Characterizing Reality In Harry Potter
The most important component in writing a novel is the creation of characters who are harmonious and who are believable on at least some level. But, regardless of how much influence fantasy has in a text, all characters must inevitably have at least some grounding in reality. I suspect that would be more difficult to include the same amount of reality in writing a fantasy novel, since the author of such a work must first decide how much the fantasy aspect of his or her novel should affect its characters. As near as I can tell, the method of characterization in the fantasy genre can take two directions. On the one hand, the main characters of a novel can express some characteristics which have been de-familiarized from what one would normally expect in a more conventional novel (i.e. a novel not of the fantasy genre). A prime example of this sort of character is one of another race, particularly when the race in question is different in some way from humans, such as the suppressed emotions of Star Trek’s Vulcans, or the exceptionally long lives of Elves. Main characters of this sort exist less as a study in reality, and are more commonly found within the epic fantasy genre. In the other method of characterization, main characters remain strictly mundane in their appearance and attitude and thus gear more towards a commentary on everyday society. Intertwined within the last of these two possibilities that Harry Potter, his friends, teachers, and foes exist in. Catherine and Jack Deaval claim that “Harry Potter is not really about magic, but about character” (50). All of the important characters in the series are human (or mostly so, in the case of Hagrid) and non-human characters only appear at intervals, both to offer aid and act as a limitation, and even then are not very likely seen again . This alone is a great contributor to the realism of the characters in Harry Potter. The names of characters in the novels contribute to their realism, such as the case of Harry whose “ordinariness” is “magnificently emphasized by his name, which clearly stands out as plain and simple beside Dumbledore, McGonagall, or Draco Malfoy” and “underscores his ‘everyman’ nature” (Nikolajeva 131). Harry’s last name, Potter, may also allude to the trade itself, which serves to further the realism with which he is portrayed. Even names like Albus (which means either “white” or “wise” in Latin), Sirius (the dog star) or Malfoy (French for “bad faith”) are realistic in the sense that they describe the character to which they are attached, allowing the reader to gain some sense of the character’s true nature before even getting to know them.
Critics of the series today still continue to attack the dull elements of Harry Potter, going so far as to claim that “it is difficult to assess them as literature” (Zipes 170) and refer to them as “failed fantasy” (Pennington 79). Pennington also states that another sign of the novels’ simplicity is that there is “no discrimination in [Rowling’s] description of the way characters talk” this is particularly emphasized by the statement that “Harry […] should not particularly hiss, for that is a characteristic of snakes and other evil creatures” (Pennington 86). It is argueable that speech styles are insignificant in the novels, as it is the actions of the characters and their choices (as Dumbledore claims in The Chamber of Secrets) which define them. Each character is distinctive, and even Harry’s association with evil is important to the text. Now to the examination of the characters and the places they occupy when compared to reality.
We begin with Hermione Granger, who is arguably one of the most important characters in the series, and quite interesting and vibrante in her own right. Hermione, being born to a non-magic family, spans both the Muggle and magical worlds, not unlike Harry and a several other characters. Characters brought up in the...
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