Carrie Birmingham’s excellent article, “Harry Potter and the Baptism of the Imagination,” can now be found at Hogwarts Professor.
Here’s an excerpt:
It is true that Harry is not a model compliant child. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry saves his friend Ginny Weasley from certain death, yet Professor McGonagall feels compelled to comment that his efforts involved â€œbreaking a hundred school rules into pieces, by the way,â€ and Dumbledore noted, his mustache quivering (presumably in a smile), that Harry has â€œa certain disregard for rulesâ€ (p. 333). Harry, for the most part though, makes the right choices in the end, that is, until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where we sadly see Harry at his lowest. Self absorbed and resentful, Harry rejects the instructions of Dumbledore and other trustworthy adults and peers, stubbornly refusing to study and practice Occlumency, the protection of oneâ€™s mind from external penetration. The consequences of his choice are tragic. Harry is not an idol but a sinner. We identify with Harry, in part because the books are written from Harryâ€™s perspective, but mostly because we, like Harry, are sinners. In telling a lie, breaking a school rule, or making a gravely poor choice, Harry tells the truth about us.