I am in the home stretch of reading the final volume of the Harry Potter book series with my son. We have loved reading (or listening) to the books over the last couple years, inevitably comparing them to the movies and adamantly declaring the inferiority of the films.
A few weeks ago, I posed a question aloud in between chapters: Which is the most popular character in the books, do you think? Obviously, we thought Harry. But beyond that, we weren’t really sure.
To get the inquiry started, I identified the most frequently referenced characters based on my readings, which broke down like so:
By far, Harry is the most frequently named character in the book series, with 16,758 mentions. That he was most frequently referenced wasn’t a surprise. That he was nearly triple the next most frequently named character, Ron, was for me.
As I looked at the list, I was curious how a visualization might bring to life the interactions between characters. Not just for the whole series, but rather broken down per chapter per book.
So I took just six character names from the list–Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Snape, and Voldemort–and created an animated visualization that can be filtered per book. It offered a unique way to see new patterns in the text, one that any HP fan can quickly enjoy. Ready? Pick a book and press start!
One immediate observation I will spend more time thinking about is the relationship between the names Harry and Dumbledore. In the books, it is increasingly clear how complex a character Dumbledore is–both in his own life and in relationship to Harry. Toggling through the different animations above (just click the dropdown menu), I am struck by those chapters where Dumbledore’s name surges above the others, like when he and Harry go hunting horcruxes. Do these surges reveal new contours to Dumbledore as a character, or do they reinforce the impressions I gathered already?
Now, it’s your turn. What do you see? Tell me over on social and hashtag #plottingplots.