Trip Down Memory Lane
Abstract: One day shortly after seeing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” I felt the need to take a little detour out of my day-to-day routine and talk about this movie, and more particularly, the “Harry Potter” series and how it has affected my life.
“Forgive us now for what we’ve done.
It started out as a bit of fun.
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag.
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They’re gathering round with my friends.
We’re older now, the light is dim
And you are only just beginning.
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
— Nick Cave, “O Children”
For the Harry Potter fanatics of my generation (young adults in their early to mid-twenties), the series holds a special place in our hearts. Yes, the story is incredible, the plot meticulously detailed and thought-out, and the characters seem so alive that you’d swear they were out there walking amongst us, but for us, it’s about something even deeper than that. It defines our childhood and youth in a way that is hard to explain to someone outside of the Harry Potter bubble. If you were a kid in the early eighties, perhaps Star Wars would be akin to this, but Star Wars only consisted of three movies whereas Harry Potter is comprised of 7 novels and 8 movies that came out over a period of ten years.
When I was 11 years old, I came into possession of the first Harry Potter novel, Sorcerer’s Stone. My middle school was holding its annual book fair, and my grandfather (who has since passed) bought me the first three books in the series as a set. None of the latter books had been published yet. It took me about a week to read the three of them; I was immediately captivated and entranced. I still remember sitting in the Memphis airport devouring those books as my mother and I flew up to see my grandmother in Missouri (she has also since passed). A few years later, the first movie arrived in theaters. I was fourteen, in the eighth grade, and it was the fall of 2001.
Another year later, fall of 2002, I was in high school. The second movie came out, Chamber of Secrets. My grandmother had just passed away the week that the film was released, and it affected me more than I ever thought possible. I needed to escape, to escape from my mother’s tears, my father’s silence, and my own escalating sadness and fear. I found refuge in a darkened movie theater as I again left my own life behind to enter that of Harry’s. I was with my first boyfriend, and I remember him holding my hand throughout the film. And so, as Harry battled a Basilisk and the Heir of Slytherin, I battled my own fears. As Harry grew, so did I.
Fast forward to the summer of 2003 and the release of the third film, Prisoner of Azkaban. I was sixteen; I could drive! I had never been to a midnight movie premiere before, but I was determined that I was going to go to this one. My parents had never been willing to stay awake until 3:00 AM to come and pick me up (understandably so), but now that obstacle had been forever removed. A few friends and I went to our local neighborhood theater and saw the third one at midnight (and of course, I drove). It was exhilarating being allowed to drive that late at night because my parents had never allowed me to before. They understood my special attachment to Harry, however, and gave me permission to be out that late. Harry looked a bit older, his voice had lowered; he met his godfather and battled dementors. He learned that the world was not always just because an innocent man had been condemned to live a hellish existence in Azkaban for 12 years. Harry grew older and wiser and so did I.
The fourth and fifth movies I saw during my senior year of high school and freshmen year of college, respectively. It was the fall of 2005 and the summer of 2007. Harry lost his beloved godfather, and I lost my beloved grandfather. Other changes were occurring in my life as well. I left my hometown to go to college. What traveled with me? Every single Harry Potter novel that had been published by August 2006, of course. They reminded me of home. My father shook his head as I loaded them into the car. “You’re not taking those heavy books with you, are you?” he asked. I only nodded in reply; I couldn’t imagine NOT taking them. They were proudly displayed on that bookshelf above my dresser for a full year even though I don’t think I ever took one down. They served as a relic of comfort for me because they had sat in my room at home before they had ever sat on that dorm room shelf. Things were changing for Harry, and they were changing for me as well.
The sixth movie came out not that long ago, summer of 2009. I saw this movie shortly after I had gotten back from Europe. That summer I studied abroad in Berlin and then spent another couple of weeks traveling, which, of course, included a stop in London. At the time, I was feeling a little “Europe-sick” and was missing Berlin and all the adventures I’d had while abroad. But, there were adventures aplenty waiting for me in Half-Blood Prince. Unknowingly, Harry and his friends were starting their last year at Hogwarts, and similarly, I was about to start my last year at college. Harry’s sixth year at school was about coming to terms with his own purpose in life and learning to trust those around him with the dangerous task he was being given. As always, his ever-trusty mentor Dumbledore was there to guide him; this time Dumbledore was giving him the tools he would need to defeat Voldemort. Senior year of college would force me to come to grips with my own purpose in life. For the first time, upon graduation, I would not be a student, but what did that mean? Learning to relinquish a title that was all you’d ever known was not easy. I struggled, questioned my own existence, and wondered what I was put on this earth to do. I did not dream of single-handedly changing the world or even altering it in some small way, but I still felt driven by a sense of purpose. I was here on this earth, and I should therefore accomplish something while here.
Harry’s problem was different from my own. He KNEW his purpose but had to come to grips with what it meant. For him, it meant putting his friends in danger, defeating a great evil in order to save the world, and risking his own life time and time again. This is a heavy order, one with which I certainly could not compete. My own problem was NOT knowing my purpose. Harry’s mission was one of fulfillment whereas mine was one of discovery. But, nevertheless, Harry and I continued to grow together. I was now a bit older than Harry, but I still felt I was learning with him. Harry’s lessons were my own and had always been my own. I was nowhere near ready to let him go yet.
Fast forward again to the here and now. It is the fall of 2010, and the first part of the seventh movie has been released. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forced to abandon their seventh year at Hogwarts because they are refugees. Wanted by the ministry and Voldemort, they must apparate at random to scattered places all throughout England in order to escape Voldemort’s grasp. Harry, of course, is wanted by Voldemort because he is the Dark Lord’s greatest threat. Predicted by a prophecy as the only one who can kill Voldemort, he’s an easy target. Ron is the youngest son of a blood-traitor family, all of whom are in the Order of the Phoenix. Hermione is in a dangerous position as well. As a muggle-born witch, she is considered almost sub-human by Voldemort and his death eaters. The movie presents a heart-breaking view of the death eaters’ beliefs on blood purity when we see Bellatrix Lestrange carve the word “Mudblood” into the skin of Hermione’s arm.
Taken from everything they know and love, the three have only themselves to rely on. This is the first movie where I honestly viewed these characters as “adults.” And, it couldn’t come at a better time as I am finally an “adult” myself. Released from the safe confines of college, I was thrust into a world with terms like “401K,” “salaried,” “insurance,” and “rent.” You can never really be prepared for reality until it hits you. Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s new reality was much scarier than mine, but the four of us still all found ourselves living in a world that was not what we expected.
Deathly Hallows Part 2, I feel, will be a show-stopper, a full-on spectacle of epic proportions as only Hollywood can make. Part 1, however, is missing the fireworks, explosions, and bombastic momentum which, I am sure, will characterize Part 2. Part 1 is about discovering the emotional depths of our three main characters – Harry, Hermione, and Ron develop and grow as much in Part 1 as they do throughout all the previous installments. Ron’s jealousy of Harry and Hermione comes alive in a horrific and terrifying fashion. Harry and Hermione grow closer, but Ron and Hermione’s love is brought to the forefront and put to the ultimate test. We care all the more what happens to them in Part 2 because we’ve seen their sacrifices in Part 1. Harry, Hermione, and Ron really are extraordinary human beings. They sometimes seem super-human, but they are subject to all the common flaws and misgivings of humanity. Somehow, however, this just makes them that much more heroic. Part 1 was a gift of love from the cast and crew to all the loyal HP fanatics who have grown up with the series. To see Harry, Ron, and Hermione mature and to see them reach their full potential as a trio was nothing short of amazing. In my own life, I have just been offered a new job at a wonderful company and, I like to believe, have started to reach my own potential. By the time Part 2 rolls around this summer, perhaps I will finally be able to let Potter go. Both Harry and I will have grown into mature adults willing to accept and face the challenges of our contemporary lives. I still have about seven months to go though before Part 2 is released and before I can safely lay the ghost of Potter and my childhood to rest.