J.K. Rowling’s Use of Spiritual Views and Imagery as Illustrated in the Book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
In 1997, J.K. Rowling changed the world forever when she published her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The first out of a 7 book series, it quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Originally published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book brings the reader into a magical world full of wizards, wands, and magical spells. As Harry Potter journey’s through this new, foreign world, he has to face many unthinkable obstacles that explore religious and moral based principles. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has many explicit references to religion, immortality, and the battle between good and evil woven throughout the book.
Religion is not openly mentioned in the book, but there are instances where the wording can point towards religious sayings and holidays. At the beginning of the story, witches and wizards across the country were celebrating the death of Voldemort, also known as You-Know-Who. As Mr. Dursley, Harry Potter’s Uncle, was leaving work, he ran into a wizard who was in celebration. He exclaimed, “Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day”. Rejoice is used in religious settings as a word of celebration, and is often referenced back to the Bible verse Phillippians “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” Professor McGonagall also says “I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future” (pg 13). Therefore, the Witches and Wizards are “rejoicing” in the day due to Harry Potter, as if they were celebrating a religious holiday.
Furthermore, there are many holidays celebrated throughout the Harry Potter series. Christmas appears to be a major holiday in the magical world. Christmas comes with snow, presents, a holiday from classes and “festoons of holly and mistletoe hung all around the walls, and no less than twelve towering Christmas trees…” . It appears as though Christmas is exactly how it appears in the real world, but there is no mention of any religious attachment. Christmas is celebrated as a Christian holiday in the “real world”, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. In Harry Potter, it is a secular holiday. Later on in the book, Hermione mentions the Easter Holidays, which is another Christian holiday but does not appear to have any religious affiliation in the story.
While holidays and explicit religious references are few and far between, there are many times where religious ideas and symbolism are expressed in the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry Potter is a parallel to Jesus Christ, and this is seen very early on in the book. As a baby, both Jesus and Harry Potter were targeted because they were both believed to one-day rise to power. In the Bible, King Herod of Judea ordered the massacre of the innocents, which was a decree to put to death all the boys in Bethlehem under the age of two, because he had heard of the news of the birth of Jesus. King Herod saw Jesus as a threat to the throne, and therefore sought to kill him. However, he was unsuccessful because Joseph and Mary heard of the news and protected their child. Parallel to this, Voldemort set out to kill baby Harry because he saw Harry as a threat to his power, which was fully explained later on in the series. Voldemort, like King Harod, was unsuccessful because James and Lily likewise protected their son. These two stories have parallels seen not only between Jesus and Harry, but also King Herod and Voldemort, and Joseph/Mary and James/Lily.
Furthermore, Harry Potter’s scar has two different religious connotations. First off, it connects another parallel between Jesus and Harry. Jesus has scars on his hands, feet, and side from his death on the cross. Harry has a scar on his forehead, which he was marked with after Voldemort tried to kill him. Not only do these scars follow both of their symbolic “deaths,” but they are also a way for others to recognize them. In John 20:19-31, Jesus appears to his disciples and shows them his hands and side, and it is his way of proving to his disciples that he really is Jesus. Likewise, Harry Potter’s scar is what makes him famous, and is a way others to know he is the Harry Potter. When Harry meets the Weasley family, they do not know whom he is until Fred and George point out the lighting scar on his forehead. Secondly, Harry’s scar can be paralleled to the Seal of God in the book of Revelation. This seal is a promise of protection to those who follow God and will keep them safe from the antichrist. This is similar to Harry’s scar, which he received because of his mother’s protection and love, and gives him protection from Voldemort. There are many similarities between Jesus and Harry Potter, and can be seen even more when discussing the power between good and evil.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is written as a children’s story, but when one looks into it, they can see a story about the struggle between good and evil, and the triumph of good and human spirit. From the very beginning, there is this constant battle between what is good and evil, and there is a very fine line separating the two. Voldemort, the evil antagonist, appears at James and Lilly’s house to kill their child, but fails because of Lily’s sacrificial love. Lily very willingly sacrifices her life for the love of her son, and while she dies, her goodness conquers Voldemort’s evil. This love is a driving force behind the “good,” and Harry continuously uses this love for the good of the wizarding world to fight the “evil.” Temptation is a theme seen consistently throughout the novel, and within it is woven the difference between good and evil. Several times, Harry Potter is tempted. In the beginning, Harry makes the decision between being friends with Draco Malfoy and Ron Weasley.
Draco signifies power and greed, traits of Slytherin, whereas Ron signifies love, truth, honor, which are traits of Gryffindor. In that moment, Harry makes the split decision to choose between good and evil – and he chooses the former. Furthermore, a very prominent force behind temptation is when Harry meets Quirrell in the underground chamber. Quirrell makes the statement “there is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too week to seek it” . Quirrell has been tempted into this belief by Lord Voldemort, and now Quirrell is in turn tempting Harry into this line of thinking. When Voldemort reveals himself to Harry, he tries to convince Harry to join him, and gives him the ultimatum of death or power. However, Harry explicitly sees the line between good and evil, and to him power is directly correlated to evil. Harry chooses death instead of becoming evil, which makes him morally good. This theme of death and immortality are common throughout the book.
The first novel of the Harry Potter series explores the concept of death and immortality through the concept of Voldemort, and the Sorcerer’s stone itself. Voldemort is the ultimate example of immortality, and will go to any and every expense to avoid death. His greatest fear and weakness is mortality. When he tries to kill Harry Potter, he loses his body, but does not literally “die.” Ten years after his death, he possesses the body of Professor Quirrell, in hopes that he can acquire the Sorcerer’s stone, which will make him immortal. A unicorn is used as a bridge between good and evil, mortal and immortal, in the first book.
Professor Quirrel/Voldemort slay a unicorn and drinks the blood. Drinking unicorn blood will keep anyone alive, but comes with the price of living a cursed life. This is parallel to the Elixir of Life, which is made from the Sorcerer’s stone, and keeps the drinker alive until they stop drinking the elixir. While Voldemort tries to get ahold of the stone, he fails, and is only able to drink the unicorn blood. This is symbolic because Voldemort lives a very cursed life, and is too evil to have something as pure as the sorcerer’s stone. In the end, only Harry, who lives a very pure and innocent life, is able to get his hands on the stone and destroy it. Harry accepts death with open arms, and Voldemort runs from it, which symbolizes the drastic difference between life and death in the series.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at first glance is a story that follows the adventures of a young boy at a boarding school. However, when analyzed, many themes of religion, good, evil, death, and immortality can be seen as prevalent themes throughout the novel. These religious themes can be very important to a full understanding of the novel and show many different characteristics of the protagonist, Harry, and the antagonist, Voldemort.
Introduction The etymology of “Gothic” originated from the French term gothique and in Latin, Gothic. It means something that is no classical. It was a medieval style of art as […]
In The Rover, Aphra Behn illustrates a world in which sex and economic exchange unite under the mandates of the patriarchy. In such a society, sexuality is commodified, and a […]
In it’s traditional sense, the natural world can serve to act as the utter antithesis of the man-made human world. It is possible to consider them to both be their […]
In July 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was distributed and got up by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Literary Guild. A dense version of the story showed up in Reader’s […]
According to Henslin, value is defined as code, standards, or worthiness that is considered to be desirable either by an individual or a group of people (2010). Value acts as […]
The tradition of the old south is very prevalent in the story of A Rose for Emily. It is the tradition of the people of the town that forces them […]
The devil is a common literary icon. This enemy of God has generally been established as an unwavering representation of evil—a figure out to trick and torment his arch-nemesis and […]
In the novel The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien tells the story of a group of soldiers in the Vietnam war who, as a band of brothers, went through so […]
Updated: Oct 14th, 2020 V for Vendetta is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. It reflects an imaginary future of the United Kingdom after the Second […]
In 1997, J.K. Rowling changed the world forever when she published her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The first out of a 7 book series, it quickly […]