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Published in Print: February 13, 2002, as Worth Noting

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Worth Noting

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“Critics of the expanding [Harry] Potter empire claim to have the best interests of children at heart. They believe that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Potter books, is promoting dangerous ideas that could lead young minds astray or (at best) writing clever books that contribute to a rampant culture of consumerism. But the attacks on the morality of the Potter series are misplaced.

Focusing on the books themselves shows that Rowling develops an essentially Stoic moral philosophy through the ethical dilemmas in which she places Harry and his friends—dilemmas requiring them to think in complex ways about right and wrong. Her version of Stoicism is admittedly an updated one, but nonetheless one whose chief virtue is old-fashioned constancy. Harry's resolution in the face of adversity is the result of conscious choice and attention to what is and is not within his control. Harry worries about who he is, but realizes that what he does matters most. And, I believe, so do the children reading the books.”

Edmund Kern, an associate professor of history at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., writing on "Harry Potter, Stoic Boy Wonder" in The Chronicle of Higher Education (The Chronicle Review, Nov. 16, 2001).

Vol. 21, Issue 22, Page 46

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