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Terror and Drowning Used as Similes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban written by J.K. Rowling

Updated on September 17, 2014
Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter Series.  Taken at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure August 2011
Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter Series. Taken at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure August 2011

Similes In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling writes in her novel, The Prisoner of Azkaban, "A rotting, glistening hand, slithering back beneath a black cloak...a long, rattling breath from an unseen mouth...then a cold so penetrating it felt like drowning." 1 In this single sentence from the third installment of the Harry Potter series, Ms. Rowling has used rich imagery and a highly compelling simile. Reading it in context and knowing from where Harry's emotions emanated, I felt chilled to the bone.

The Bogart Shows What Harry Fears Most

This sentence describes Dementors who have been tormenting poor Harry Potter during his third year of wizard school. Their teacher, Professor Lupin, has taken Harry Potter's Defense Against the Dark Arts class to the staff room In the closet of this room hides a shape-shifting creature called a Bogart. The Bogart transforms into the thing its victim fears most. Professor Lupin is teaching them how to vanquish the Bogart using humor. Anticipating his turn to face the creature, Harry recollects the thing he fears most - the Dementor. Dementors are robed creatures that guard the prisoners of Azkaban and whose horrific features, if completely exposed, will cause insanity.

Harry has faced these creatures before and always he is frightened to the point of fainting. Only one exposed appendage and rattling breath noises hint at the disgusting, vile creature beneath the robes. Plagued by dreams of his parents' horrifying death and stalked by another unknown demon, it is understandable that Harry would be overwhelmed by even the suggestion of another horrific creature.

Simile of Drowning

"...then a cold so penetrating it felt like drowning."2 This simile I found exceptionally intriguing and suggestive. The fear and horror felt by Harry Potter at the sight of a Dementor was strongly conveyed through this simile. A drowning man feels terrified and helpless. Terror makes one feel cold as the blood drains away from the extremities. Sitting in water for a long period chills to the bone just as terror does. J.K. Rowling's similes exemplify this feeling brilliantly.


1,2 Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Vancouver, B.C.: Raincoast Books, 1999. p.103.


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    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 6 years ago from Texas

      Interesting HUB - Welcome to HubPages!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sounds like in your life as a trucker there is never a dull moment. Have any of those unusual trucking experiences made it to paper. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. I'll have to check your hubs and see. Thanks so much for the comment. Any feedback is always appreciated by its so much more interesting when a great story comes with it.

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      Ghost32 6 years ago

      The "cold so penetrating" didn't chill me when I read (any of the several times), but then it takes a lot of chill me. After all, while driving truck on night shift in 10 degree weather (Feb. '09 in Colorado), i was hit dead-on by a four-inch water cannon (accidental, not police) under 15 psi pressure. Knocked me down, soaked me to the bone--and I STILL worked the rest of the shift. Without changing into dry clothes.

      However, I do love your enthusiasm for Rowling's choice of wording. There are times--frequiently on HubPages, I'm happy to say--when I read a line and think, "Man, I wish I'd written THAT!"

      Voted Up and Such.