Rowling as moralist

Harry Potter and the bullies

When the Harry Potter movie is released this fall, long lines at theaters are sure to provoke yet more speculation about the popularity of J. K. Rowling’s novels (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Part of it, I suppose, is the plain dumb luck of setting off a fad: kids are reading her books because other kids are reading her books. Most such fads are shabby stuff, but Rowling’s commercial success is honestly earned. She patiently develops all the traditional elements of narrative—setting, character, style, theme, plot—so as to explore the reasons why kids taunt other kids, and the reasons why one might refuse or resist such behavior. There is no denying the comic verve and unpredictable adventure of these four novels, but we need also to recognize that J. K.


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