Into the Pensieve and Deeper in to Harry PotterDecember 8, 2015
There are reservations some have about books written about a franchise. However, these reservations can be cast aside when picking up Schiffer Publishing Ltd’s ‘Into the Pensieve: The Philosophy and Mythology of Harry Potter’. The book, penned by Chestnut Hill College professor Patrick McCauley, delves into intricacies woven into J.K. Rowling’s infamous work.
For the Harry Potter fan, Dr. McCauley is the kind of professor you want to have in college, hosting a Harry Potter conference every year. It’s an important source material in his teachings and it shows as he applies an analytical eye to exploring the ethical, mythological, and religious allusions in the work. Dr. McCauley’s style is both formal, a wonderful resource for scholarly types, and yet written in a refined concise manner that allows an everyday reader to soak up the knowledge.
The first few chapters heavily flesh out why so many young readers flocked and fell in love with the series. Dr. McCauley points out the Harry Potter shares themes that other beloved books and timeless stories have, such as the quest for the father. This is introduced in the first chapter, and explained more thoroughly in the book, doesn’t necessarily mean a protagonists actual father. Dr. McCauley shows that Harry searches for a father figure in many people in the series, including Professor McGonagall.
Another drawing factor for children to the series is the adventure portion. You may notice that many children’s books have child age characters that are missing a parent or an orphan. This is described in the book as allowing the adventure to commence, as children often don’t have free will under the guidance of parents. There have been iterations of this over and over again. However, these stories will also show the downside of children without restrictions. Children can read these books safely from their own rooms, pining to ride dragons and visit magical worlds, but if given the actual opportunity to ride a dragon, a ferocious fire-breathing incarnation of one, there would be few children raising their hands to go on that ride.
Dr. McCauley also spends a few chapters discussing the ethics and gravitas of the books. As a younger reader grows up with Harry, Ron and Hermione, he or she will be going through some of the same life changes. And some of the same moral dilemmas that come with adolescence as well. It presents a lot of introspection, and not just in the good vs bad way, but even two conflicting good conflicts, when both parties have good intentions and yet cannot reach an agreement. An interesting portion of this discussion centers on Xenophilius Lovegood’s decision to sell out Harry Potter in hopes of getting his kidnapped daughter, Luna Lovegood back. Is what he did morally wrong? The answer lies in a grey area.
There are lots of great moments in this book that will have even the most seasoned Harry Potter reader delving back into deep thought and questions about the franchise. It’s evident that J.K. Rowling has created such a multifaceted piece of literature; scholarly discourse about its subject matter is still being churned up nearly a decade after the last book was published.
Schiffer Publishing did a wonderful job in piecing together this book as well. The layout design is simple yet stunning. The print on the page is clear and makes reading the book a breeze. As a book not sanctioned by the Harry Potter camp, there aren’t pictures to go along, but the clean print will have you forgetting that.
A good gift for friends or family with an interest into the psychology behind literature or even the fan who after all this time still can’t get enough Harry Potter. Not too mention, ‘Into the Pensieve’ is a great way to treat yourself and uncover more about your favorite story. The 176 page book, chock full of interesting ideas and analysis is available for purchase here.