Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=818185
 
 

Citations (1)



 
 

Footnotes (220)



 


 



Harry Potter and the Unforgivable Curses: Norm-formation, Inconsistency, and the Rule of Law in the Wizarding World


Aaron Schwabach


Thomas Jefferson School of Law


Roger Williams University Law Review, 2005
TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-13

Abstract:     
The astounding success of the Harry Potter series of children's fantasy novels is an unexpected cultural phenomenon, but a welcome one for lawyers and legal academics: Harry's story is a story about law, and about a society trying to establish a rule of law. There is law in every chapter, and on almost every page, of all six books. Sometimes the legal questions hang in the background, while at other times they are the focus of the story: We see numerous trials, and the author gives us statutes, regulations, school rules, and even international agreements to consider.

Harry's world is administered, ineptly, by the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry of Magic's muddling misrule is not quite dictatorship, but it is not fair and just, either. Under the stress of the first war against Voldemort's Death Eaters the Ministry regime, like some Muggle governments in similar circumstances, adopted an ad hoc and inconsistent approach to justice. It imprisons people, and sometimes executes them, without a trial. It keeps careful tabs on law-abiding citizens, but is unable to track down terrorists. It reaches inaccurate results in about half of its criminal trials, in large part because defendants are not represented by counsel. This article attempts to examine the problems with the wizarding word's legal system by focusing on one particular problem: the Unforgivable Curses, three spells whose use on humans is punishable by life imprisonment. The three Unforgivable Curses are the Cruciatus Curse, which causes unbearable pain; the Imperius Curse, which allows the user to control the actions of the victim; and the Killing Curse, which causes instant death.

There are inconsistencies both in the application of the law and in the selection of certain curses as Unforgivable. The choice to outlaw these three spells, and not others that may be even worse, reflects something about the values of both Harry's world and ours. The article explores the moral assumptions underlying this choice, examining the legal treatment of these spells under the Ministry's regime as well as under relevant British (Muggle) and international law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: Children's literature, cultural studies, Harry Potter, humor, humorous, interdisciplinary, international law, fantasy, law & literature, law & popular culture

Accepted Paper Series





Download This Paper

Date posted: October 4, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Schwabach, Aaron, Harry Potter and the Unforgivable Curses: Norm-formation, Inconsistency, and the Rule of Law in the Wizarding World. Roger Williams University Law Review, 2005; TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-13. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=818185

Contact Information

Aaron Schwabach (Contact Author)
Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )
1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4304 (Phone)

Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 14,929
Downloads: 1,661
Download Rank: 4,888
Citations:  1
Footnotes:  220

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo5 in 0.376 seconds