ABSTRACT: The author presents her supportive opinion of the book series.
I've wanted to write about Harry Potter for a while now and this seems like a perfect time to share my thoughts in a more permanent way than just gushing about it to my friends.
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter is not just a children's story. I think most of us can agree on that, though there are still some people of my generation who confound me when they say, Harry Potter is not a big deal. It IS a big deal! He IS a big deal! To tell the truth, when I was applying to colleges and one of the essay questions was about whom your role model was and why, I wrote about Hermione Granger. I would have loved to have been under the Invisibility Cloak in the admissions office when they saw my essay. You see, at that point, I didn't have someone in my life that I thought was totally and completely awesome who I thought was worth emulating. I wasn't especially popular in my small school though I felt like I occasionally got propped up when I did extremely well in class and people started calling me the "smart girl." I'm not as academically awesome as Hermione - though I often wish I were. I spent a good deal of my college life alone in my room reading and studying or in my favorite part of the library. I felt most like her then. She was and still is a kick-ass scholar to me.
One of the biggest reasons I love this book series is how real and human it is though it is considered a fantasy story. I guess I've never grown up in that sense, but I feel like good fantasy is more real to me than a piece of non-fiction. Stories are real to me, especially the really great ones.
We may be reading and watching this world of wizards unfold through the seven books and soon to be eight movies, but J.K. Rowling is talking to us about very human and real things; friendship, love, loyalty, censorship, racism & elitism, a tyrant's fear of death and emotion, the need to fight for what is good in this world. When I was a child I had a weird sort of obsession with World War II and the Nazis. I'd choose to watch tv specials on the subject and ask my parents for books on the subject from the Scholastic Book Drives. I was (still am) horrified and fascinated with how we humans can push one person to the top, nearly to the position of a god, and support him in his campaign to destroy humanity while believing you are doing a good thing. Fear is a terrifying thing that drugs and blinds and warps people into believing their neighbor must be the enemy and therefore must be taken away to be tortured and killed. The Imperius Curse is a one-step way of getting that type of violent paranoid insanity out of a person. I almost wish it were a real thing so that some of what we humans have done to each other would make a little bit more sense to me; "Oh, they did it not of their own free will but because Voldemort had them under the Imperius Curse."
I find it perfect that Rowling modeled Voldemort and the Death Eaters after Hitler and his Nazis, after all they basically believe the same thing - purity of race, 'this is for the greater good', 'we are better and therefore can torture you into following us or kill you for resisting.' And both groups are deluded and so terribly wrong.
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter is a wonderful allegory for real life and after having read and re-read all seven of the books, I can't help but see similarities around me. Currently, the one I keep seeing is the uncomfortable debate about the new TSA "pat-downs" and the full body scan machine. They tell us that we have nothing to fear if we have nothing to hide. They tell us it's for our own good. Don't we want to be safe? They can make us safe if we only cooperate. These are the same things the Ministry of Magic said first when they were denying Voldemort's return and then when Voldemort overtook the Ministry, made Harry Potter a public enemy and put a price on his head.
I think a huge reason why the Harry Potter series has become such a part of me is that there are seven books and I started reading them when I was thirteen, just over a decade ago. I found this world hidden somewhere in our own world when things when things were a little tumultuous for me; my parents were divorcing and I was about to attend public school for the first time and have to meet loads of new people. These characters were easy for me to love and identify with. I felt like I was connected with strangers on the metro, at the Starbucks and at school who were carrying around these heavy hardback books that I always had in my book-bag or in my arms if my book-bag was too filled with school things.
From the start I wanted to go to Hogwarts but that feeling became a serious longing when I went to college. I felt alone, out of place, the weird one with the "odd" thoughts and the one who really liked discussing the hard stuff. But Hermione would understand. Luna would understand. Luckily there was one particular spot in an academic building at school that reminded me of the Gryffindor common room; it was a sunken sitting room with dark wood paneling, an old fireplace, musty books on the bookshelves and ancient chairs. I visited as often as I could and was seriously irritated when someone else was in my spot - didn't they know it was my sanctuary?
Maybe it was just chance that made J.K. Rowling start publishing her story when she did, but I'd like to think it was perfect timing, perhaps fate, for me. It was the first time I had ever felt so connected to characters in a story; I never thought that was possible. Even though now I know what will happen in the story, I still feel the feelings I first felt when I first read them, it's like I reliving the drama, like I was there. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Luna, Neville and Ginny and the rest of Rowling's characters are all my friends and all part of how I see things. I can't help it, and wouldn't want to if I could.
If I have children, I know they'll grow up reading Harry Potter and I may just make them wait a year between each book so they have a bit of the excitement and anticipation I had when I was part of the world wide phenomenon J.K. Rowling gifted to us.