Harry Potter, Christ Figure?

Professional Harry watchers on whether J.K. Rowling's hero is meant to resemble Christ

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John Killinger, author of "God, the Devil and Harry Potter"

: J.K. Rowling has written


Christ story of the 21st century, and it's wonderful that she has attained such a magnificent following worldwide.

From this viewpoint, Harry is the hero of faith par excellence--a wounded hero, a very modest one, who is ready to sacrifice himself completely in behalf of others and who opposes Lord Voldemort, the personification of hatred and evil, with all his strength. Like most great Western literature, the Potter stories are founded on the mortal rivalry of good and evil, and Harry is the Christ-figure with both extraordinary (wizard) and ordinary (Muggle) credentials who becomes the focus of the conflict. Is he spiritual? Not in any self-concious way. But does his existence have spiritual consequences? Of course it does. Vast spiritual consequences. He is the very embodiment of spiritual meaning as we know it.

Richard Abanes, author of "Fantasy and Your Family": Harry is no Christ figure. Jesus of Nazareth sacrificed himself for his enemies. Christ died for the ungodly. He died for us while we were yet sinners. This is agape love--self-less, self-giving, god-like. Harry seems only willing and able to sacrifice for his friends. This is more akin to phileo love, or brotherly love. The parallel, therefore, does not exist.


Killinger: I suspect Rowling is much more deeply Christian than you think and simply doesn't choose, for whatever reasons, to make it a matter of public record...British literature from Beowulf to Bernard Shaw is deeply steeped in the Christian understanding of life and the world, and any writer coming out of that tradition is indelibly stamped and shaped by it. In fact, I'm sure you know that Rowling has said she loved C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein growing up. Could someone suckled on their writings fail to know and use similar structures in her novels?

Harry is indeed a Christ figure, in the same way that Dostoevsky's Prince Myshkin, Mauriac's Xavier Dartilongue, John Irving's Owen Meany, and numerous other literary characters are Christ figures. A Christ figure is a literary device, a particular way of shaping an important character in a novel. He (or she) may not conform in every instance to the biblical image of Jesus, but bears enough of the traits or characteristics to suggest the relationship and send us looking for important messages in the text.

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