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Why is Harry Potter such a strong contender for one of the greatest series of all time? Is it the pity and compassion we feel for this poor, undernourished orphan living under the stairs? Do we admire his courage and bravery in conquering his darkest enemy? Or are we jealous of the magical world he lives in?
Personally, I love Harry Potter. He is my friend. We grew up together, feared and fought the Dark Lord together and have entered adulthood together.
I received the first four Harry Potter books (the only one’s published at the time!) for my tenth birthday. As the next books were published, I stayed of an age with Harry and his friends and enjoyed picking my NEWT subjects and taking Apparition classes alongside my magical friends. I may have been graduating from VCE, starting University and starting my first serious relationship, but Harry was doing the same thing in his world. I understood his fears and his challenges as I encountered them in reality. I appreciated his empathy.
This series is magical, not because of the subject matter, but because it has enchanted a whole new generation of readers; individuals of all ages who have been inspired by their experiences reading Harry Potter, and are branching out and trying to find more adventures in literature.
What I Liked: I enjoy my adventures with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I like watching their personalities grow, and sharing in the teenage angst we all experience. When they fight with their friends, find love or face their fears, I empathise and can live through the characters Rowling has created.
These books mature with Harry. He transforms from a gawky boy in a magic-less, mundane world of muggles, to a wizard confident in conquering the dangers facing his new home and friends.
My favourite instalment: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I’m definitely not alone in preferring HP3 to the rest of the series. This book is so popular it is set as a school book. I got the opportunity to study it in one of my Children’s Literature classes in the third year of my Bachelor of Arts.
In HP3, Harry begins his emotional growth, entering adolescents and learning to deal with the anger and fear caused by the onset of crazy magical hormones. As Harry learns more about his parents identities, their friends and their ultimate betrayal, he must learn to recognise loyalty and truth in his own relationships. When Harry finally confronts his Godfather, he must channel the morals and compassion of his parents, in order to see justice for their deaths.
What I Didn’t Like:
I don’t really have any of the classic issues with Harry Potter. I don’t have a problem with J.K Rowlings style or story telling, and I find her characters as realistic as they can be when living in a fictional magical world. I occasionally find Harry a bit too temperamental in books 4-7, but I know enough teenage boys to know they are angry, gruff and uncooperative.
2021 update: In recent years, I’ve come to better understand how the use of stereotypes and the lack of diversity in the Harry Potter series is harmful. I still cherish the books, but when I read them now, I try to do so with an awareness of the racism that imbues the books – particularly in regards to the representation of many magical creatures. Goblins in literature been recognised as examples of anti-Semitic stereotypes and caricatures of Jewish people; while this may not have been intentional, Harry Potter has so much influence that it continues to perpetuate a harmful mythology.
For an insightful look into some of the problems with the Harry Potter universe, have a look at these articles that express it more clearly than I can:
JK Rowling has always been tone-deaf. Just look at the Harry Potter Universe written by Shubhangi Misra
Conclusion: Harry Potter will forever be one of my go-to stories when I’m sick or lonely. It makes me feel better, and reminds me that magic exists everywhere. I can acknowledge that there are significant problems and Rowling has become problematic – I know I will no longer support her as an author by purchasing merchandise and if my books ever need to be replaced, it will be second hand – but I am also grateful that these books inspired generations of children to read.