Use of Imagination in Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a popular series of seven fantasy novels written by Joanne K. Rowling, which have become the bestsellers and have been translated into many languages. Today, the popularity of the young wizard surpasses that of many superstars and even politicians. In modern world, it is extremely difficult to find a person who does not know Harry Potter, a boy who has amazed the imagination of many people of different ages all around the globe (Belcher & Stephenson 153). All sorts of fantasies constitute solid psychological foundation for this book series. Invisible but very perceptible walls surround the world of wizards. The descriptions of magical life occupy an important place in all books about Harry Potter. A big part of the text is dedicated to the detailed and unhurried depiction of the realities of the world that surrounds Harry. From the enumeration of a menu of any significant feast to the smallest details of passing examinations, Rowling uses her imagination to fill the books with new and exciting illustrations (Belcher & Stephenson 37). Creating an unreal world, the author does not want the readers to escape from reality but to see all its weaknesses and try to improve the world. This paper explores how and why Joanne K. Rowling uses imagination in Harry Potter through various signs and descriptions of magical world with its fantastic creatures and vices. The author's use of imagination in the books aims at paying readers attention to the problems of modern society while her fantasy is manifested in the use of different symbols, which show the eternal struggle between good and evil.
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The Use of Imagination for Showing the Vices of Modernity
At the first glance, the imaginary world of Harry Potter is directly opposed to the real world of Muggles who are non-wizards. However, after the analysis of the text, one understands that in relation to the real world, which surrounds the readers outside the book, Hogwarts as the embodiment of Rowling's imagination represents its duplication. The world of magic completely reproduces all not very pleasant features of modernity. There is social and property inequality in it: the Malfoys are rich and powerful while the Weasleys can barely make ends meet, and the only chance for their children to continue studying are excellent grades. Money also plays a huge role in the magical world. The dungeons of Gringotts Bank are majestic (Barratt 15). The twins Fred and George Weasley develop a stormy commercial activity even within the walls of the school. Eventually, they abandon their study for the sake of business career. Finally, among the members of the Order of the Phoenix, a union of magicians rallied to fight the Dark Lord, there is Mundungus Fletcher engaged in the illegal commercial operations and pathologically incapable of treating people outside the categories of price and benefits. A powerful bureaucratic machine in the face of the Ministry of Magic rules the magical world (Barratt 28). There are many stinging attacks on the officials including the Minister Cornelius Fudge. The fact that the seizure of the Ministry of Magic is the goal of Voldemort's actions is another indication that the imaginary world is very similar to the real one, in which the question of power plays a crucial role.
Rowling's imagination extends to technology as well: wizards not only use trains, cameras, and motorcycles but also cannot do anything without their magic wands, which seem to be the source and focus of magic. Finally, the author shows the world of advertising, the yellow press, and deceitful correspondents who are truly ubiquitous. The characters despise a hunter for sensations Rita Skeeter and punish her for lying but nobody criticizes the very system of information dissemination, in the center of which is the newspaper the Daily Prophet. In the Order of the Phoenix, the Quibbler magazine appears as an alternative to the Daily Prophet; however, it is endowed with all features of the tabloid, and when it acts in the opposition to the Ministry of Magic, this process takes a caricature form (Barratt 5). Therefore, the author expressively characterizes the general spiritual level of the magical community, for which a semi-official newspaper is the only source of knowledge about the world.
The characteristic feature of Rowling's use of imagination in Harry Potter is the fact that by transferring the real world signs into the imaginary reality, she affirms their sameness and non-alternativeness. This imaginary world does not become a way out of the real one. On the contrary, it extends the foundations of this world beyond reality (Adamson 4). In Harry Potter series, the escape from the worst features of the world is no longer possible since the imaginary world turns out to be modernity. Perhaps, all stories about Harry Potter are just a game of imagination but they still can represent a picture of the real world in a certain sense.
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The manifestation of imagination in symbols
The use of imagination is based on the symbolic nature of the characters and magic creatures of Harry Potter, which mainly represent the eternal struggle between good and evil. The main plot is dedicated to the confrontation of Harry and a dark wizard named Lord Voldemort whose goals include the acquisition of immortality and the enslavement of the magical world. Harry Potter is a very symbolic story, which is permeated with various allusions, hidden meanings, and allegories (Garza 2). Rowling has used almost all of the most popular magical and esoteric symbols not only to open the window to another world but also to make the readers believe in the possibility of changing the reality.
Certain important signs and symbols from Harry Potter clearly show how Joanne K. Rowling uses imagination in the books. First of all, the main character Harry symbolizes the power of a new soul called to fight the evil in the guise of Voldemort (Irwin & Bassham 14). The scar on his forehead has the form of lightning, which personifies vital energy. Lightning is associated with power; it is a sparkling thread that can connect heaven and earth. Potter's scar tells that he was not destined to die (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 14). Lightning is also considered a two-faced sign because on one hand, it means death, and on the other hand, it says that the new beginning, which will open the next horizons, always follows the end. Harry really stood on the edge of life when Voldemort's wand was aimed at him but he did not die. This symbol can be regarded as the complete triumph of life over death, and Potter is the proof of this judgment.
Voldemort is the evil incarnation, the Dark Lord of this fallen world who tries to subdue the world of wizards. As a devil, he was increasingly losing his human form, and his transformation means that the mutilation of his soul has gone far beyond of what ordinary evil was capable of. Voldemort tries to kill a new soul, Harry, but he is unable to do it since he is much weaker than Potter. There is much in common between Voldemorts and Harry's fates: they are both orphans and grew among the Muggles not in the most favorable conditions until they were admitted to Hogwarts, which they considered their home (Irwin & Bassham 56). Both had the ability to converse with snakes. It illustrates one of the main Rowlings ideas: a human soul consists of both good and evil, and not the abilities but the choice determines the essence of every person.
The images of various real and fantastic animals are also presented in the books with a special purpose. For example, the spiders play rather positive role in Harry Potter. They are depicted as huge talking creatures that live in the Forbidden Forest. They have multiplied there due to the acts of Hagrid who liked their ancestor named Aragog. Hagrid had to release him during his youth and found him a couple named Mosag. Since then, the huge spiders have felt gratitude towards Hagrid and did not touch him. Although they want to catch Harry and Ron, from Aragog, Harry learns much about the circumstances associated with the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 277). It can be said that Rowling's imagination makes spiders the assistants of good forces.
Unlike spiders, the snakes in Harry Potter are associated with the dark arts. Some wizards, for example, Salazar Slytherin and Voldemort, use them as pets. By the way, a snake is a symbol of Slytherin. Along with such real species of snakes as cobras, rattlesnakes, and pythons, there are also magical snakes: the Basilisk, Runespoor, Sea Serpent, horned serpent, and Selma. It is interesting that Voldemort does not address anyone as warmly as his snake called Nagini. Perhaps, he considers it a part of himself, which explains why snakes are mostly negative creatures in Harry Potter (Wolosky 32). As a killing creature, a snake means death and annihilation; as a creature that periodically changes the skin, it signifies life and resurrection. Just like Voldemort, it represents the evil power, which has to be suppressed.
There are also imaginary creatures that play an extremely important role in Harry Potter. One of them is phoenix who helps Harry in the situations of mortal danger. Apparently, Rowling gives this mythical bird the exceptional significance. It is not surprising since phoenix is the most respected representative of the imaginary creatures; it is the symbol of immortality, spiritual victory, and the revival of creative energy (Garza 3). In Rowling's books, this bird points on the extraordinary magical talent of Harry Potter. The feather from its tail was used in making a magic wand for Harry, which helped him to fight with dark forces. Thus, according to Rowling, phoenix embodies the victory of good over evil. One of the challenges that Harry meets in the Triwizard Tournament is fight with a dragon (Rowling, Harry potter and the Goblet of Fire 182). It is also the symbol of knowledge of the world and victory because knowledge is power.
The unicorn is another figment of Rowling's imagination. It represents the enlightened spiritual nature. This beautiful mythical animal has powerful magical properties: its horn, blood, and mane are much appreciated since they can bring a dead person back to life. The magic wands as well as excellent bandages for wounds are made of unicorn's hair (Garza 2). The Dark Lord killed unicorns in the Forbidden Forest to drink their silvery blood and become stronger (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 236). The death of the unicorn in Harry Potter means that the goodness, nobility, and everything bright and beautiful in the world are in danger and need salvation.
In Harry Potter, there are many other signs that stimulate the imagination of the readers. Among other symbolic things, which J. K. Rowling uses in this book series, there are labyrinths that signify the victory of spirit over matter, eternity over time, and intellect over instincts. The mirrors occupy a significant place in Harry Potter, especially in the first book, since they show the most cherished desires (Wolosky 77). Through a mirror, Harry communicates with his deceased parents (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 166). What is more, the philosopher's stone mysteriously conceals in it. The sorcerer's stone is an ancient symbol of the perfection and rebirth of a man whose divine nature shines through a simple shell (Wolosky 99). Similarly to a lifeless and unattractive unprocessed diamond extracted from graphite, the spiritual nature of a fallen person shows very little beauty. Just like a formless stone, which turns into a diamond in the hands of a skilled jeweler, in God's hands, a human soul becomes more perfect. The one who possesses the philosopher's stone is immortal because knowledge cannot die. It is interesting that Professor Dumbledore destroys the stone (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 239). It may symbolize Rowling's unbelief in the possibility of achieving absolute truth.
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Imagination is not only a unique ability of a person to see illusory things but also a possibility to observe what is concealed in the real world. It helps people to understand and transform the reality. Joanne K. Rowling uses rich imagination in the form of symbols in all of her books about a young wizard Harry Potter to show both good and evil sides of the world. The author also wants to demonstrate the realities of modernity and its values. The writer subordinates the world of imagination to the technological, materialistic, and mechanized real world. Paradoxically, the books that seem to be filled with miracles and magic offer the readers not the risk of unknown but the assurance that the imaginary world is not different from the real one, and the bureaucracy, social inequality, lie, and struggle between good and evil are eternal and ubiquitous. However, people should try to change themselves and their reality since the choice between good and evil are always inside them. The humans already have the power that a magic wand could wield. The use of imagination by Rowling is not aimed at escaping from the reality; it concentrates on the involvement in it. Thus, Harry Potter can arouse imagination and empower children and even adults with the hope for the bright future.