Why Harry Potter? The Rhetorical Elements that Singled Out the Harry Potter Franchise as a Source of Evil within Youth Fiction



The annals of literature are riddled with accounts of the fantastic and magical.  Literary genre’s have been set aside for it, divided into subcategories, merged, and recombined.  One of these genres’ that has currently gone through resurgence is fantastic youth fiction.  While great works exist in its past, such as The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia, this subsection of the fantasy genre received an electromagnetic jolt to its collective pulse with the issuance of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  With the publication of the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the genre of youth fiction was revitalized.  Gone were the naysayers who claimed that children were no longer inspired to read.  Instead a veritable frenzy occurred that transformed into the “Pottermania” phenomenon.  The success of this series spawned a renewed interest in fantastic youth fiction, resurgence in the numbers of children inspired to read, and an explosion of works put out within the genre.  However, along with the great success of the Harry Potter franchise great controversy was also created by varying groups who claimed that the Harry Potter stories promoted witchcraft, the practice of magic, secularism, violence, and ambiguous moral lessons.  Banning, boycotting, and heated debates were exchanged over the course of the series’ publication with millions of dollars being devoted to the anti-Harry Potter movement.  However, I have always wondered why the Harry Potter series has been singled out as evil or immoral while many others from The Lord of the Rings to Dracula to The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins are accepted and promoted as great pieces of youth fiction.  This dichotomy lead me to research the rhetorical arguments for and against the Harry Potter series to attempt to determine what it is exactly that caused such a commotion.  Through my research four main avenues presented themselves; that commercial success drove the controversy, that the morals presented inside the works were the cause, that it provoked and affronted many religions based upon it’s use of magic, and that Rowling’s compositional style and her melding of the magical with realism created the lightning rod of contention that drove the controversy surrounding these works to such heights. As such, I will commence with an overview of my research and delve into the different explanations given as to why the Harry Potter series has been singled out so exclusively and conclude with the premise that it was Rowling’s rhetorical style, through her combination of realism and magic and her stylistic approaches that have provided such grounds for contention and debate.

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