by Maxie Kalish
So, you love Harry Potter. You think it’s the owl’s hoot. Your English teacher, who just had an extensive, in depth conversation with you about The Catcher in the Rye, is not feeling the love. Or even the like. Welcome to my life. You can take the friends laughing at you, even the random weird stares for wearing a towel to school because you decided to dress up as Winky. Now, however, you have encountered the absolute worst type of hater: the teacher. My honors 11 English teacher, whom I love very much, made me angry with this particular conversation:
English Teacher: We will be reading Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I absolutely love his work and I eagerly await each of his new books to come out.
Random girl in English class: like Harry Potter!
English Teacher: I like to think that we’re above Harry Potter.
May I point out that I am in an American Literature class, and she is having us read contemporary Pat Conroy, who does not even deserve to breathe the same air as Jo? (I’m just being plain old mean now.) When it comes down to it, with whom does the power lay to rate which contemporary author is better, or more worthy of being declared a classic? I would say that I do, but most unfortunately, I am finding it extremely difficult to get past the first 150 pages of Prince of Tides.
The hating English teacher can say that we’re above Harry Potter but, in reality, I can not foresee anything ever going above Harry Potter. Harry Potter is generally thought of as a children’s novel (although today I found a Harry Potter birthday card in a teen-birthday slot which was pretty awesome), but why? When I was in my one digit days, I do not remember reading about the Dark Lord slaughtering people, Unforgivable Curses that caused excruciating pain, and magic that controlled other peoples movements . The deepest thing I can remember from books in those days was the time Cam Jansen caught someone stealing CDs by hiding them in a hollow watermelon. As a 7-year-old, when I read my Cam Jansen books, I was not thinking, wow, these people that she catches are horrible identity frauds, thieves, etc. Instead, I was thinking about how cool it was that she had a photographic memory. That is the magic (pardon the pun) of the child’s mind. They can love the Harry Potter books because Harry, Ron and Hermione get to make stuff levitate and talk to moving portraits and such things.
Unfortunately, it is the childlike perception of Harry Potter that has become popular amongst those who have yet to read the books. When in reality, with just five minutes on MuggleNet, an English teacher can see deeper analysis of Jo’s masterpiece than they can ever find on F. Scott Fitzgerald. They can see that people who are not children, and who do not have on rose tinted glasses, see a classic good vs. evil story, following the trend of well-respected classics such as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or a plethora of Shakespeare’s works.
In New York State, hell rises in the form of a six hour standardized test called the English Regents. This encompasses having to write four essays, most of which we must talk about use of literary elements. Of course, this leads to teachers feeling the need to constantly drill these terms into our heads. Harry Potter has all those lovely literary elements that make up the classics. Red Herrings like Agatha Christie, Satire like J.D. Salinger, Characterization like Harper Lee, Symbolism like T.H. White, Imagery like Nathaniel Hawthorne (much more interesting use of imagery than a chapter about a rose bush, if you ask me), along with many others.
I suppose what this all comes down to, is next time a teacher is ragging on Harry Potter, don’t just sit there, but speak up! Tell him/her that its got just as much (enter literary element here) in it as (enter current book reading in English class here). That there is more analysis of it available than there is of (insert current book reading in English class here).