Cover image for The wisdom of Harry Potter : what our favorite hero teaches us about moral choices
The wisdom of Harry Potter : what our favorite hero teaches us about moral choices
Kern, Edmund M., 1963-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
296 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PR6068.O93 Z735 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Grand Island Library PR6068.O93 Z735 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Lackawanna Library PR6068.O93 Z735 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library PR6068.O93 Z735 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Audubon Library PR6068.O93 Z735 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In this original interpretation of the Harry Potter sensation, Edmund M. Kern argues that the attraction of these stories to children comes not only from the fantastical elements embedded in the plots, but also from their underlying moral messages. Children genuinely desire to follow Harry, as he confronts a host of challenges in an uncertain world, because of his desire to do the right thing. Harry's coherent yet flexible approach to dealing with evil reflects an updated form of Stoicism, says Kern. He argues that Rowling's great accomplishment in these books is to have combined imaginative fun and moral seriousness.

Kern also shows adults how much they can gain by discussing with children the moral conundrums faced by Harry and other characters. The author outlines the central morals of each book, explains the Stoic principles found in the stories, considers the common critiques of the books, discusses Rowling's skillful blend of history, legend, and myth, and provides important questions for guiding children through Harry's adventures.

This fresh, instructive, and upbeat guide to Harry Potter will give parents many useful and educational suggestions for discussing the moral implications of this continuously popular series of books with their children.

Note: This book is not authorized, approved, licensed, or endorsed by J. K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any other individual or entity associated with the Harry Potter books or movies. Harry Potter is a registered trademark of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Author Notes

Edmund M. Kern is associate professor of history at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

The popularity of the Harry Potter series has created an abundance of both acclaim and criticism. While many argue that the books encourage moral complacency or interest in the occult, Kern (history, Lawrence Univ.) seeks to prove that the stories actually promote positive moral messages similar to Stoic virtues like constancy, endurance, perseverance, self-discipline, reason, solidarity, empathy, and sacrifice. Children are attracted to the fantastical elements of the stories along with Harry's quest to abolish evil in an uncertain world similar to their own. By comprehensively analyzing the ethical questions posed in Rowling's books, Kern explains that Harry shows children how to work through their problems rather than avoid them. The author rebuts many of the common critiques of the books and encourages parents to discuss the moral dilemmas of the stories with their children. Although insightful, this in-depth interpretation of Rowling's saga is written in an academic style that may alienate the average parent. However, given the popularity of anything Potter, this is recommended for both child rearing and popular culture collections.-Charity S. Peak, Regis Univ. Lib., Colorado Springs (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 11
Prefacep. 13
1. Imaginatively Updating an Old-Fashioned Virtuep. 17
A Welcome Surprise and a Perilous Burdenp. 17
Popularity and Criticismp. 21
What the Books Have to Offerp. 24
Imagination at Playp. 26
Imagination at Workp. 32
The Kids in Your Lifep. 40
2. Plot Threads and Moral Fibersp. 45
Little Whingingp. 45
The Sorcerer's Stonep. 49
Flight from Deathp. 53
The Chamber of Secretsp. 56
House-Elves and Mudbloodsp. 61
The Prisoner of Azkabanp. 63
A Law unto Himselfp. 71
The Goblet of Firep. 75
That's Not How It's Supposed to Workp. 86
3. Harry Potter's Morality on Display: A Primer on Stoic Virtuep. 89
Frustrationp. 89
Ambiguityp. 93
Hard Questions and Adult Mentoringp. 102
Constancy in the Face of Evil, and Other Virtuesp. 106
Growing Up, Growing Painsp. 119
4. Greed, Conventionality, Demonic Threatp. 129
Kids among the Criticsp. 129
A Culture of Consumerismp. 138
Familiar (and Unexamined) Assumptionsp. 147
The Big Deal about Witchcraftp. 158
Pluralismp. 175
5. Imagination, History, Legend, and Mythp. 179
The Familiar and the Fantasticp. 179
The Uses of History, Legend, and Mythp. 190
Social Realismp. 208
The Problem of Evilp. 212
Stoicism and Religionp. 219
Being Enchantedp. 222
Afterword: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixp. 229
Notesp. 247
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 281

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