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Values in Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is a children’s novel about a young boy, Harry Potter, and his adventures at Hogwarts, a school for wizards and witches. The novel is filled with humorous tales of exciting escapades in and around the school. There are many characters in the novel, and they do not always get along well. They make fun of each other and judge each other by a certain set of standards. Some of these standards include wealth, intelligence, family and athletic ability. These are all superficial ways of judging people. Being a children’s author, Rowling shows her readers other, more important ways of categorizing others through less apparent methods. These true values that she emphasizes are judging others by their character and heart.
The false values by which children judge each other are more blatant in the novel because they are illustrated through conversation instead of actions. The main ways that they judge each other are: financial status, family background (Muggle or wizard), house affiliation, intelligence and athletic ability. Almost every character has some good values and some bad values in the novel. By illustrating the characters with faults, Rowling makes them more realistic and believable.
The first skin deep value used to measure the status of a character is money. Just as in the real world, some people have more money than others. One character that seems to be very well off in the wizard world is Draco Malfoy. He has all of the newest and nicest books and school supplies on the first day. His owl is of the nicest breed. When the students receive mail at meals, Malfoy frequently receives packages of goodies from his family and he is not humble about it. He is quite a contrast to Ron Weasley and his family. Ron comes from a poor family. Everything he brings to school with him seems to be a hand-me-down. Ron says, “you never get anything new, either, with five brothers. I’ve got Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.” (p. 100). Malfoy likes to use this weakness to make fun of Ron. He makes comments such as, “What would you know about it, Weasley, you couldn’t afford half the handle” when Harry gets a new broom (p. 165). Later, when they run into Hagrid, Malfoy says to Ron, “Are you trying to earn some extra money, Weasley?that hut of Hagrid’s must seem like a palace compared to what your family’s used to” (pp. 195-196). These are very cruel comments, but money is not the only way that Malfoy judges others.
Family background is the second shortsighted way of judging people in the book. Whether a character comes from a Muggle family, a pure Wizard family or a mix between the two seems to play an important role in the book. For example, Draco Malfoy is from a pure Wizard family and he takes great pride in it. He often judges others by this measure. On the train to Hogwarts he says to Harry, “You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort.” (p. 108). Harry has Wizard parents, but he has lived with Muggles his whole life so he has no experience in wizardry at all. Harry’s friend, Hermione Granger, is from a pure Muggle family. For this reason, Malfoy makes fun of her on more than one occasion. Ron is also from a pure Wizard family, but he does not make fun of those who are not.
There are still other shallow ways of judging others. One of these ways is which house each person belongs to. Each person is assigned to a house when they get to Hogwarts. There is much competition between the houses, but the greatest competition is between Gryffindor and Slytherin. When introducing the houses the Sorting Hat says, “you might belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart, their daring, nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindor apart;? or perhaps in Slytherin you’ll make your real friends, those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends.” (p. 118). Slytherin has a history of having its members from pure Wizard families and of winning the House Cup many times. Draco Malfoy is part of that house. However, it is not necessarily the best house. There have also been a number of bad Wizards that belonged to that house. Voldemort, a master at dark arts came from Slytherin. Gryffindor also has a good reputation. On the train to Hogwarts hermione says, “I’ve been asking around, and I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best; I hear Dumbledore himself was in it.” (p. 106). The competition is so fierce between the houses that even the professors get involved. Many of them seem to be prejudiced in awarding and taking points from their own or opposing houses. For example, Ron says, “Snape’s head of Slytherin House. They say he always favors them.” (p. 135).
Characters are also judged by their intelligence. Hermione is the smartest person in the class so she has a good reputation. Rowling describes her when she writes, “Hermione was on the edge of her seat and looked desparate to prove that she wasn’t a dunderhead.” (p. 137). By the end of the novel she accomplishes this through her final exam grades, “Harry had almost forgotten that the exam results were still to come, but come they did?Hermione, of course, had the best grades of the first years.” (p.307). Neville Longbottom, on the other hand, is not so intelligent. He does not do very well in school so his reputation is not as good. Hagrid has the lowest reputation for intelligence. He is not very smart and is not even allowed to use magic because he was kicked out of Hogwarts. Whenever he does use magic he seems to mess it up in one way or another. This is not really a good way to judge others, but it is used quite often, especially by Draco Malfoy. He enjoys making fun of Hagrid for his stupidity.
Neville Longbottom has a below average intelligence, as well as below average skills at just about every task that involves magic. His magic skills overall are very poor. For example, when he tries to fly a broomstick he ends up breaking his wrist because he can’t control it. Malfoy taunts him constantly for this. Harry, on the other hand, has great skills at flying a broomstick. On his first try he has great agility and speed. Professor McGonagall describes him by saying, “The boy’s a natural. I’ve never seen anything like it?He caught that thing in his hand after a fifty-foot dive, didn’t even scratch himself.” (p. 151). Harry receives much praise and many compliments for all of his great plays at Quidditch.
All of these ways of judging people are not good ways to judge others. People cannot control how much money their parents have, whether or not they are from Muggle families, which house the Sorting Hat puts them in, their natural intelligence or innate skills at magic, so it is unfair to use these means to pass judgment on a person. Rowling understands this fact and she makes an important point by showing her readers better ways to judge people through the character’s actions. She shows that it is preferable to judge people based on their integrity and heart. This is a very important message to send off in a children’s book.
Although the characters have flaws, she makes the readers see their goodness by making the virtuous characters heroes and by allowing their reputable qualities overpower their unfavorable flaws. For example, although Hagrid is not especially intelligent or proficient at magic, he has a good heart. He cares very much about the well being of others. This is seen in all of his actions, from the beginning of the novel when he brings Harry to the Dursley’s doorstep, to protecting Harry, Neville and Malfoy in the forest, to caring for the baby dragon to the present he gives Harry at the end of the year. Neville also illustrates honorable qualities to look for in a person. Even though he is seen as sort of a weak and incompetent character he is rewarded for standing up to his friends to trying to protect them at the end of the novel. This is a very brave and noble thing for him to do. Hermione is also rewarded for her admirable qualities. She does not come from a Wizard family but that does not keep her from being the smartest in the class. This illustrates the importance of a sound work ethic. Her intelligence ends up helping Harry get through the secret passage to fight Voldemort. The entire time that she is helping Harry she is paying close attention to his well being because she is worried about him. She knows that intelligence is not the most important thing. Right before Harry continues on his way she proves this by saying, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things? friendship and bravery and? oh Harry- be careful!” (p. 287). This shows that it is not just what one holds in their head, but what she holds in her heart as well. Ron also exhibits some outstanding character traits. He sacrifices himself in a chess game to help Harry out. It proves that he is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Finally, Harry exhibits numerous positive characteristics. He is generous, caring, and he always does things in order to achieve some greater good. Although he gets in trouble a lot, he is not a bad kid. Instead he is the hero in the novel. By making Harry the hero, Rowling teaches children various redeeming qualities for which they should strive. In the end, all of these characters win points for Gryffindor and Gryffindor ends up winning the House Cup. This is the way the ending should be because all of the virtuous characters are in Gryffindor. By having Gryffindor win, Rowling shows that upright, honorable characters don’t always finish last.
Rowling not only teaches a lesson by rewarding the good characters, but she also teaches a lesson by punishing the immoral and corrupt guys. At the end of the story Dumbledore awards Ron, Hermione, Neville and Harry a total of 170 points for their brave actions in fighting Voldemort. This puts them nine points ahead of Slytherin in the battle for the House Cup. When Gryffindor win the House Cup, Slytherin loses. This is important because Malfoy is a member of Slytherin. By having Slytherin lose, Rowling illustrates the point that all of Malfoy’s superficial judgments are not a good way to judge people. He ends up being seen as the antagonist. He becomes the bad example that children should not follow. The most important example of evil and wickedness in the novel is Voldemort. In the battle between Voldemort and Harry, Voldemort loses. He loses because his powers are not stronger than love. Harry was saved by love. Dumbledore says, “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love?Quirrell full of hatred, greed and ambition, sharing a soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this very reason.” (p. 299). This message is the strongest message in the whole book. It teaches children that love is always better than hate and that love conquers all. There are not many messages that are better for children to read.
By the end of the novel J.K. Rowling has taught her readers many important life lessons. The way the characters judge each other on an external level can be compared to the way many people are judged in real life. People are judged all the time by their intelligence, financial status, their various skills and abilities and by the color of their skin. Rowling shows through the actions of her characters that it is better to judge people by their character and their heart than by aspects of their life that they can’t control. She also shows her readers how important it is to love and take care of each other. If people do not take care of each other than they will accomplish nothing. Although Harry is the hero in the novel, he couldn’t have beaten Voldemort without the help of his friends. Teamwork is a necessity for having a successful life. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a very entertaining novel, but more importantly, it gives off many essential life lessons.
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