AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
As teachers and parents, many have serialized a reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone or sat and watched the enchanted world of Harry Potter on screen with children, sharing what they see and hear, watching their faces absorbed and distracted. They watch in awe, vicariously inhabiting the fantastic spectacle of Dobby, sorting hats, invisible cloaks, Ministry of Magic, Gringotts' Bank, flying keys, trolls, three-headed dogs, golden snitches, Dark Forests and levitating candles and pumpkins.
Harry Potter stems from and augments a rich literary tradition in enchanted, mystical 'Other' worlds. It is beyond the scope of this guide to look at parallels between J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling. Nor will the novel be compared with the film. You might like to explore these parallels if time permits.
Thinking and feeling as a child
Children and those adults who reject Muggledom (the world of the non-magic), those who refuse to grow up or grow old are open to new experiences and will be similarly mesmerized by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Harry Potter invites the viewer to let go, to release inhibitions, to enter a twilight zone of joy, surprise and discovery.
This magically immersed world can be described as mythopoeism. Mythopoeism in Harry Potter is the counter-narrative to the mundane narratives that usually shape lives. The world of Harry Potter is the antithesis of this world of conformity that prescribes the Muggle in us, deafens us to metaphor and complexity and blinds us to the world of the inner poet.
Mythopoeism is merely that world of myth and spirit that tells us that this isn't the best of all possible worlds. The magic of Harry Potter is a metaphor for the unleashing of the human spirit, unblocking the mind, self-belief, acting on instinct, taking risks. The spells and chants of the film are intrinsic to this chimera.
G. K Chesterton, in his essay Meditation in a Toolshed, offers the following parable: He offers two ways of seeing. He noticed a beam of light squeezing its way through a crack. If he looked at the beam all he saw was the light. If he looked along the beam, he saw the light to the garden outside. The latter is the perspective provided by Harry Potter. It is the world liberated from strictures and clearly defined parameters.
The repressed middle-classes of English lanes are the starting point for a Potterian critique of the values, preoccupations and banality of the lives behind the facade of respectability and propriety. So the Dursleys' lives are the entry point, their tedious and mediocre lives of conformity exposed in the opening scene of the film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Chris Columbus, 2001).
The viewer witnesses the tyranny of the Dursley domestic space. Harry lives imprisoned under the stairs, Dudley is an asinine, spoilt brat on his birthday, Vernon is vindictive and bullying. They are a stark contrast to Harry. Harry discovers his powers inadvertently at the zoo in the opening scenes, and takes retribution by releasing the snake. His nemesis, Dudley, is trapped in a cage, much to the delight of the viewer.
The Dursleys live comfortably, yet barrenly in Privet Lane, in a standardized English version of the cloned streets in the Middle American streets of Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990). Yet a force lives adjacent to this world. It is a world of imagination, magic, astonishment, wonder, marvel and fantasy; one that the Muggles of this world cannot hear, see, taste, feel or smell. They suffer from sensory deprivation and live in a near catatonic state, oblivious to the world of the soul and the leaping, tangential affective part of the psyche. Instead, the mundane and the material rule in Privet Lane.
The principal genre of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is therefore the genre of magic realism. In this genre the fairytale genre is extended to create a hybrid genre of the real and the fantastic. This genre deals with the concept of heightened reality or the addition of a dimension of reality through a symbolic or metaphoric structure. It provides a new way of perception, similar to a child looking at the world for the first time.
This is evidenced in the setting of Hogwarts, a school not dissimilar in its look and feel to the boarding school in Tom Brown's Schooldays. It is familiar and identifiable to the viewer, with its rules, uniforms and competitive ethos.
In magic realism objects are often fetishised. Hence the vividness and significance of objects such as rings, swords, clothes, long hair, cauldrons and animals. These objects are removed from their realistic context and ascribed deeply symbolic values. The stone is an energizing force that is sought for its properties--an elixir of life sought by Voldemort to make him powerful again. The mirror reflects innermost desires.
The characters in magic realism disrupt our conventional world of cause and effect. The narrative and cinematic sleight of hand can take multiple forms. In the chimera of magic realism, locations jump from …