How Characterisation Creates the Theme of Good vs. Evil in the Harry Potter Series

Topics: Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Pages: 11 (4266 words) Published: May 5, 2011
The use of themes, stereotypes, mirror effects and totalitarianism as shown through the protagonist and antagonist in ‘Harry Potter’.

Research Question:
How does characterisation creates the theme of good versus evil in the ‘Harry Potter’ series.

Out of curiosity of how the ‘Harry Potter’ series, authored by J.K. Rowling, has achieved its immense level of success and why this may be, I decided to investigate how characterisation of the protagonist and antagonist created the theme of good versus evil in the novels. As main components, the use of stereotypes, mirror effects, thematic developments and extended allusions are analysed. The primary sources that were used were all seven ‘Harry Potter’ novels, as it was determined that using the entire series rather than just one book would provide a greater scope and more resources to create a more in depth analysis. The conclusion of the essay was that Rowling’s characterisation of the hero and the villain was executed to steer in a way that enables the reader to identify with Harry, the hero, and to a much lesser extent with Voldemort, the villain.

Creating the Theme of Good Versus Evil in the ‘Harry Potter’ Series Through Characterisation “Harry Potter will indeed stand time’s test and wind up on a shelf where only the best are kept; I think Harry will take his place with Alice, Huck, Frodo, and Dorothy, and this is one series not just for the decade, but for the ages” - Stephen King1 introduction The fantasy novel series ‘Harry Potter’, authored by J.K. Rowling, depicts the tale of an unlikely hero and his journey to defeat the paramount evil, aided by his friends and the ability to love. ‘Harry Potter’ has become a cultural phenomenon across the globe, replacing the traditional fairy tales on children’s bookshelves and having sold more copies than the Bible over the past 10 years. The story of the scrawny bespectacled boy, prophesised to lead the ultimate battle of good vs. evil has further been transformed into an immensely successful film franchise, grossing more than $5.4 billion and becoming the highest grossing film series. Along with rave reviews, it is needless to say that ‘Harry Potter’ is doing quite well, and has captivated millions upon millions. The prosperity of the ‘Harry Potter’ series cannot alone be attributed to simply being a ‘good story’, and a relevant question to inquire is whether Rowling’s implementation of literary techniques through characterisation has a significant contribution to the above. With one of the topics with the most significance being the battle between good and evil, characterisation through thematic development, use of stereotypes, extended allusions and comparisons may be of importance. The above can be restated as the research question of this essay; how does characterisation create the theme of good versus evil in the ‘Harry Potter’ series?

Rowlings’ use of stereotypes to distinguish between good and evil Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort are the antithesis of each other, an idea conveyed through their respective character descriptions. Rowling characterises her protagonist as a somewhat normal teenage boy having “a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, bright green eyes … and wearing round glasses held together with a lot of Sellotape”2, raised by his Muggle, or non-magical, aunt and uncle following the murder of his parents by Voldemort. Here he remained oblivious to being a wizard for 11 years before enrolling into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and exposed to the magical community. Parallels can be drawn from Harry’s experiences to those of the reader, as there is a sense of familiarity with being the ‘new kid’, but lacking a sense of superiority and importance. Rather he is a sponge ready to soak up, and establish a place in the world, with these traits contributing to evoking empathy for Harry in the reader. In deep contrast to Harry, Voldemort is described through negative...
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