Friday, August 24, 2007

Rowling's 'arsenic soup'

"Lev Grossman, in the July 23, 2007, issue of Time magazine, writes, 'If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.' In this he has expressed the core problem with the Potter series. There is much that could be written, and has been written, about the specific problems in the books. Without neglecting the valid point that good fiction need not be overtly Christian, need not be religious at all, we might ponder a little the fact that the central metaphor and plot engines of the series are activities (witchcraft and sorcery) absolutely prohibited by God.

"We might also consider for a moment the fact that no sane parents would give their children books which portrayed a set of 'good' pimps and prostitutes valiantly fighting a set of 'bad' pimps and prostitutes, and using the sexual acts of prostitution as the thrilling dynamic of the story. By the same token we should ask ourselves why we continue to imbibe large doses of poison in our cultural consumption, as if this were reasonable and normal living, as if the presence of a few vegetables floating in a bowl of arsenic soup justifies the long-range negative effects of our diet. Leaving aside a wealth of such arguments, let us consider Lev Grossman's insight.

"'The death of God?' many a reader will respond. 'Surely he is making too much of the matter! Aren't we discussing a single phenomenon in a vast sea of cultural phenomena? And aren't there a lot of positive values in these books and films - even some edifying moments of courage and sacrifice? And isn't it all about love?' Yes, in a sense it is. But what kind of love? What kind of sacrifice? And for what purpose?"

— Michael O'Brien, from "Harry Potter and 'the Death of God', which has elicited some interesting responses.