Harry Potter, the Phenomenon

5 Sep

Hey, man!  Let’s talk about…HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE!

 

But first, an apology!

 

I know that this is supposed to be a video.  Next week, pinky promise, there WILL be a video post, but for our first one it will have to be a vlog.  Also, some of you may be saying, “hey, it’s not September 4th!”

It is for me!

I may have mentioned that I moved back to the town where I grew up a few weeks ago.  Well, I got offered a job very last minute and moved nearly 3000 miles this past week to beautiful California!  As great as this opportunity is, and as excited as I am to be here, it made the first week of HM!LR a little stressful and put me very far behind.

So, I apologize, but for this week, the post is a bit late and a blog post.

 

 

What made Harry Potter so successful?

 

I’m interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this.  What is it about this book that sparked such international frenzy?  Why did HP&TSS connect with so many people from so many backgrounds all over the world?  What is it, exactly, that made Harry Potter’s story so special?  Remember: HP&TSS might not be your favorite book in the series, but it’s (probably) the one you read first.  You kept going.  Why?

There’s the obvious reason: it’s a good book.  And it is, really, but I think there’s more to it than that.

Rowling created something special when she designed her wizarding world.  It’s full of banks run by goblins and guarded by dragons, mail delivered by owls, staircases the move and change, portraits that get bored and go to visit other portraits–things that are magical and fantastic.  Reading, for me, is often a way to escape to a new world; truly, there are few worlds to which I’d rather escape.

For me, however, what makes this book–the whole series–so special is the fact that she created a world that is so whimsical and yet filled it with problems that are extremely realistic.

I think the best example is discrimination.  In Harry Potter’s fantastical wizarding paradise, there are some who believe that not all witches and wizards are created equal.  Those who come from long lines of wizards are considered “pure,” while people who are born to muggle (people born without magic) parents and develop powers through happenstance are considered a taint on society.

We don’t see too much of this theme in HP&TSS, though it definitely pops up; most notably, in Harry’s first conversation with Draco Malfoy.  Malfoy has no problems telling Harry that he thinks it’s terrible that they let children from muggle families into Hogwarts.

Here is something that no one can help: where, or to whom, they are born.  And yet these muggleborns are judged–and the problems and tension only worsen throughout the books.

I really admire writers who don’t treat youth like they’re idiots–being young doesn’t mean you are stupid, it means you are, well, young.  Rowling could have settled for making up some magical, wonderful fairyland and guiding an insipid protagonist through some equally insipid adventures.

But she didn’t.

The reason I think the  Harry Potter series works–and works so freaking well–is because it doesn’t pander to any audience.  The problems in the wizarding world reflect problems that all human beings across the world struggle with  in every day life: hatred, fear, discrimination, injustice, and the fight to overcome all of these things.

What we see in the first Harry Potter novel is a glimpse of a new world; it charms Harry Potter and readers alike.  And how could it not?  It is wonderful there.  We want to be there, and later, as Harry grows and experiences the not-so-nice aspects of his new world, we want him to fight for it.

Rowling gives us just enough of this world in her first book that we wish it were real, and that we want to see more.  I think HP&TSS is really excellent because it gives us just a taste of both the best ad worst parts of Harry’s new life and leaves us wanting more.

 

 

That’s my take.  What’s yours?

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11 Responses to “Harry Potter, the Phenomenon”

  1. Jeyna Grace September 5, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    totally agree with your point.

    • heymanletsread September 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Thanks! I was hoping it made sense. 🙂 What did you think of the book?

      • Jeyna Grace September 5, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

        Found the book good, it started the series perfectly.

  2. tsukikomew September 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    I discovered HP when I was ten and I think it brought kids in when they were around that age. They got to grow up with Harry Potter and his friends and got to deal with some of the basic issues they did. There was dating and crushes, rule-breaking, getting in trouble, making life decisions, and discovering what kind of person you are.

    I agree with you that Harry Potter highlights many realistic issues that we have faced or still do face. We have discrimination, slavery, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, taking a stand, etc. If Harry doesn’t directly face an issue someone else does. Hermione deals with being a know-it-all while Neville deals with being the victim. Both use that in order to succeed in their future.

    HP holds messages in them for all ages about perseverance, patience, loyalty, etc. It’s a series that created a detailed world where we can all get lost and have some fun. At the end of the story we all want to play Quidditch and be sorted into a house. We all want to learn the spells and visit Diagon Alley. The world was so real, we wanted it to be real.

    • heymanletsread September 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

      I like your point about growing up with Harry. Most people my age started the book around 9 – 12, so we grew up and had the same problems as the main group of characters around the same time as them. It makes the book so easy to relate to! And like I said, I think everyone’s ability to connect with the story within the fantasy is the crux of HP’s success.

      I love that you brought up Neville, because I totally wanted to and then forgot. Maybe it’s because I’ve read the seventh book the most recently, but I forgot just how much of a wimp Neville could be. He has his brave moments–when he stands up to Harry, Hermione, and Ron when they’re trying to go after the stone–but he also has plenty of moments where he comes off as dopey and scared. Rereading Sorcerer’s Stone made me really appreciate his transformation, and the character in general.

      • tsukikomew September 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

        Okay so maybe I’m crazy and all my replies will show up randomly but it doesn’t seem to let me reply.

        I’ll keep checking to see if they magically appear.

        http://findingmydeathstar.blogspot.com (My challenge blog)

      • heymanletsread September 5, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

        Have you commented any time other than just now and on the Harry Potter post? I have received both of those! I will also post your blog link soon. 🙂

  3. jamiemcq September 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    For me, one of the coolest parts of the Sorcerer’s Stone (and in the whole series) was the small bends to reality. Like how Harry’s parents are dead and he doesn’t remember them… it’s not like Rowling tried to make it so that wizards could resurrect the dead (which I guess she could have, it was her world!), but she gave us the Mirror of Erised where he could stand beside them. (And later the patronus) The mirror, for me, was one of the most touching moments ever, in all the books I’ve read. And further, the recurring theme of Harry’s desire to better know & understand his parents and their friends was relate-able and really sweet.

    I also like the way the story is told. In SS we’re introduced to Hogwarts and wizarding with the First Years (also newcomers to this world), but we also have Dumbledore to kind of be the experienced and wise voice, teaching lessons.

    I totally agree with your point that the magical world was a huge escape. I remember clearly devouring the first three books in the span of a week, loving that I could just open them up and be somewhere else where a spell existed to do basically anything 🙂

    • heymanletsread September 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

      The part with the mirror of Erised IS really touching–and sad. It must be hard to be eleven and get your first glimpse of your parents; I can see why Harry would go back night after night, and why Dumbledore had to take the mirror away. And I like what you said about Dumbledore! I had never thought of it that way, but he kind of IS a mentor for us, the readers, as well as for Harry. 🙂

  4. tsukikomew September 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    I replied about Neville twice but it doesn’t seem to be showing up so I’ll try again now.

    Neville started out as this goofy guy who has virtually no skills, save herbology. He grows into this guy who becomes a hero. He decides to stand and fight and not just sit back. The most powerful scene for him in the movies is HP 7 PT 2 when he stands up to Voldemort. He’ll go down fighting but he’s not going to surrender. His character shows so much growth in the story and he’s one of my favorites.

  5. Kateri September 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    First let me say I have really enjoyed reading the comments about Neville. He was never really one of my favorite characters, and reading some of these comments makes me want to go back and give him more of a chance. He really does become important in the end.

    I have been thinking a lot about how Harry’s world is different from a lot of the other fantasy world I have read in teen fantasy lit. Two of the things that have really struck me are that Harry’s world exists right along side our world, but is completely hidden. Lots of teen fantasy has worlds that exist in secret alongside our own, but none of them have ever been described in a way that made me want to go find it. It’s part of our world, but also totally separate. The characters in Harry’s world almost never interact with the muggle world, they don’t need to. I think that’s what makes it so special.

    I also like that in Harry’s world, there is one character everyone can relate to. Whether it’s Hermione, the know-it-all who no one wants to be friends with, Ron, who comes from a poor family and is berated because he never has the best of anything, Neville, who is victimized, Draco, the pure-blood bully, and even the Fred and George, the trouble makers. And then of course there’s Harry, the hero.

    I just can’t get enough of this book series. I have a feeling it’s going to be classic for a long time.

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