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Quotes

Quote #4

The Yule Ball is approaching – a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament and an opportunity for us to socialize with our foreign guests. Now, the ball will be open only to fourth years and above –. (22.5)

Good and evil isn't just a topic within the Harry Potter books; it's also been a problem about the Harry Potter books. A range of religious organizations have denounced the series as subtly celebrating a pagan lifestyle. It's not only that these novels describe witches and wizards (loaded terms for Christian groups). It's also that the everyday details of the novel don't represent a Christian religious tradition. Even Professor McGonagall's offhand mention of a "Yule" Ball – Yule, of course, being a pre-Christian Germanic mid-winter celebration – might be tricky for some groups. But we do think that the novel tackles moral issues that any religious practitioner would find valuable: Harry learns to identify and fight evil, after all. What do you think about the moral universe of Harry Potter? How might these books be helpful – or hurtful – for teaching strong ethical values?

Quote #5

"It was my mother," said Hagrid quietly. "She was one o' the las' ones in Britain. 'Course, I can' remember her too well ... she left, see. When I was abou' three. She wasn' really the maternal sort. Well ... it's not in their natures, is it? Dunno what happened to her ... might be dead fer all I know ..." [...]

"Me dad was broken-hearted when she wen'. Tiny little bloke, my dad was. By the time I was six I could lift him up an' put him on top o' the dresser if he annoyed me. Used ter make him laugh ..." Hagrid's deep voice broke. Madame Maxine was listening, motionless, apparently staring at the silver fountain. "Dad raised me ... but he died, o' course, jus' after I started school. Sorta had ter make me own way after that. Dumbledore was a real help, mind. Very kind ter me, he was ..." (23.192-4)

We might think Hagrid is like a perfect experiment in nature vs. nurture. He knows that it wasn't in his mother's nature to be "the maternal sort" – to be gentle or kind (since that's not what giants are, after all). But Hagrid is both of those things, because he was raised by a decent wizard. Even though having giant blood appears to be a very serious thing in the wizarding world, Hagrid seems as good-natured and decent as any other character in the novels, thanks to his upbringing. At the same time, Harry is brave and loyal, and he was raised by abusive cowards. And Sirius Black is noble and honest, and he was raised by Dark wizards. Hm. So, there doesn't seem to be an easy formula for who's going to turn out good or evil in these books – just like in real life.

Quote #6

Harry's feeling of stupidity was growing. Now he was out of the water, it seemed perfectly clear that Dumbledore's safety precautions wouldn't have permitted the death of a hostage just because their champion hadn't turned up. Why hadn't he just grabbed Ron and gone? He would have been first back ... Cedric and Krum hadn't wasted time worrying about anyone else; they hadn't taken the mersong seriously ... (26.193)

Harry's intensity about making sure that everyone is all right demonstrates a key fact about his personality. He's ambitious and he wants to win, but winning will always take a back seat to doing the right thing. We can't help but wonder if Harry's example in this scene inspired Cedric to try and share the cup with Harry at the end of the novel – with tragic results. While it may appear trite, it seems like one message of the Harry Potter novels is that life isn't fair. Bad things happen to people who try to do the right thing. Yet, even if doing good sometimes comes with a price, that doesn't mean the price isn't worth paying. Under what circumstances do you think it's necessary to stick by your ethical code, no matter what the cost? And when is it OK to compromise a little?

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