How does one view Harry Potter?

Recently a student I was working with described a task they had at school in which they were to compose an essay that would compare a novel with a film. In my experience, students are often given such tasks to complete without either the lessons or insights into texts to do more than identify and distinguish for the elements of plot or character. My aim is then often to direct their attention to the choices writers and directors make to construct meaning for their audiences (which is a key objective for Outcome 1 in VCE English), and to consider the differences in imagination and experience for the reader and/or audience with respect to different the forms of texts – essentially, a film is not a book, so what’s the real difference?

As a result of the modeled essay (below), as well as a discussion of the different elements of film and roles production crew members play, the student produced an advanced response to the task. Her redrafted essay changed greatly: it changed from a catalogue of minor plot differences to a piece that discussed the creative work done to present the imaginations and ideas of the director of The Hobbit, and her own personal preference for the novel on account of it seeming to be less horrific, violent and disgusting (particularly the parts pertaining to spiders!). Much better 🙂 For a word document version of much better presentation and formatting than what is shown here email me at angus@gbdeducation.com.au.

How does one view Harry Potter?

There’s is a big difference for me between the Harry of J.K.Rowling’s books, and the Harry of the films.

For one, the books always seemed more innocent and unassuming to me and my imagination, and so seemed Harry. Maybe it was the drawing of him on the front cover of the first in the series, but I always thought of Harry as very similar to an Enid Blyton character, like one of the up-beat and adventurous children of The Far-Away Tree, and Hagrid in this conception presents as the ever beaming Moon-face. I’m sure this was the parallel of J.K’s conception, for the experiences in Diagon Alley with both sweets and magic are very like the joys discovered in one of the nicer lands up the ladder and through the hole in the carpet.

Secondly and subsequently, Harry was always rather naive, as his constant confusion about events that Dumbledore just wouldn’t explain promotes. Similarly, in the novels I imagined him as generally free and even pure of violent intent, and an extremely benevolent character even during the most dire of circumstances. Perhaps such a conception can only be sustained through reading fiction, where one’s imagination can excuse the behaviour of the hero, whereas when one films Harry killing creatures and enemies it’s harder not to see him as dangerous!

Finally, the greatest unavoidable difference as presented for the films is an actor called Daniel Radcliff. The problem with casting any actor in a role for a film, particularly a child actor, is that they grow older. By the time the last film comes about there is a whole make-up and CGI department working overtime to present a distinct difference between Harry at Hogwarts and Harry dropping his own kids off at the train. Around about Prisoner of Azkabhan one started to observe that 12 year old Harry was due for a shave! This meant a shift in the audience for the novels that the books might not have otherwise accomplished, or even sought – just like the child actors, they had to get old with the passage of time. That’s what happens when you take a book and make it into a film – suddenly your imagination can’t escape a certain reality…

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