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  • The Generations of Harry Potter

       May 15, 2011

    I got really annoyed reading this article about James Tate and his connection to Harry Potter. I thought it was a lazy attempt to get pageviews by simply mentioning "Harry Potter" that didn't actually even talk about the many real ways that the Harry Potter series does question authority, which would actually make an interesting article.

    In the series, typical authority figures like parents or the government (the Ministry of Magic) are either absent or so ineffectual as to not deserve respect. The heroes constantly break the rules and rebels like the Weasley twins are completely glorified. I didn't even have to look at her Wikipedia page to know that J.K. Rowling was a member of Generation X - that viewpoint is just so obvious throughout the series.

    Once I thought about Harry Potter in terms of generations, it was so fun & easy to analyze. I'm fascinated by the Generations series by Neil Howe and William Strauss. The gist of their books is that:

    American generations follow a cycle that produces four generational archetypes: artists, prophets, nomads and heroes. The "Silent Generation" of my parents (born between 1925-1942) as well as today's toddlers (2001-present) are the artist archetype. The Baby Boomers (1943-1960) are prophets. Generation X (1961-1981) are nomads and the G.I. "greatest generation" (1901-1924) and Millennials (1982-2000) are heroes. According to Strauss & Howe, each archetype has a persona and endowments:
    • Artists are about pluralism, expertise and due process
    • Prophets bring vision, values and religion
    • Nomads most value liberty, survival and honor
    • Heroes are all about community, affluence and technology

    According to Howe & Strauss, times of great crisis tend to happen when Prophets are the rulers and Heroes are the foot soldiers. Knowing that, isn't it easy to break down the Harry Potter characters into their respective generations?

    Dumbledore & Voldemort are clearly Prophets, representing opposite ends of good and evil.

    There aren't too many artists in the series, but I think Molly & Arthur Weasley fit the bill. They're not rash like the Nomads. They're going to get things done, but would, frankly, prefer to work through the system to do so.

    Harry's parents and their friends like Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are our Nomads. Rule breakers as kids, now as adults they're quick to join up to defeat Voldemort.

    And obviously, Harry, Hermione, Ron and friends are the Heroes. What's interesting is that since the book was written by a Nomad we have this conflict between Harry wanting to just get things done on his own like a Nomad would and his need to involve others in his quest like a Hero should.

    It's funny how many "hero journey" tales like this follow this same generational pattern. In Star Wars, for example, it's easy to see that Luke is the Hero, Han Solo is a Nomad, Obi Wan is the Artist and the Emperor is the Prophet. It must be literary satisfying because it literally makes sense, huh?

    Posted by kris at May 15, 2011 08:58 AM

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