Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 35–52 | Cite as

The Politics of Terror: Rereading Harry Potter

  • Courtney B. Strimel


This article claims that J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, with its use of magic, frightening storylines, and character ambiguity is beneficial to children who are dealing with issues related to terror and terrorism. The author explains that the scenarios presented in Rowling's series teach children strategies for coping with both physical and psychological victimization, and argues that the series explores morality issues, allowing child readers to analyze terror-related questions such as why some people are considered evil, why difference is often believed to be bad, and why good people do bad things. It is acknowledged that many critics believe that the same elements claimed as beneficial in the essay are actually immoral and dangerous to child readers. These critics' evaluations are countered in two ways: first, the author uses expert evidence to demonstrate that children are capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality by the age of 5, making fantasy the most viable means for children to cope with terror; and second, the author examines and interprets specific passages within the series to demonstrate how various scenes lead children to explore important, yet frightening issues while remaining in an emotionally safe state. The author concludes that the series has proven to be more beneficial than harmful by presenting evidence gathered from actual child readers who state that the Harry Potter series has allowed them to confront and cope with terror and terrorism in their own lives.

terror children's literature fantasy 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abanes, Richard, Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick. Camp Hill, PA: Horizon, 2001.Google Scholar
  2. Bettelheim, Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Knopf, 1976.Google Scholar
  3. Bridger, Francis, A Charmed Life: The Spirituality of Potterworld. London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 2001.Google Scholar
  4. “Capture their minds and their hearts and souls will follow.” Psychological Operations. 9 Nov. 2002. URL http://www.psywarrior.comGoogle Scholar
  5. Communication Art Major Instructional Goals.” 5 Aug. 2002. URL http:// Scholar
  6. Dowd, Maureen, “When bad things happen to good children,” New York Times, 30 Dec. 2001, late ed.: 4/9. Lexis-Nexis. Dec. 2001.Google Scholar
  7. Handler, Daniel, “Frightening news,” New York Times, 30 October 2001, late ed.: A17. Lexis-Nexis. Oct. 2001.Google Scholar
  8. Myers-Walls, Judith, “Parenting in the wake of terrorism.” 11 Aug. 2002. URL Scholar
  9. Neal, Connie, What's a Christian to do with Harry Potter? Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2001.Google Scholar
  10. Needlman, Robert, “Children's books to soothe worries and fears,” Dr. Spock Online, 25 June2002a. URL,1510,6196,00.htmlGoogle Scholar
  11. Needlman, Robert, “Morality in Harry Potter,” Dr. Spock Online, 25 June 2002b. URL,1510,5959,00.htmlGoogle Scholar
  12. Needlman, Robert, “Reading to children in times of stress,” Dr. Spock Online, 25 June 2002. URL,1510,6178,00.htmlGoogle Scholar
  13. Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997.Google Scholar
  14. Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1999a.Google Scholar
  15. Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 1999b.Google Scholar
  16. Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000.Google Scholar
  17. Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Courtney B. Strimel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations