With being translated into 60 languages and over 400 million copies sold worldwide, there is no doubt that the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling, has transformed from fantasy novels into literary phenomenon. For many, it has turned into a Christmas tradition to binge watch all 8 movies, becoming lost in the halls of Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling got us all hooked on Harry, Hermione and Ron’s adventures as they grew up with many of us not appreciating the underlying issues that are so prevalent in today’s world and, more surprisingly, the law.
One of the themes Rowling touches on is that of contract. The Triwizard Tournament required only those over 17 to enter their name into the Goblet of Fire in order to be considered for the competition. Once someone puts their name in, this creates a magical binding contract on the basis that should they be selected, they must complete the competition. Harry, who is 14 at this point, is selected as someone older put his name in deliberately putting him in danger and accordingly, he did not object to entering the Tournament. Was Harry obligated to enter the Tournament as he did not put his own name in? Is the contract only valid when someone enters their own name into the Goblet? This plot line sparked debate amongst litigators with some arguing that the contract was void as Harry did not enter himself.
Rowling also addresses the matter of lack of representation in Order of the Phoenix. Harry is brought before a courtroom-like hearing to discuss his expulsion from Hogwarts for use of underage magic outside of school. Harry was not offered nor had any counsel and was sat alone in front of a largely biased ‘panel’. It was only until Dumbledore came to his rescue that Harry was ‘acquitted’. Lack of legal representation is a growing concern following cuts to Legal Aid, making it increasingly difficult to access justice for those who cannot afford private representation. Whilst Rowling wrote the fifth instalment in 2003, this issue is ever present in today’s legal system.
Finally, Rowling depicts discrimination in the magical parallel universe. The mistreatment of ‘mudbloods’, those born to non-wizarding families, is a recurring theme throughout the series particularly as one of the main characters, Hermione, has two ‘muggle’ (non-wizard) parents. Hermione and other characters of similar families suffer prejudice due to their lineage and with racial hate crime incidents rising in Northern Ireland, the problem is not just a fantasy story line.
The Harry Potter franchise has been sparking the imagination of millions around the globe for over twenty years and the maturity of the novels and the problems they address (albeit dressed in a bit of magic) often go underappreciated as “just a children’s book”. Nonetheless, the issues that the series tackle are still relevant today and will no doubt continue to educate readers on how (and maybe how not) these problems can be resolved.
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