Kern, Edmund M. The wisdom of Harry Potter; what our favorite hero teaches us about moral choices.

Author:Julian, Janet
Position:Young Adult Review - Book Review - Brief Article

Prometheus Books. 296p. notes. bibliog. index. c2003. 1-59102-133-2. JSA

Kern, an associate professor of history at Lawrence University, has written this for adults as well as YAs. His thesis is that Rowling's novels present an "updated Stoic moral system whose primary virtue is old-fashioned constancy--resolution in the face of adversity." Kern's five chapters are: "Imaginatively Updating and Old-Fashioned Virtue"; "Plot Threads and Moral Fibers"; "Harry Potter's Morality on Display"; "Greed, Conventionality, Demonic Threat"; and "Imagination, History, Legend, and Myth." An afterword deals with Rowling's latest book, The Order of the Phoenix, which was published just as Kern's was going to press.

Kern finds much to admire in the Harry Potter books, Rowling's works "offer an exceptionally good example of how historical themes and topics can inform fictional storytelling, even when its setting is contemporary. Her use of the past takes three significant forms: (1) she draws upon history to give her magical world its appearance and customs; (2) she employs her characters' pasts to add to her dramatic portrayal of events; and (3) she develops a moral system that updates ethical principles with a very rich history of their own." Besides analyzing each book, Kern deals with Rowling's critics by name and in detail.

Harry Potter and his fans, young and old, learn many...

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