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Themes from Harry Potter

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The following is a list of themes considered to play a part in the Harry Potter Series, both academically and by J.K Rowling.


"Its the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more."
Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter

According to Rowling, one of the most major themes in the books is death. She once stated, "My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry's parents. There is Voldemort's obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We're all frightened of it."[1]

Throughout the series, it becomes clear that death is not something to fear, but "life's next big adventure".[2]

Another major theme in the story is acceptance. Death plays it's greatest part in the seventh book. The story of the Peverell brothers who tried to cheated Death, and the objects which when reunited, would make one Master of Death, was not about achieving immortality, but about accepting death. The only way someone can defeat death is when they no longer fears death, but accept it. They instead "greet Death as an old friend".[3]

However, Rowling also states that death can be viewed as something beautiful, and more meaningful than it appears. The series also symbolises loss and grief. Dumbledore's comforting of Harry when he realises his father did not come back to life to help him, also shows acceptance, "You think the dead we loved every truly leave us? You think we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?"[4]


"... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever."
Dumbledore's description of love[src]

Love is another major theme in the books. It is described as one of the only things which can conquer the Dark Arts and even death, evident in Lily Potter's sacrifice. When she died to save her son, it created an ancient spell which protected Harry when he was hit with the killing curse and making him "The Boy who Lived".[5] When Harry died to save his friends and allies at the Battle of Hogwarts, his sacrifice saved them and made them untouchable to the Death Eaters. [6]

Love always plays a notable part in helping to tip the favour in the side of good. It was Severus Snape’s love for Lily which redeemed him.[7] Narcissa Malfoy’s love for her son led her to lie to Voldemort about Harry’s death, saving his life and giving him the chance to defeat Voldemort. [6]

Harry’s ability to love and be loved is a defining difference between him and Voldemort. Harry builds up friendships, a support system of friends that Voldemort could never hope to match.

Behind the scenes

  • Rowling once said that she didn’t purposely try to make the themes that are “deeply entrenched in the whole plot" happen. She prefers to let themes "grow organically", rather than sitting down and consciously attempting to impart such ideas to her readers.[8]

Notes and references

  1. J. K Rowling's interview with the Daily Telegraph
  2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 21 (The Tale of the Three Brothers)
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 22 (Owl Post Again)
  5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  8. Interview with Quick Quote Quill

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