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Research Essay on Harry Potter

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a turning point in the series’ storyline wherein the themes get increasingly darker and more serious. Harry Potter is famous for defeating the dark wizard, Voldemort when he was a baby after Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. Voldemort disappeared and Harry went to live with his aunt and uncle in a non-magical house for ten years. In Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter is entering his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is fresh off the attack of the newly resurrected Voldemort. Thirteen years after his first defeat by Harry, Voldemort has returned to seize power over the wizarding world and achieve an all-wizard society and power over the non-magical community. He is operating in secret with his followers, death eaters, many of whom hold places of power within the ministry. Harry was the only person who witnessed the return of Voldemort, which led to a divide among the magical population. One part of the magical community believes Voldemort has returned and that Harry is being truthful about Voldemort’s return. This half of the community is led by Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, and the most powerful wizard in centuries. The rest of the magical community, who believe Harry is lying, is led by the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, and the greater part of the Ministry of Magic. Fudge believes Harry and Dumbledore are attempting to overthrow the Ministry by starting rumors that Voldemort has returned, but this could not be more untrue. Dumbledore is attempting to unite the magical community against Voldemort and his followers. As the situation heightens, it leads to social unrest, class conflict, and eventual revolution within the magical community. The Harry Potter storyline is more than just an epic story where good conquers evil but a fairly accurate social critique as many of the situations discussed have been mirrored in recent years, especially within American society.

To analyze the story of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it is important to first review the concepts of Marxism. Karl Marx was a philosopher and an economist. His theories examine an economic and social system that argues social unrest arises when there are social inequalities between classes that prevent the working class, or the proletariat, from ascending into the upper classes, or the bourgeoisie. Marxism expresses that it is impossible for there to be no inequalities that would prevent growth within a capitalist society where social classes exist. The Bourgeoisie remains in power and controls society due to hegemony, or dominance over other social groups, through ideology. Ideology is a representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence. (Berger) By applying Marxist theory, the focus is put on the class structure and shows the attempts of the upper class to depoliticize and invalidate those beneath them, which the lower class attempts to revolt against.

The story of Harry Potter displays two main social groups which represent the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The proletariat strives for validation and adequate representation and seeks more power, which they often struggle to do due to the dominance of the bourgeoisie. In this case, to achieve a higher status, the proletariat strives to prove Voldemort’s return and prepare and protect the community from him. The proletariat consists of Harry Potter, Dumbledore, and the Order of the Phoenix. The Order of the Phoenix is a secret society created by Dumbledore to undermine and destroy the campaigns of Voldemort and his followers. The Order of the Phoenix is made up of everyday people Dumbledore has managed to convince of Voldemort’s return. They work all hours of the day and night in a crusade to protect the magical world and the non-magical community from Voldemort. Their efforts are never rewarded since they must work in secret to protect themselves from the bourgeoisie, who has much more power and dominance. Many times, members of the Order of the Phoenix express the difficulty of their goal, explaining the sensitive nature of their work, for they would be sent to prison for speaking against the ministry. They never give up, however, because they are fighting for the good of the magical society. At the early points of the story, their main goal is to just spread the message to the magical community that Voldemort has returned. Although this seems like a simple goal, their efforts are often undermined and invalidated by the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie is made up of Cornelius Fudge and the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry of Magic is the main antagonist throughout the events of Harry Potter, though they do not realize it. Fudge is only concerned about himself and his status. He is aware of his ineptitude and his biggest fear is being overthrown by Dumbledore. Fudge is able to keep his job solely through hegemony. He understands that the return of Voldemort threatens his high status as Minister for Magic, therefore he leads a campaign of his own to discredit Dumbledore, who, until recently, was well-liked and looked upon as the greatest wizard who ever lived. The ministry assures its people that they are safe, that Dumbledore is losing his marbles, and that it is impossible that Voldemort has returned. By doing this, he is unknowingly doing just as Voldemort would like him to. His ego and his ignorance get in the way of protecting his people, which is his main job. The bourgeoisie does everything in its power to depoliticize Dumbledore since they are unaware of the Order of the Phoenix’s existence. In this case, Dumbledore represents the proletariat in the mind of the ministry and believes that he is acting alone to take over Fudge’s position. The Ministry is also using its power to control the media and education in order to exploit the magical community.

The Order of the Phoenix is aware that the ministry is using the media, the newspaper, and the Daily Prophet, to further undermine their efforts. The public, however, is oblivious to the fact that they are being told lies and shown propaganda to control them and their beliefs. This is an example of an Ideological State Apparatus or ISA. “ISAs are institutions that generate ideologies that subject internalize and act in accordance with” (Berger). The Daily Prophet began printing stories negative stories about Harry in order to invalidate his story when he first declared that Voldemort had returned. They made up false stories claiming that Harry was not right in the head and just wanted more fame. Once Dumbledore stated that Harry was being truthful, the Daily Prophet turned on him, as well, claiming he was going crazy in his old age. Fudge became reliant on the media in order to keep his reputation and job. An already divided community was even further divided in opinion through the ministry’s use of the media. The ministry owns the media, and therefore, controls the masses.

Harry found that it is hard to dispute the media to change a hegemonic society. In an attempt to substantiate his claims, Harry goes to a reporter to tell his story about the night that Voldemort returned. The reporter claims that the Daily Prophet would not print the story because it would show Harry in a good light, which led Harry to find another publication source, the magazine, Quibbler. Harry’s friend, Hermione, believed the Daily Prophet would not print the story because Fudge would not let them, which reinforces the ministry’s use of an ISA. The public doesn’t believe that Voldemort has returned and therefore believes Harry is a liar Even some of Harry’s friends turned on him due to his media coverage. This message was brought to them through the ministry’s use of the media. The media is powerful enough to manipulate the public’s opinions of Harry and Dumbledore, who were both admired before the Daily Prophet turned on them. Once Quibbler published Harry’s article, more people began believing his story. This is an example of knowledge being social, which Marx theorizes causes ideas to not be entirely one’s own. This was also one of the first hints toward a revolution before the ministry realizes it.

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The bourgeoisie also uses its power when it comes to student education at Hogwarts. The ministry, mainly Fudge, was worried Dumbledore was teaching the students magic to fight against the ministry. This kind of paranoia led to the placement of Dolores Umbridge, Undersecretary to Fudge, as professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. This was the beginning of the ministry’s interference at Hogwarts, which is also another form of an ISA. Umbridge used her position at Hogwarts to relay propaganda to the impressionable students, such as telling them Harry was lying about Voldemort’s return. She stopped teaching them how to defend themselves against dark magic in the hope that students would feel they would have no reason to use it. She used her power to create a new, higher position for her at Hogwarts, High Inquisitor, which gave her even more power over the running of the school. Umbridge banned the Quibbler from Hogwarts once she found out about Harry’s article, which is another example of the bourgeoisie using an ISA to control society. She was also able to change the curriculum to better fit in with the ministry’s agenda, get rid of professors that didn’t align with the ministry’s beliefs, and punish students who spoke against her or the ministry. As stated earlier, the ministry had already been using this technique to silence those who sided with Dumbledore. This kind of punishment is an example of a Repressive State Apparatus, or RSA, which is direct enforcement of behavior. (Berger)

Another example of the ministry’s use of an RSA against Harry is when the ministry attempted to arrest Harry and expel him from Hogwarts during the summer for using Magic outside of Hogwarts. Harry was attacked by creatures that were sent to harm him. Harry used magic to save his own life, which is legal according to wizarding law. Harry, Dumbledore, and the ministry were unaware of who had sent the creatures to attack him. Harry later finds out that it was Umbridge who had sent them. Harry was summoned to appear in court to testify about why he used magic and whether it was warranted. Fudge and the rest of the ministry used this opportunity to quiet Harry by arresting him, and thus, depoliticizing him. Harry was not the only person the ministry attempted to silence through the use of an RSA. After learning Harry had been teaching illegal defense classes to his classmates, defying ministry decree, Umbridge and Fudge blamed Dumbledore. They believed Harry’s defense group was Dumbledore’s private army he was planning to use to fight and overthrow the ministry, which was untrue. The two of them attempted to arrest Dumbledore and take him immediately to wizard prison without trial in an attempt to silence him once and for all. Dumbledore, however, had no intention of being imprisoned and he was able to escape before the ministry could arrest him. Dumbledore overpowered the Ministry of Magic singlehandedly and therefore showed that he is magically more powerful, but not socially or politically.

The back-and-forth conflict and class struggle can be frustrating for the reader, which makes the last part of the book much more powerful. When Harry and several other of his classmates realize what Umbridge is trying to do, they form a secret defense group of their own as their way of revolting against the ministry and Umbridge. Harry began teaching his classmates defense against the dark arts secretly to better prepare them for their future. This is a direct violation of Umbridge’s new rules and regulations she had placed upon the students, stating there would be no more academic or extracurricular activities. It also is a rebellion against the ministry’s use of an RSA. This is a small example of a social revolution as defined by Marx to be necessary to overthrow an existing social system. Marx states that in order for a social revolution to occur, “the existing social and political system must be changed…by violence” (Schaff, 1973). The proletariat had been belittled and discredited for so long, that they decided to fight back. The book ends in a fight between the Order of the Phoenix, part of the ministry, and some death eaters. This explosion of violence and revolution is what Marx claims is necessary to overthrow the class system. After this final fight, the proletariat was able to gain power by showing the bourgeoisie and the rest of the magical community that Voldemort really had returned and was back at full strength with more followers than ever. This information caused the magical community to revolt against the ministry and force Fudge out of office. From that point on, the magical world looked to Dumbledore for help when it came to fighting Voldemort.

Although it seems clear that the Ministry of Magic has the highest power in the greater wizarding world, there is evidence to support a more powerful, underlying upper class. Voldemort, although remaining in the shadows for most of the book, appears to have more influence on society than even Fudge. Several of Voldemort’s supporters were employed at the ministry but remained in hiding in order to covertly influence ministry decisions. One attempt at corruption was noticed by Harry, which included a death eater bribing Fudge to get a law passed. Voldemort wished for his return to be entirely kept a secret between him and his followers. This goal seemed to be lost when Harry Potter escaped telling the world of Voldemort’s return. However, the ministry acted exactly as Voldemort wished and completely ignored the fact that he had returned thus giving Voldemort the power he desired. Through the persuasion of the death eaters placed within the ministry, Fudge acted exactly as Voldemort wished, which means Fudge was operating under false consciousness. He believed he had the power, but he did not. Because Fudge wished to retain his social status, he put the magical community in much more danger than he would have if he had listened to Harry and Dumbledore early on. Dumbledore pointed this out to him the first time he had told Fudge about the return of Voldemort, saying, “You are blinded…by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood” (Rowling, ch. 36). Fudge’s false consciousness and love for his social status caused the magical community to be ill-prepared for the return of the most powerful dark wizard to ever live.

All of these themes have been mirrored in recent years, especially within American society. There have been many social revolutions within the past five years, such as the #MeToo Movement, the Climate Crisis Movement, and the March for Our Lives. The March for Our Lives movement has especially exemplified many of the same aspects of revolution as mentioned in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The movement was set up by a group of teenagers who had recently experienced a shooting in their high school where many of their classmates were killed. The American government did not do anything to help prevent more shootings, which is why much of the younger generation revolted. Similarly, when Voldemort returned to the Harry Potter universe, he killed one of Harry’s classmates. The ministry ignored the fact that a student had been killed and failed to act. These similarities have not gone unnoticed by the American people. A viral tweet that was circulating at the time of the march said, “ You know, when I said I wanted the world to be more like Harry Potter I just meant the teleportation and magic stuff, not the entire plot of book 5 where the government refuses to do anything about a deadly threat so the teenagers have to rise up and fight back” (Denzikan, 2018). Similar to the march, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix involves a group of oppressed individuals fighting for justice and fighting to change the political and social ideologies to protect themselves and society.

There have been studies performed that analyze the correlation between the Harry Potter generation and their social views. According to a particular study done by Anthony Gierzynski, professor of political science, there is a direct correlation between the political development of a generation and Harry Potter. “Reading the books correlated with greater levels of acceptance for out-groups, higher political tolerance, less predisposition to authoritarianism, greater support for equality, and greater opposition to the use of violence and torture” (Gierzynski, 2017). As any Harry Potter reader could verify, these are significant themes that are discussed throughout the series. It has been widely agreed upon that the media one consumes often plays a role in societal ideologies and political mindsets. For those who have read and appreciate the story of Harry Potter, anything may be possible because it seems to have prepared them for the real world. Through these findings, it can be believed that the Harry Potter phenomenon has had an effect on the political and social ideologies of its generation.

Although Harry Potter is often described as a children’s book, there are very mature themes, ideas, and situations presented and discussed that often directly correlate with reality. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix displays Karl Marx’s theories on class struggle and eventual revolution in many ways. The Harry Potter books display obvious cases of injustice and a struggle for power, as well as an inspirational display of revolution to change the class dynamic. The series has been inspirational in more ways than one. The role of entertainment media is an important aspect to consider in the development of views on politics, governments, policies, and leaders. This is as important as ever in an age of unlimited choice of media. The storyline is meant to leave readers with a hopeful message for the wizarding world and has also been inspirational when it comes to fighting for justice in their own world.

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Research Essay on Harry Potter. (2023, November 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/research-essay-on-harry-potter/
“Research Essay on Harry Potter.” Edubirdie, 21 Nov. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/research-essay-on-harry-potter/
Research Essay on Harry Potter. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/research-essay-on-harry-potter/> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
Research Essay on Harry Potter [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Nov 21 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/research-essay-on-harry-potter/
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