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The hero of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is a remarkably complex character for one that is crafted to relate to a young adult readership. In the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for American readers only. As Davis points out, the too-intelligent or sophisticated sounding word "philosopher" might have put off American readers. The word "sorcerer" simply sounded more exciting. Regardless of the title, the character of Harry Potter remains the same: a stalwart hero that captivates the reader's attention from the first few pages. When readers first meet Harry Potter, he is an awkward young boy but one who is undoubtedly destined for something special. After all, the title of the first chapter of the novel is "The Boy Who Lived." The remarkable story of his birth characterizes much of Harry's life thereafter. Harry is a chosen one with supernatural gifts and talents. While not quite on the level of a Jesus-type savior, Harry Potter does emerge as someone singled out from his peers. Although he does have a few enemies at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft, his humble and charming personality also endear him to the majority of the staff and students. The Harry Potter series are also coming-of-age stories for Harry, although the Sorcerer's Stone has Harry cast in a largely pre-pubescent role. Harry's set of morals and ethics is still complex, though: he understands exactly when it may be appropriate to break rules and tell lies. He does not completely avoid getting into trouble, ensuring he is not a goody-goody. Harry Potter is the gentle but strong and humble hero of Rowling's novel.
At first, Harry is certainly featured as an underdog. The use of the underdog theme remains strong in Rowling's book, because the literary technique allows or encourages the reader to identify strongly with the protagonist. Readers root for Harry because he is an underdog, and because those who belittle and oppress him are also highly distasteful characters. Whereas Harry is a three-dimensional and complex human being, his enemies are usually depicted as shallow and one-dimensionally evil. In the opening segments of the novel, Harry finds himself orphaned. He is thus symbolically alone in the world. Fate -- or destiny -- leads him to be housed with the dreadful Dursley family. Dudley Dursley proves to be a terrible bully. The entire family has it in for Harry, blaming him and scapegoating him. Their human evils are, however, contrasted sharply with the looming spiritual evil that is Voldemort. Because of the Dursley's and Harry's tragic tale of birth, readers are instantly drawn to the boy's character and his will to survive.
Harry is also soon set apart from the Muggles as someone who is blessed with special gifts. Not only is Harry blessed with the special gifts of wizardry; many people in Potter's world have those gifts. However, Harry is extra special because Voldemort was the one who killed his parents and nearly killed Harry too. Voldemort is the epitome of evil: a satanic character who is not just Harry's enemy but the enemy of all those who would do good in the world. Because Harry's arch-enemy is also the world's arch-enemy, Harry is indeed the Chosen One. No other character in the book has the ability to confront and defeat Voldemort. A lot of responsibility for an eleven-year-old boy, the need to defeat Voldemort comes to consume Harry's character. Being set aside as the Chosen One also endows Harry's character with grave responsibility. Harry is to defeat Voldemort not for selfish survival reasons, to save his own body. But Harry also needs to defeat Voldemort to help the world. Voldemort is the darkness, and harry is the light the will defeat the darkness. Rowling makes out Harry to be a sort of godlike child put on earth to be the symbolic good that conquers the symbolic evil.
At the same time, Harry is just a pre-pubescent young boy who makes both friends and enemies at school. He cares about what people think, although not so much that he becomes weak. Harry makes friends fairly easily, because of his unassuming character. Even though he is the Chosen One, Harry remains humble. He never puts…[continue]
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