Critical comment surrounding ‘Harry Potter’ has increasingly failed to distinguish between popularity and content. The brand has become testament to the technologies and communications that have rendered popular culture as globalised. Commentary has focused around a rigid mythology surrounding its creator and creation rather than pinioning itself to the books themselves.
In establishing the ground-plan and layout for the final book, previous titles have worked towards determining this as a cataclysmic wrangling between good ‘ personified via Harry Potter ‘ and evil ‘ manifested through Voldemort in an epic battle that sends quakes of fear and impending danger through the whole of the wizard and non-wizard worlds alike.
With the exception of the opening of the novel, the impending doom, however, never feels to be significant, or indeed to exert itself on anyone other than a minor clique. Sentimentalism and sensation have removed the edge from this particular brand of danger.
Genetic inheritance and race underpin the whole of Voldemort’s philosophies and are structured as the backbone that affords Voldemort’s evil a level of intent and thereby of plausibility. Failure to engage with this and a reticence to draw deeply from oblique thematic reference to Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ make the concluding episode of the ‘Harry Potter’ books flaccid shackling Voldemort to the position of a pantomime villain. As readers, we may ‘boo’, we may ‘hiss’, but there will be few that are chilled to the bones by result of the ‘what if’ as without root or foundation many of the blurrings between good and evil that Rowling has outlined are degraded
Magic is as much a convenience as it is an integral part of a plausible culture and community. Delineations between the magic and non-magic world are shifting with squibs, mudbloods (or the more euphemistic term ‘Muggle-borns’ ‘ although this itself appears a derisory reference towards those lacking potential and ability, more so than non-wizards at least). Distinctions are rarely explained and so cohesion to the fundamental premise of this fantasy world is eroded.
Characterisation and development through the series is highly limited, restricted to a series of gropes and fumbles ‘ abhorrent stereotyping of adolescence – that allegedly symbolise the ascent towards physical and mental maturation.
If the paucity of ‘Pottermania’ is indeed, truly a gauge of our reading culture, nationally, perhaps we should all be concerned that one series should, alone, have attained such breadth of focus in a country that annually publishes upwards of 10,500 books and that the ‘magic’ of the literary inheritance for the inhabitants of this sceptred isle is a world – like that of Hogwarts – unattainable for so many…