil in the form of Voldemort, the book has repetitive use of motifs as the inherent structural device. The motifs of mastering death occurs throughout the book in the form of the word death eaters, in Voldermort’s ambition, in the form of the quest for the deathly hollows, which ensures that the possessor will become immortal. This motif leads to the ultimate truth that the only true way to master death is to continue loving and believing in those who have died. The other way Rowling lends unity to her work is the magically enthralling and imaginative world setting she chose for it.
Rowling has been good enough to give an amazing twist in the character of Severus Snape as she waits till the end to unveil the true colors of the seemingly villainous character. This shows that everything is not what it may seem to you. Apart from that the theme of the book is very close the realistic historical values this world holds. As mentioned before, the protagonist believes and proves “love for all” to be the greatest, oldest and the most powerful magic that can make a difference in the world. And he dares to do that by sheer courage and the power of love he feels of his parents and friends.
The fact that Rowling uses Christian parallels in her book to communicate social values can be proved by some incidents like in the end when there is a fight in the forbidden forest between Harry and Voldemort ,Harry willingly sacrifices himself for the love of his fellow wizards just like Jesus was crucified and later on lord Voldemort could not harm anyone by his magic as Harry had brought salvation for the wizarding world. He then meets Dumbledore in the other world and gets the opportunity to choose between the easy way; staying dead or the demanding way; going back into life and fighting for the good cause as Dumbledore tells him the wiser choice will be to face evil  
“By returning you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed and fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we say goodbye for the present.”(Rowling 365)    
So resurrection in the Potter world will result in lesser vile as most of the people will be saved just as in the Christian world Jesus led to eternal salvation of human kind. In addition to that the title of the chapter in which this occurs—"King's Cross"— can be a possible allusion to Christ's cross. Also, the scene in which Harry is temporarily dead, takes us to a place in which Harry is in a very heaven-like setting where he talks to a father figure, which is Dumbledore. So in a way Harrry acts as the savior who is ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity.
Another parable used by Rowling is the Wizarding children’s fantasy book, the Tales of Beedle the Bard, which are actually moralistic stories which when understood by Harry makes it easy for him to make the right choice just as the church has always made use of non-Gospel stories to teach about its faith. These stories just like the tales of Beedle the bard often illustrate people living out their faith. Similarly the Harry Potter series can also be a valued resource in teaching religious values for they have a power to teach values in a way that is beyond the comprehension of some people as Dumbledore includes Voldemort as one of them.
Rowling implicitly conveys the Christian ethos of love and sacrifice as her protagonist believes and proves “love for all” to be the greatest, oldest and the most powerful magic. She goes about conveying this message in a very good way since the books touches the heart of even those people who are not, we can say, very religious. As the message is quite implicit the non Christian audience can also relate to the goodness of the message and it helps in having a positive influence on them. So we can say that while the books are not overtly Christian because of the use of magic and witchcraft, the values it supports echo the Christian morality that is the Christian belief in the vindication of the Good as it is reflected in the end, although in non-religious terms. So when we see the inscription on the tombstone of Harry’s mother, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Rowling 65; Matthew 6:21.), who chose to die in order to protect him we begins to see that Rowling’s world has a "deeper magic." Love, expressed as substitutionary sacrifice—choosing to lay down your life for your friends—has a power that Lord Voldemort is blind to. That blindness becomes his undoing—with the help of Harry and his friends.
As mentioned earlier the protagonist of the book Harry Potter is seen as a parallel of Jesus Christ in his compassion and love for the wizarding world. This character has a direct basis on the historical event of crucifixion as Harry is in a way crucified by Voldemort when he goes and surrenders in the dark forest. It is a fact that Christian values have always taught to teach the vindication of good through spreading love, compassion and the idea of sacrifice. This is what the book Harry Potter and the deathly hallows does. It gives the same message as the Christian ethos that no matter what comes through goodness will always triumph. So we can say that the characters and the theme have a strong basis on history. And this reference to the Christian parallels helps in moving the story forward and more clear to the young minds as Rowling did mention that her faith has a strong influence on the story and talking about it may in a way give away the ending.
 It can be said that to morally influence the readers in a good way, it is always important and helpful to use the history or facts to let the message sink in. This history and facts together with strong creative imagination can do wonders in accomplishing the desire of telling an effective story. This has been the practice since a long time to tell tales in an allegorical way or in the form of parables as they are the ones that affects the audience the most. That’s why the use of such literature is very widespread and its importance is accepted all over the world. As people, especially children, have always been interested in reading and hearing stories so it becomes a good medium of transmitting the social and moral values to them. In fact the very first pieces of fiction were entirely didactic in nature like the Pilgrim’s Progress. And most of them got the facts and themes from the prevailing values religious or non-religious. So time has proved that use of fact and history in children’s literature has a positive influence on them and ensures that they get the right exposure to the core values.


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