A Formalist Guide to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Mikhail Bakhtin has provided an intricate insight to what a novel entails. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone fits into the form that Bakhtin has created. Using laughter, plot, setting, and character development, Harry Potter is able to connect with its audiences in the way that Bakhtin feels a novel should. Mikhail Bakhtin’s study of the novel’s form allows readers to better understand the world and characters that are constructed in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Mikhail Bakhtin gives a thorough explanation of what a novel should be and what it should include in his work Epic and Novel: Towards a Methodology for the Study of the Novel. Bakhtin explains that in order to have a novel you must have laughter, a plot set in the present working towards the future, and relatable characters. Throughout his comparison of the epic and novel, Bakhtin explains what a novel does that makes it different from the epic. Using the three characteristics that were previously mentioned (laughter, plot, and characters), Bakhtin shows how each of these elements makes a novel work as a whole. Bakhtin discusses that the use of laughter is vital because “[It] destroys the epic,” (23). Laughter is crucial to break down the wall of fear that can be created by unknown texts and allow the reader to continue further investigation. Bakhtin continues on to explain that the plot in a novel is continuing and needs detail, stating, “The absence of internal conclusiveness and exhaustiveness creates a sharp increase in demands for an external and formal completedness and exhaustiveness, especially in regards to plot line” (Bakhtin 31). He explains that since the novel’s plot-line is not finished and is continuing to move towards the future, there must be a large amount of detail. Unlike the epic where the plot is already complete, the novel needs more detail because it is still continuing to move forward. The reader must be able to navigate where the novel is going and what is going on in order to comprehend the plot, and in order to do that, plot must be detailed. Finally, Bakhtin discusses the type of character that a novel would include. A novel should include a character that “...should not be ‘heroic’ in either the epic or the tragic sense of the word; he should combine in himself negative as well as positive features, low as well as lofty, ridiculous as well as serious” (10). The character should also “not be portrayed as an already completed and unchanging person but as one who is evolving and developing, a person who learns from life” (10). The characters, regardless of age must continue to develop and learn from their mistakes. Bakhtin uses all of the elements to describe what a novel should include. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone includes these elements which allows its readers to comprehend and connect with the story.
Harry Potter and the...