Librarians Always Save the Day

I read this article a week or so ago that claimed it could “ruin” Harry Potter for anyone who read it.  Naturally I read it, becoming horrified by it’s content.  It claimed that the wizarding world of Harry Potter didn’t actually exist within the story, but that Harry was basically mentally unstable and actually, want for better word, a troublemaker (if you’ll recall in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Dursleys used this excuse to explain to Uncle Vernon’s sister Marge where Harry went to school).
Now, I’m not a child psychologist and I’m not sure the person who wrote it is one either, but they claimed that something horrific happened in young Harry’s life so that he invented a world where he was the hero.  So, in this case, the Dursleys were actually Harry’s parents, Dudley was Harry’s brother, and Hogwarts was the mental hospital Harry went for treatment.  Basically the whole story was invented by the sick Harry to make him feel better and feel like a hero even though he was a problem child.

Kind of like telling a kid there’s no Santa Claus, right?

I was somewhat annoyed by it because it sort of made sense.  I mean, I wasn’t going to let that one article ruin my love for these books, but I could see their argument.  But then I went to my local library and had a chat with the Children’s Librarian (the same librarian, if you recall a while back, who helped me understand why Harry Potter is classified as a children’s book when it runs such adult themes (read here)).  I explained to her the article and asked for her thoughts.  She mulled it over and finally said, “It’s an interesting argument, except the narrator is written in a third person limited style.  Their argument would make sense if they were writing in the first person, but the narrator would have to be pretty biased.”

Which makes even more sense.  Basically, if Harry were indeed insane, the narrator would have to feed into that delusion.  But there is no arguable way the narrator does this, since the narrator often tells the reader in the series things Harry himself does not even know.  For instance, let’s look at those scenes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for my British readers) at the beginning where Harry is a baby and asleep when he first arrives at 4 Privet Drive.  There is a lot that happens between Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid that Harry can’t comprehend because he is a baby.  Or at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Frank Bryce is killed by Voldemort (or, actually, I think Wormtail kills him at Voldemort’s orders): the narrator is providing us with Frank Bryce’s thoughts and feelings and details of his death, something Harry could not know.  The narrator is not written in a way, according to the librarian (and which I agree), that could be justified as being unreliable or biased.  Yes it knows Harry’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but it’s not enough to say that Harry and the narrator are the same person.

So, therefore, Hogwarts does exist…in one form or another.



If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.