what Harry sees, feels and experienc-
es, but nothing more. This creates a
peculiar effect for the reader. While the
reader only sees Harry’s point of view,
he still feels like he has an ‘outside’
point of view and knows what is go-
ing on due to the third-person narra-
tive. Because of this, the reader starts
to identify with Harry and the way he
thinks without much questioning it, as
it still feels like an unbiased decision
of the reader caused by the seemingly
objective view the narration offers. So,
when Harry suspects that Snape is the
mean guy because he tries to kill him
and plans to steal the philosopher’s
stone while threatening poor Profes-
sor Quirrell, we agree with him. But
then are shocked to learn at the end
that Quirrell was the evil schemer and
it was Snape who tried to prevent
Quirrell’s plans. A major plot twist.
Yet, one that has been carefully hinted
at all along (Quirrell was always right
there when something suspicious or
dangerous happened, e.g. at the Quid-
ditch match or when the troll was in
the castle). The question now is, why is
it that hardly anyone saw this coming?
The answer is narrative misdirection.
A writing technique, which is used to
deliberately mislead the reader into a
wrong conclusion from the given infor-
mation, only to reveal the truth later,
creating an, ideally, unsuspected plot
twist. To achieve this, there are several
options for the narration. One is that
the narrator believes that he or she is
telling the truth and is fooled along-
side with the reader. This is somewhat
the case in the Harry Potter novels.
Here, the narrator tells us everything
about what Harry knows and sees and
because we identify with Harry, we
believe it to be the truth- and it is true,
because Harry knows and sees exactly
what the narrator tells us, thus his
conclusions seem reasonable at the
time. However, it’s just not the truth,
because Harry doesn’t always have all
the information he needs to see the
whole truth. The crucial point is that
the reader believes that this is in fact
the case, that we are presented with
all the information because the story
is told from a third-person narrator
and not, in fact, from Harry himself.
But we only know what Harry knows
and nothing more. We never knew
about Snape’s true intents because
Harry didn’t. We never knew about
Quirrell’s evil plans because Harry
didn’t. Thus, at the end, when Harry
discovers Quirrell true colours, we are
as thunderstruck as Harry is.
The fascinating thing about this is,
that J.K. Rowling uses this technique in
every single novel of the saga and we
fall for it every single time. For exam-
ple, in book two it’s Tom Riddle’s diary
or in book four the Alastor Moody im-
poster. But the best example is surely
the true allegiance of Severus Snape,
the ultimate narrative misdirection,
where the reader is misled through
every book until the very end. In sum-
mary one could say that the plot twists
get us every time because J.K. Rowling
fools us every time by misleading us.
So, coming back to the question on
how J.K. Rowling manage to create a
saga that fascinated its readership re-
peatedly, even though the basic out-
line was always the same, the answer
remains a multifaceted one. Yet one
answer could be: Because Rowling
mastered the art of narrative misdi-
Image sources were open source or be-
long to the author, unless otherwise
 Herman Melville, Moby Dick. UK: Mac-
millan Collector’s Library Vol. 62, 2016, p.
2. Booth Wayne, The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chi-
cago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.
3. Granger John, Unlocking Harry Potter.
Wayne, Pennsylvania: Zossima Press, 2016.
4. Melville Herman, Moby Dick. UK: Macmil-
lan Collector’s Library Vol. 62, 2016, p. 31.
5. Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter the Com-
plete Collection,1-7 (London: Bloomsbury,
Johannes Kunath is studying
History, English and Philosophy
on a teacher’s degree at the
University of Tübingen, Germany.
July 2018 | NEUROMAG |