Well, I’ve finished Goblet of Fire. An excellent book on many levels, it definitely reflects a matured writing style. Rowling was an excellent author all along, but some of the more awkward phraseology of the first three books seems to have been pretty much eliminated. The same skill at engrossing the reader she has had all along was definitely at its most effective to date in this book. One really does feel the same feelings of anxiety, loneliness, fear, relief, and comfort that Harry does throughout this novel.
As a quick scan of the chapter headings will reveal, this book is obviously a turning-point in the series. Things take on a much darker and more serious aspect by its end.
I have just this morning cracked open Order of the Phoenix, and read a couple chapters. I’ve also just begun A Charmed Life, by Francis Bridger and have read a couple chapters in that. It was apparently written shortly after Goblet of Fire, and discusses the four books, so I’ve waited till I got to this point in the series to read it.
So far I like Bridger. He is indeed an Anglican, and seems to be quite smart and thoughtful. One qualification he has that is valuable in my eyes is that he has extensive experience working with kids for the Church. So he’s not just a pastor or theologian, and he’s not just an educator who gets sprung at the thought of kids just reading books! He’s worked with kids as a functionary of the Church.
Still, though, even though he’s turning out to be the type of Anglican I enjoy reading defending Harry Potter (see my comments on this book in my “Harry Potter To-Read List” on June 24th), I’m sensing a little of that Anglican who writes off the use of magic a little too easily. I’ve only read a couple chapters and the introduction, though, and he does discuss the concerns many Christians have had with the books’ magical content. His discussions about fairy tales and fantasy in general (including the works of Lewis and Tolkien) have been very enlightening and he does a convincing job of placing Joane Rowling in the tradition of those writers like Lewis and Tolkien, and even Shakespeare (cf. specifically Macbeth, among others).
So far, if you haven’t noticed, my overall feeling about the books has been positive. My concerns about flaunting rules and defying authority figures still remains for the initial books. The story, however, is now taking a turn and developing into something more mature, where breaking rules doesn’t seem to be a “selling feature” of the story. I guess this makes sense. Harry is independent and strong-willed, but he is a good person. Anyone who reads the books sees that. Because of this, by the time we get to the initial chapters of the fifth book (as I now have), we see him obeying rules he’d rather not (some of them unfair) for several reasons, sheer practicality and a little bit of wise thinking among them.
We are also starting to see how a good person grows up. Harry is not just good because he always obeys the rules (he doesn’t). He’s good because he usually does what he thinks is right (at least as far as I have read; I hope I’m not sticking my foot in my mouth…). It’s good of Rowling at this point to show that doing what you think is right or in your best interest may involve obeying rules you do not agree with, and even obeying rules that actually are unfair to you (such as, in book five, the Dursleys’ rule that Harry’s curfew begins exactly at the point Dudley comes home). Many grow up a different way, as Dudley does. They continue in a juvenile way of viewing the world, dominating others weaker than they. Dudley provides a good contrast to Harry, and really highlights the ways “good” and “bad” people grow up. And this is all done in a serious and realistic way, a way which shows the “good” person just itching for a fight with someone who has brought him fourteen years of grief, but in the end overcomes the urge. Harry is someone who has personal struggles, not just heroic ones. I like that.
So, I’m going to keep reading both books. I want to read and think some more about the potential for interest in the occult arising from the books. I think it’s a legitimate concern Christians should have, but I think also that these books can be shown to be innocent of the charge. We’ll see…