The significance of magic in "Harry Potter"

Term Paper, 2000

12 Pages, Grade: 2



In this paper, we would like to discuss magic as portrayed in J.k Rowling Harry Potter. We want to also analyze some magic scenes and attempt to discuss their significance in the story. Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his terrible aunt and uncle, and their son, Dudley, a great swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he has not had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by an owl messenger. The letter is an invitation to an incredible place that Harry will never forget. For it is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where Harry finds not only friends, sport, and magic in everything from classes to meal, but a great destiny that has been waiting for him.

1.1. The meaning of Magic.

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, magic1 is defined as the secret of appearing to make things happen by saying special words or doing special things. Jared Miller defined magic as any means of control or knowledge, which makes use of supernatural beings or forces. He went further to say that :

…magic must be defined as the use of impersonal occult (read: hidden or secret) forces in order to obtain knowledge or power. Such is the well-known transference of symbolic cultures (popularly described as “voodoo”-objective transference of symbolic action), and the phenomenon of magical words, objects, or substances in the ancient and medieval western word

(Miller,Jared 2000:1)

Despite the above definitions, it must be said that magic is a complex term to explain. In order to discuss the meaning of magic, one has to take into consideration the culture and society in which one lives. This is because what may be considered magic in certain societies, may be seen as sciences in another communities, or even religion. The holy bible2 condemns magic but the Jews considered Jesus Christ as a magician and “wrong sort of person” to perform miracles, although the people accounted Him a prophet. It is said that Jesus Christ changed water into wine, walked on water, died and rose again just to name but these examples. Christians would consider this as miracle. However, not every body is a Christian, and not every body believes in God. From the above explanation, one can see that it would not be wrong for a Pagan to consider Jesus Christ as a magician.

If we take sciences as example, we would see that scientist do organ transplantation, plastic surgeries, paternity test, wireless communication and digital photography. In some primitive societies, these scientific developments may be considered as magic. In the pre-colonial era, when the European went to Africa for Christianity and colonization, they presented some of the African chiefs with mirrors, matches, sunglasses and radios. Some of these uneducated Africans considered these presents as magic like so many others worldwide. At this point, we would like to give two quotations that seem to support this view.

Arthur. C. Clarke. “Any smoothly functioning technology gives the appearances of magic”

Jacque Ellul. “ Magic may even be the origin of techniques”

(Jacobs,Alan 2000:37)

In order to give a synopsis of the relationship between sciences and magic, we would like to quote Alan Jacobs:

In the thinking of most modern people, there should be two histories here: (implied history of magic and of sciences) after all, are not magic and experimental sciences opposite?. Is not magic governed by superstition, ignorance, and wishful thinking, while experimental sciences is rigorous, self-critical, and methodological? While it may be true that the two paths have diverged to the point that they no longer have any point of contact, for much of their existence -and this is Lynn Thorndike’s chief point-they constituted a single path with a single history. For both magic and experimental sciences are means of controlling and directing our natural environment ( and people insofar as they are part of that environment)3

(Jacobs,Alan 2000:37-38)

From the above discussion, we would now look at magic as illustrated in Harry Potter by J.k Rowling.

2. Some scenes of magic in Harry Potter

Magic is one of the major themes in Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone. In this novel, Rowling presents the reader with two worlds, the magic world as different from ours that is called (in the books) the Muggle world.


1 Related terms include: Black magic: The arts of doing tricks that seem impossible in order to entertain people. Wizard: A man who is believed to have magic powers Sorcerer: A man with magic powers, who is helped by evil spirits Miracle: An act or event that does not follow the laws of nature and is believed to be caused by God Good magic-use to do good things like heal diseases,save people from difficult situation,etc Bad magic-use to harm people, cause destruction, famine, suffering etc Wehmeier,Sally(Ed):2000.Oxford Advanced learner’s Dictionary of current English. Oxford, Oxford university Press

2 Ther e shal l not be f ound among you anyone who . . . pr act i ces wi t chcr af t , or a soot hsayer , or one who i nt er pr et s omens, or a sor cer er , or one who conj ur es spel l s, or a medi um, or a spi r i t i st , or one who cal l s up t he dead. For al l who do t hese t hi ngs ar e an abomi nat i on t o t he LORD, and because of t hese abomi nat i ons t he LORD your God dr i ves t hem out f r om bef or e you. You shal l be bl amel ess bef or e t he LORD your God. For t hese nat i ons whi ch you wi l l di spossess l i stened to soothsayers and di vi ners; but as for you, t h e LORD your God has not appoi nt ed such f or you Deut . 18: 10- 14

3 Alan Jacob is Professor of English at Wheaton College, USA(Jacobs,Alen, 2000:38)

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The significance of magic in "Harry Potter"
University of Kassel  (Anglistik)
English literature
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
This text is an analyse of magic in Harry Potter.
Magic, Harry Potter, good and evil
Quote paper
Stephen Ekokobe Awung (Author), 2000, The significance of magic in "Harry Potter", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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