Mapping the World of Harry Potter (Smart Pop series)
by Mercedes Lackey
Review by Gayle Surrette
Benbella Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1932100598
Date: 01 January, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
"Harry Potter and the Young Man's Mistake" by Daniel P. Moloney goes over the problems of youth with their impetuousness and lack of information. He also covers the problems of adults who try to protect not just the young person but the ideal of childhood by neglecting to tell children the things they need to know to make informed decisions. "Why Dumbledore Had to Die" by Lawrence Watt-Evans posits the theory that it's in the nature of mentors to either die or disappear. He backs this theory with tales of other famous mentors throughout fantasy and comics. He definitely has a point and makes Dumbledore's demise a bit easier to live with.
"The Dursleys as Social Commentary" by Roberta Gellis is an interesting essay about how the Dursleys place Harry Potter in a Cinderella context for the continuing story. The Dursleys seem to be the personification of greed, intolerance, and social climbing run amok. Their home and lives are in sharp contrast (and in comparison) to the wizard families that Harry meets and deals with during the course of the books. Adam-Troy Castro in "From Azkaban to Abu Ghraib" discusses the nature of fear and fascism in the Harry Potter books. His writing raises some interesting questions and parallels with what goes on in our world. Often it's easier to see things in the confines of a story than in our daily newspaper. Mercedes Lackey in "Harry Potter and the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Counselor" examines the stories for their injustice, stress, cruelty, and meanness and it's impact on Harry. The fact that Harry is not a blithering, gibbering, terrified, blob of mindless fear after all he has gone through has not escaped notice. I envy the kid his ability to handle stress that few adults could and yet the stories are believable because we see Harry deal with his problems.
Elisabeth DeVos in her essay, "It's All About God," discusses the many protests against the Harry Potter books and religion. She also takes a hard look at the books trying to find the links that are being protested. There's also an overview of science and religion in the books.
In "Hermione Granger and the Charge of Sexism," Sarah Zettel rereads the books for signs of sexism in order to refute the charges of Jane Elliot in "Stepping on the Harry Potter Buzz" and Natasha Whitton in "Me! Books! And Cleverness!" For my money as a female reader of the books, Zettel acquits the books of sexism quite handily. The roles of women in the books are as diverse as in the world at large.
Richard Garfinkle in "Why Killing Harry is the worst outcome for Voldemort" makes a strong case for Voldemort to give up and let Harry go. Voldemort seems to discount Hermione and if Voldemort kills Harry, he'll have to face revenge from the most powerful witch of her age -- Hermione is not only powerful, she's logical, and driven. She'll never let Harry's death go unavenged. Voldemort beware -- winning might be the last thing you ever do.
Martha Wells in "Neville Longbottom: the Hero with a Thousand Faces" makes a case for one of the books more underrated characters being more than he appears on the surface. And isn't everyone more than they appear to be? Many of the characteristics that apply to Harry as a Hero-archetype also apply to Neville. Only the final book will tell us if Neville is to have a greater role than now appears.
Susan R. Matthews in "Ich Bin Ein Hufflepuff" talks of the four Hogwart's houses and the mix of those characteristics in each of the characters. It's an interesting set of character studies and leaves the reader with a lot to think about in trying to define their own predominate character traits.
"To Sir, with Love" by Joyce Millman delves into the world of fanfic. I'm not that familiar with fanfic and found the overview interesting and enlightening. But really, Snape a love god...can't see it myself but then I'm not drawn to S/M scenarios either.
Then there is "Harry Potter as School Days Novel" by James Gunn, which presents an overview of the school day novels of British and American literature.
Some interesting material here that's well worth a read and some thinking.