Harry Potter - Good vs Evil

Topics: Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pages: 7 (2521 words) Published: May 18, 2013
Evil in the Potterverse and its Implications for Modern Society Throughout human civilisation, Evil has almost universally been connected with religion. Evil is most commonly associated with a material world of darkness, and is a destructive force opposing good; the spiritual world of light. Different religions hold variations on exact definitions and even within religions, ideas evolve. Medieval Christianity, led by the philosophies of Bishop Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, conceptualised Evil as ‘the desire for anything remotely pleasurable to the human body’, a divine law now heavily relaxed by many modern Christians (Farley, 1990). Judaism expresses Evil as the consequence of disobeying or forsaking God. Individuals of Jewish faith do not consider Satan as the inception of all Evil (as is preached in Christianity), but believe Evil resides in the hearts of all humans which has to be oppressed individually. Humans have the unique cognitive ability to assess every situation before, during or after it has happened, and most importantly, are able to attach a moral judgement to every experience, factual or fictitious. Every known language holds a word to express ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’. As such, the idea of this on-going battle between these two forces is considered a cultural universal (Brown, 1991). The battle between Good and Evil forms the backbone to Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Throughout the saga there are clear, distinct factions on both sides of the war. On the whole, Dumbledore and his school, ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ encapsulate the strive for goodness in the world, conveyed through the teachers and students. On the other side, Voldemort leads the Death Eaters in their struggle for power, enforcing ideologies of racism, genocide and control through fear and oppression. However, through the characters of Harry, Snape, Dumbledore and Voldemort, Rowling effectively reminds the reader that the distinction between Good and Evil is not a black and white construction, but instead a dynamic interaction of internal moral choices experienced by all individuals. Two forms of evil have been identified: Transcendent and Empirical, and the distinction is important. Transcendent evil is most associated with religion, e.g. Demons, spirits and Satan himself. This Evil is beyond human understanding, and cannot be related to our reality. Alternatively, Empirical Evil describes the human observation of evil, most commonly attributing the word ‘Evil’ to individuals who cause unnecessary pain to entities who have the ability to suffer. Adolf Hitler’s holocaust, the 9/11 bombings or the Rwandan Genocide are, by most accounts, viewed as terrible disasters in human history, with those orchestrating these events labelled as fundamentally Evil people. The idea of ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ are clearly constructs of the human consciousness and our advanced cognitive ability (Humphrey, 1983). As such, ‘Evil’ is in the eye of the beholder. For example, radical Islamists may view the suicide attackers on America in 2002 as inherently ‘Good’; sacrificing their lives for what they perceive as ‘the greater good’. In the Potterverse, followers of Lord Voldemort who share his vision of ‘pure-blood’ domination and ‘magic is might’ philosophy would conceive Lord Voldemort as a ‘Good’ person implementing their beliefs on the wizarding (and muggle) world, even if the majority of readers classify the Dark Lord as an ‘Evil’ character. Therefore, the labelling of any entity as inherently ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ is at the individual level, and not the universal. This view on morality holds the stance of Moral Relativism and shuns the idea of Moral Universalism. Morality is shaped by an individual’s life experiences; moulded by traditions, convictions and culture. While the perception of Evil may be an internal, individual process, Peck (1988) believes there are certain qualities in a person which pushes one towards practising Evil. Possibly most...
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