Harry Potter: The Wizard Who Came in
from the Cold, By James J. Murtagh, M.D.
(James Murtagh spent 20 years as an
Intensive Care Unit physician.)
"Half Blood Prince" by J
K Rowling Continues Magical blend of philosophy, civics,
and end-of-life ethics
Spoiler alert: Consider seeing
the movie and reading the entire Harry Potter series before reading this Op Ed
When we last left Harry Potter,
Hogwart's cauldron boiled over. Tranquil old button-down school days were over, and
Orwellian evil broke out. Harry and his friends took up against Big Brother to defend
Be aware: the newest movie "The
Half Blood Prince," sharply departs from the book. It had to, as the book was a
whopping 652 pages, densely packed, and could not be fully captured on screen. The
book and movie are in fact two different universes, the movie offering but a small
taste of the full Potter philosophy of good and evil- and the necessity needed to
defeat evil. As Winston Churchill might say, to "Never give in. Never, never,
never, never give in . . . except to convictions of honor."
The book is both more intense and
more covert. Harry battles masters of deception, including double and triple
agents. Lives are sacrificed as pawns for ultimate good. Deep philosophy echoes in
the deceptive children's story.
John Le Carré and Shakespeare are the real unseen ghosts in cold war Hogwarts. Like Potter,
Hamlet featured basically a spy-versus-spy plot, with a deeply undercover prince
who discovers through over-hearing and guile. Hamlet and Harry both are
"the chosen ones," that rue they were ever born to set a kingdom right.
Harry and Hamlet covertly seek their
opponent's weakness. They'd like a direct approach to take arms against a sea of
troubles, but know direct action would breed disaster. Claudius and Voldemort both have almost unlimited resources. Both Harry
and Hamlet must lie low, and let opponents think they are paralyzed by indecision,
then boldly strike. They both fool even the reviewers of their books- even brilliant
men through the ages mistake Hamlet as a dreamer, not a doer. Hamlet in fact achieved
all his objectives by waiting- all were brought to justice, and Hamlet himself
escaped into felicity, though not by his own hand, just as he wished.
Le Carré brilliantly showed spies are best when not told their own
mission. If the master deceives his spy, the spy is most effective. Who is the spy
really working for? Really good double agents don't even know. Hamlet's divided
double-agent consciousness was so complete he sometimes thought himself mad. But,
when the wind blew from north to northeast, he knew a hawk from a handsaw. So
complete the deception, we all continue to debate today exactly what Hamlet knew, and
when did he know it. As J K Rowling writes: "Death is but crossing the world, as
friends do the seas; they live in one another still."
Dumbledore, similar to Le Carré, must
insert a double agent mole deep into Voldemort's command center. To make the
deception complete, he can't even tell Harry his plan. Who is the Half Blood's
Prince's ultimate master? Does Snape work for good or evil?
Ingeniously, Dumbledore works out a startling plan: he orders Snape to
kill Dumbledore! What better way to convince Voldemort! What a set up! Ten times
better than the Trojan horse!
Harry has no idea the man he hates most, Snape, is actually Harry's best
ally! Snape quickly takes over Hogwarts and becomes Voldermort's trusted agent. From
there, Snape can help Harry unseen and unsuspected.
Whoa! Shades of Darth Vader revealing he is Luke's father! Luke
kept miraculously escaping from Vader against impossible odds because his father is
the man behind the curtain! Harry escapes from duels because Snape is the hidden mole
Harry Potter meets the bad, the
good, and the ugly, encountering philosophies of Hegel, Kant, John Stuart Mills,
Nietsche. Dumbledore even drinks the Socratic Hemlock. "The Lightning-Struck Tower" comes right from a pack of tarot
cards that might have been dealt to T.S. Elliot in the Wasteland. Insidiously, Rowling weaves in advanced philosophy, human
freedom, religion, and end-of-life ethics. Did Dumbledore have the right to sacrifice
his own life? Was he dying anyway and asking to go to felicity? Heavy stuff for young
viewers. Even better, youngsters are discussing and debating these ideas with their
friends, in a whole new domino effect. Rowling's dazzling spoon-full-of-sugar has
helped the philosophical medicine go down. Who knows? Many of the youngsters
may reach for Shakespeare next.
Rowling's spell over young
moviegoers is: "Distrust authority - all authority."
Harry Potter strikes a Churchillian
stance and realizes:
Something slouches toward Hogwarts waiting to
be born. Tune in to the final chapter.
James J. Murtagh Jr. MD
Atlanta GA 30329