Muggles’ Prejudice: Why “Harry Potter” Shouldn’t be Considered Only as Children’s Literature

by Gilles

In modern society, Harry Potter is often perceived as children’s literature and a lot of people who did not read any of the novels couldn’t see that this kind of book could contain interesting and philosophical ideas. However, this is exactly what we could understand as a prejudice because the opinion that someone has on a book he did not read can hardly be relevant. In fact, the series is full of interesting questions and does give importance to the main subjects of ethics and philosophy, specifically questions of what is good and what is evil. For instance, in Order of the Phoenix Sirius says: “The world isn’t split up between good people and death eaters, people have both light and dark inside them, what matters is the path we choose to act on.” This quest to find the “right path” is exactly what the entire saga is about, which is why the general opinion that stipulates that Harry Potter is not for older readers can be questioned. In this essay I will try to demonstrate that the Harry Potter series is not less interesting for an adult than for a child.

To begin with, it is important to discuss some of the characters we encounter throughout the series. The characters J.K. Rowling created are not just interesting and funny, they are very deep and some of them could be compared with important, historical figures. In this essay’s first part, we will briefly consider three key characters that are probably the most interesting ones to a more mature reader. The first of them is Severus Snape. Snape is a perfect example of Dumbledore’s thesis in accordance to which “love is the most powerful magic.” At the very moment Voldemort kills Lily Evans, Snape switch sides – he cannot allow himself to support the man who killed the person he loved the most. The more he grows up, the more Snape realizes that he will have to choose between his love for Lily and his passion for Dark Magic. But in the end, love triumphs over Dark Magic and Snape’s choices even prove that love is stronger than hate: He protects Harry despite the fact that everything he does reminds him of James, the person he hated the most. So if someone wants to see Snape as a children’s book character, then he will see that Snape is some kind of teacher who shows that love and friendship are very important; but if Snape is considered as an adult or young adult character then he will be interpreted as evidence to what Dumbledore said, “It is our choices that make us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Snape was interested in Dark Magic but chose to fight the most powerful Dark wizard there has ever been instead. Doing this, he showed us that we are never on a path that does not allow us to turn around – whatever we do or whoever we are, we can always change.

The second character who is better understood by adults than by children is Dumbledore. For a young reader, Dumbledore would be like one of Harry’s many replacement fathers, or even Harry’s mentor. But a more experienced reader would see Dumbledore as the very complex character he is. Dumbledore has had power and he knows that he cannot be trusted with it, thus he thinks that, like Plato, a city in which those who are going to rule are least eager to rule it is the best scenario. Dumbledore has known for a long time what his strengths are (as well as his weaknesses) which are both very important to know for someone who claims to be wiser than others. Without Dumbledore, everything Harry has managed to achieve would have been impossible. Think about it – Dumbledore is, in wizarding society, the philosopher of his age. During the series he has said some very interesting quotes that I will write about later on.

The third character that should not be classified as a character for children is the most powerful Dark wizard of all time. Undoubtedly, Lord Voldemort is absolutely not the basic evil character for children’s books and there are very few aspects of his personality that are just simple or predictable. Tom Riddle killed his father when he was just an adolescent and sent his uncle to Azkaban without hesitating. Thus, it seems that at his young age he already had no human feelings except those he expressed for power and his pure-blood-mania. Later on, the Dark Lord would be fascinated by a magical process that allowed him to split his soul and to hide part of it in an object. He has a pronounced disregard for love and friendship and his followers, for the most part, follow him out of fear and not out of loyalty. So if there is one character that is not a traditional children’s book character it is probably Lord Voldemort because of his racism, his Machiavellianism, and his unstoppable lust for power.

I’ve showed here that some characters from the Harry Potter saga are not uniquely for children and that an adult can find at least as much interest in those characters as a child does. But there are other aspects of the books that make me believe that the novels are interesting for older readers as well than for younger. For example if we look at the main topic of the novels; I think it is incontrovertible that death is the pillar of the series, and I can hardly believe that a saga in which death is the main plot can be considered as “children’s literature.” From the first to the seventh and last volume of the saga, Harry’s main objective is to find and kill Voldemort – to get revenge for his parent’s murder. And during the entire story, Death is omnipresent, taking allies and enemies of Harry’s alike and even being the main subject of an ancient tale…

Moreover, there are a lot of ideas concerning oppression and racism in the novels, especially in the second book. Both the Basilisk’s and Voldemort’s unique goal being to kill all half-bloods, we could make a connection between this goal and a historical period which is not exactly the perfect children’s story. In addition to that, the saga is getting darker with every book. In the first Harry Potter book, the reader finds a young boy who discovers an entire new world which he has dreamed about and which is delivering him from all his problems but when the seventh book ends we leave a 17-year old boy who has witnessed murder and torture, a boy who has been targeted for many years and who has lost his entire family.

The last thing that has to be mentioned as a very dark aspect of the series is one type of creature used by the ministry of magic to guard the wizard prison Azkaban. The dementors are not just evil creatures, they are demoniac. In a children’s book you would find guards who can kill you as the ultimate punishment but in Harry Potter the dementors can suck your soul out of your body and leave you alive with nothing but the worst memories you possess. It is a method that provokes such an agony that it will inevitably lead to the victim’s death. The dementor is a type of creature that you would rarely find in any children’s book because they are too terrifying and inhuman for a child’s imagination.

This essay’s last part will try to ascertain the topics that are present in both the Harry Potter novels and larger adult society. Consider Belgium’s motto: “Unity is strength.” Dumbledore made this motto the leading idea of his Order of the Phoenix. As Sirius says in the fifth book, Dumbledore’s followers are “recruiting heavily.” Even Voldemort has understood it and tries to have the giants and other creatures on his side. Yet, unluckily for him, Voldemort did not understand it fully because he still denied love and friendship and, because Harry and Dumbledore had understood that it was crucial to have friends, they both created successful and unified armies. Voldemort’s failure to do so was, in the end, what made him lose the war.

Politics is also a pervading topic in the real (and in Harry’s) world. Harry is harassed by several ministers of magic and the ministry is corrupt and power-minded. Cornelius Fudge is blinded by his fear and his lust for power, which is why he does everything within his strength to deny the Dark Lord’s return. The real world, too, is full of corrupt people that could be compared with Fudge or Scrimgeour, which is why politics in Harry Potter are very similar to those in the real world. As it happens, the ministry’s catastrophic politics lead us to another issue that takes place in the wizarding and real worlds: the corruption of the media. That politicians have absolute control over the media is nothing unfamiliar to us in the new in the real world, and that is a key point for some of the Harry Potter novels like Goblet of fire. Rita Skeeters’s sarcasm does not spare anyone and her methods to make the public believe that Harry is psychologically instable are sadly effective. She is in love with money and fame and there is nothing she would not do to make the front page of the daily prophet. Thus the absolute control of the media by politicians is a typical adult topic, which is another argument to reinforce the idea that Harry Potter is not exclusively for children.

As this essay comes to an end, there are still three quotes said by Professor Dumbledore that have to be mentioned and that an adult reader can appreciate far more than a younger fan. The first one is from Chamber of Secrets when Harry comes back from the chamber and tells Dumbledore that he is afraid he has too many things in common with Voldemort. Dumbledore answers him: “It is our choices, Harry, that makes us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” This quote is very true and very philosophical because it says that whatever we have done or whoever we are, there is always a chance to become someone else. This sentiment is very Dumbledore-minded, because he has always had the impression that everyone could change and become someone better. Snape is proof of that because even as everything seemed to piece together in Harry’s mind that he was the perfect deatheater, Snape chose to love someone and to dedicate his life to that person.

The second quote comes from Deathly Hallows when Harry finally meets Dumbledore in his “King’s-Cross dream.” Harry asks Dumbledore if everything that is surrounding him is real or if it is just happening in his head, Dumbledore answers: “Of course it is happening in your head, but why shouldn’t it be real?” Dumbledore, unlike Plato, doesn’t make any differences between the “real” world and the mind’s world. This is a very interesting point of view on a question that a lot of philosophers have written about and it should make all the older readers think.

The last quote is from Chamber of Secrets in a scene where Dumbledore tells Harry that: “We will have to choose between what is right and what is easy.” This quote can be adapted to a countless number of situation and is, again, easier to understand for an adult than for a child.

To conclude, we can say that in the Harry Potter novels the characters are very well developed, the series is getting darker and better with every book and the main topics we find in it are not just topics that can make a child laugh, but also topics that can make an adult think. Someone who would still not be convinced that the saga is intelligent enough for adults should think about some of the book’s very intellectual issues outlined here, as well as the problems I did not write about like the house-elves’s enslavement. But I think we have seen that the Harry Potter saga is not, as a lot of people think, solely about magic and wonders and only meant as children literature, but a text that is very interesting and fascinating for adults, as well.