It has been claimed that Literary masterworks all possess magnificent prose, a figurative character, a mythic description, a mythic structure, and specificity. Harry Potter (HP) falls short in a number of these criteria, particularly the last one; specificity. Specificity means that a text must contain a rounded narrative, which ties off it’s plot in a way that makes sense and is perfectly explained, within the world of the novel. A masterwork, therefore, should not include glaring plot holes and inconsistencies. Clichés also create problems when looking into the figurative characters or the mythic description.
HP is a series of novels which have received many awards, both for success and quality of writing. New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani has, in reviews for the sixth (HP and the Half Blood Prince) and the seventh novel (HP and the Deathly Hallows), stated that “Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor” and “It is a novel that pulls together dozens of plot strands from previous volumes, underscoring how cleverly and carefully J. K. Rowling has assembled this giant jigsaw puzzle of an epic.”
HP has become such a global phenomenon that, not only is it being compared to some of the greatest fantasy novel series of all time; Lord of the Rings for example, but the series is also being used in university curricula as examples of excellent writing and fantastic character studies. However to call them excellent pieces of writing might be stretching it a bit.
Reading the novels as an adult may result in a very different conclusion, for those who do not read through rose tinted glasses. HP is far from perfect, if it were, to borrow a metaphor, a jigsaw-puzzle, there would be several pieces missing. HP is full of plot holes that could become crystal clear upon a multiple readings.
Among the most commonly discussed is one of the most important points of the final book, regarding wand ownership. HP wins over Voldemort due to the Elder wand having recognized him as its true owner, because he stole Draco’s wand earlier. This poses several unanswered questions since, throughout the course of the seven novels HP has disarmed and taken by force, several wands. This means that Harry should be the true owner of scores of wands. It is also established early in the seventh novel that another person’s wand will not work as well for the holder, as it would for its true owner. Therefore Harry’s wand should not work for him perfectly since, in the fifth novel, Neville Longbottom disarms him of his wand.
There are many others which fans of the series have discovered and shared. Some of the most prominent are; ‘Harry should be able to see the Thestrals from the first book since he watched his mother die as a baby’ and ‘James emerges from Voldemort’s wand before Lily even though he was killed first’ The simple fact is that HP has far too many of these plot holes for it to be considered as an example of writing excellence.
A plot hole that I have found personally begins in the sixth book. The concept of Inferi (dead bodies reanimated by a dark wizard) is introduced. These Inferi are shown to be extremely powerful, as revealed in the defense against the dark arts class, and only have a single weakness (fire), which has been shown, in the series, to be a difficult form of magic. It is stated throughout this novel and the following one that Inferi have been and are being used by the dark wizards, but when it comes to the climatic battle between the dark wizards and the resistance (majority of which are students) there are no Inferi to be found. For Voldemort to have not brought these creatures, which only have one weakness, that most of his opposition can’t create, seems illogical.
Plot holes are not the only problem with the writing in HP. Occurring just as often are plot inconsistencies. One of the most popular examples of this is found in the seventh novel. On the 52nd page Hermione says “I’ve also modified my parents’ memories”. However on page 88 after Ron says “I’ve never done a Memory Charm” she replies with “nor have I, but I know the theory”. These two quotes completely contradict each other. Hermione has already used the memory charm, to ensure her parents safety, so for her to then claim to have never done one before makes absolutely no sense.
Again as with the plot holes there are many more examples of these inconsistencies. They exist within each book and the inconsistencies can change over the series. Other examples of inconsistencies are; in the fifth book Tonks claims to have only been an auror last year, but then later in the same book professor McGonagall states that there have been no new aurors in the last three years. Another in the very first novel in the series Hagrid says, “I’ll be takin’ Sirius his bike back.” But in the third book, it is made clear that Sirius told Hagrid to keep the bike because he (Sirius) didn’t need it anymore. This inconsistency was later changed to Hagrid simply saying “I’d best get this bike away”.
HP suffers from falling into typical fantasy clichés as well. Harry himself is just about the absolute epitome of cliché fantasy heroes; he is orphaned as a child by the evil wizard, raised in an oppressive household, a prophecy foretells his destiny to defeat the dark lord and many other things, which are examples of a cliché fantasy hero. The evil Voldemort is another typical cliché; with his connection to the hero, constant presence being felt and his being an ugly, deformed being. There are so many examples of cliches throughout the series from characters to plot devices and themes. If the books were being described without referencing any details, it would sound identical to most other fantasy novels written for children.
HP is definitely a great success and wonderful children’s story. However with plot holes, inconsistencies and cliches it is clearly not an example of a masterwork of fiction.