Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Resolve of the British

I have been inspired to read about the uniquely British reaction to the recent terrorist attacks in London. Here in America, our nature is to respond to such things by being publicly emotional and patriotic. In Britain, their national character (the famed stiff upper lip) responds with a pointed attention to ordinary routine. Andrew Sullivan has described this well, noting a scene in a pub where the TV screen is showing news stories about the terrorist attacks, and the patrons are staring intently at their newspapers turned to the sports page studying the latest football match scores. As he explains, this might easily be mistaken for indifference, but it is really an intentional making of a point, a refusal to allow the terrorists to win by giving in to fear or by allowing their ordinary lives to be disrupted. In a similar observation, an emailer described how in London they had more people show up at work than ever would even on a normal workday. People even crawled out of sickbeds to go into the office because, by God, the terrorists are not going to stop the British from carrying on their British lives. This resolve is admirable.

Most who have cracked open the new Harry Potter book this weekend can't help but notice the uncanny timeliness of JK Rowling's latest installment, in which the civilized world (i.e., England) is under an all-out attack by the magical forces of the Dark Lord Voldemort. Bridges are being blown up, and people hurry through King's Cross train station under a shadow of fear. But in a classically British moment, Dumbledore (the most powerful wizard on the side of goodness), who must certainly be preoccupied with fighting the forces of evil, notices and takes time to comment on someone's garden. My favorite bit so far (in a passage that comes early in the book and gives away nothing, in case you haven't finished it yourself):
"It is a long time since my last visit," said Dumbledore, peering down his crooked nose at Uncle Vernon. "I must say, your agapanthus are flourishing."
This just goes to show that the warnings of the benighted Pope about the Harry Potter book are completely ridiculous. These books will inspire children with examples of courage and resolve in the face of fearful evil, and are to be commended.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you are completely correct in that assessment. Thanks for the wonderful article.