What Harry Potter Teaches Us

by on March 7th, 2015
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What began as a children’s tale about a young boy wizard’s adventures developed into a moral story about love and hatred, good and evil, life and death. Even if a story is set in a yet undiscovered world, it must have the foundations of real life and elements of familiarity to its readers. By doing this, the author allows his or her readers to relate to their characters and understand the emotion within the story. Contrary to popular belief, the saga isn’t just extravagant ideas but rather an adolescent adventure with a universal theme of love, all wrapped within a world where magic exists. Because of this, readers not only fanatically indulged themselves in the books, but learned from them too.

Love is the Greatest Power

“You’re the one who is weak. You will never know love or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”- Order of the Phoenix

One of the most profound ways that J.K. Rowling’s writing was influenced by her personal life is with the abundant ambiance of depression that was demonstrated with the creation of the dementors. First appearing in the third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rowling wrote the following: “Dementors are amongst the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places. They glory in despair; they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Get too near a dementor and you will be left with nothing but the worse experiences of your life.” To deflect the creatures, one must think of the happiest memory they can and allow it to fill them up. Each time Harry did that, he thought of the people he loved most, which proved that by knowing love, he had the power to triumph in even the darkest of times.

Do What Is Right

“It is our choices — that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Chamber of Secrets

As J.K. Rowling explained in her Harvard Commencement speech, one of the greatest experiences of her life took place when she was working at an African research department, in which she learned the importance of human imagination; to have the ability of empathy towards other people. That experience is what had unknowingly informed her of what she had eventually written in the books. “Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power,” she explained. There is where she learned who a truly evil person is and does. The story’s antagonist, Voldemort, embodied every act of evil that Rowling had seen or known. By the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry does not defeat Voldemort because he is more powerful or skilled, but rather because he chose to courageously accept his fate and sacrifice himself for everyone who stood up for what is right. In the end, it was Harry’s good heart that saved him over Voldemort’s evil one.

The Reality of Death and What it Means

“It is the unknown that we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” – Half Blood Prince

Perhaps one of the most heart breaking moments of the entire series came from an equally as emotionally moving magical object called The Mirror of Erised. The Mirror of Erised, or ‘desire’ when read backwards, made its appearance in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “I show not your face but your heart’s desire,” the mirror had written upon its centuries old surface. When Harry looked into the mirror, he was surprised to find his mom and dad smiling back at him. “Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life,” Rowling wrote. “He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness.” Through discovering the mirror, Harry faced the reality of his parent’s deaths for the first time. Instead of dwelling on the dead, he learned to instead use their deaths as a reason to fight and their memory as a reason to move forward.

The road to creating the Harry Potter novels was not an easy one for Joanne Rowling. Although the essential plot never changed, tragedies in J.K. Rowling’s life such as death, poverty, and depression seeped into every part of the books. Furthermore, Rowling’s personal beliefs of love and courage being the greatest powers were instilled into the themes, and weaved into the characters of Harry Potter. A timeless story and profound characters are what reinvents the fantasy classic in each generation. With over 400 million books sold to date, and creating an empire than has transcended age, gender and culture, Rowling proved she has something to teach anybody willing to open a book and indulge in this generation’s classic fantasy.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1998. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2003. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2005. Print.

Rowling, J.K. “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.” www.harvardmagazine.com/commencement/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination


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