Essay: Structure and Function in Harry Potter

Pages: 3 (929 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Ritual Magic of Rites of Passage in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Magic, or at least the human belief in it, is at least as old as human civilization. It is the most basic form of explanation of and attempts at interaction with the natural -- and the supernatural world, and yet magic rituals, beliefs, and rules can be just as complex and integral to a culture or society as any more extensively developed religion. In recent times, magic has been taken out of the realm of the fundamental cultural phenomenon, and through fiction has provided another way of understanding our own culture. The stories in the Harry Potter series, for instance, provide a way of looking at coming of age from a magical perspective. Rites of passage have always had a strong presence in worlds of magic, and the world of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is no exception.

Harry Potter is marked -- physically, emotionally, and fatefully -- from the time he is one-year-old, in what can only be seen as an obscure and uncommon -- entirely singular, in fact -- Rite of Passage. Voldemort's murder of his mother, who died protecting Harry, left a mark and some sort of connection between Harry and his nemesis, as well as setting up the infant with a special path in life. The magical rule in operation here is similar to the "sympathetic magic" noted by Frazer in early cultures (Geertz 8). Though Harry did not ingest anything or even consciously participate in the ritual, he was altered in an important way by a transfer of power and spirit that took place on the night his parent's died and Voldemort's curse backfired. It was this unwitting rite of passage that created the Harry Potter readers know, and the ushered in a very specific life for the boy.

The rites of passage in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone appear throughout the novel, but another fairly large one occurs at the very end of the book, as Harry comes to grips with the events that formed his first rite of passage detailed above. Harry must overcome the loss of his parents in order to grow into the next stage of his life, but this comes with an acceptance of their memory rather than a denial of his loss. The Mirror of Erised and the photo album Harry receives makes this presence far more real in the magical world than in the world outside the fiction; the "ancestor soul" that supplements the Western concept of the single soul in many magic-practicing cultures is rendered explicitly corporeal here (Harris 18). Harry's rite of passage in this sense allows his soul to become complete, or allows all of its components to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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