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“Inside your head”

7 July 2011

After a three-week long lecture series on theology and Harry Potter, and in preparation for the arrival of the final Harry Potter movie, I just finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time since I raced my friend S. to finish it on the weekend that it came out. (There’s still sand in the book from reading it on a very windy beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.)

It is clear that J.K. Rowling was grappling with religion during this book, given some pretty strong allusions to Christian understanding of death. According to John Granger, Rowling has stated, “my belief and my struggling with religious belief…I think is quite apparent in this book” (Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind The Hogwarts Adventures, Penguin: 2009, 88).

This quote is found toward the very end of the book when Harry finds himself in something somewhat like King’s Cross (vagueness so as not to spoil the ending), where the following exchange is recounted. In it, Rowling makes a philosophical statement about what is really “real”; given that she had spent an entire decade writing about a magical realm existing alongside (but hidden from) the usual non-magical one, this is particularly interesting statement in terms of the religious undertones in the book. It seems that rationalism, at least, has not found a friend in her:

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

(Rowling 723)

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