There was one thing I wanted more than anything for my 11th birthday. It wasn’t a game boy colour or a Darth Maul double-sided light sabre. All I wanted was a letter from Hogwarts. In the pages of J.K.Rowling’s epic masterpiece I had come face to face with a universe that captured every aspect of my imagination and I wanted nothing more than to be part of it. When I started planning this Blog I knew that I wanted to write about Harry Potter and here it is.
Firstly let me say that this isn’t a review of Harry Potter. I wouldn’t even attempt a task like that especially as I know the wrath of the Harry Potter online fandom. This is more in response to some of the negative reviews surrounding the series and the writing. Believe it or not there are people who don’t like Harry Potter. According to them it’s a fairy tale rip off of “Tom Brown’s School Days” that’s poorly written and has no believable characters.
Where do we start? Firstly I don’t believe that a person would ever pick up a book like Harry Potter and expect a Dickensian classic to be hidden inside. Even if they did then the illustrations of flying cars and dragons on the front should really dissuade them from that view. These books will never win the Booker prize. They won’t make the shortlist for the Pullitzer and I doubt that J.K.Rowling will ever win a Nobel Prize for fiction. These books weren’t written to have subtext or hidden agendas and themes that only the true intellectual can enjoy. These books were written to be enjoyed by anyone who picks them up, be they child or adult. If you want to read books that test your powers of reasoning or where the author has put in anagrams of their own name then read “Lolita” or “100 years of Solitude”. If you want a story that grabs you from the word go and doesn’t make you have to stop reading to try and work out a clever puzzle then read Harry Potter. To say that these books are a waste of time is to ignore the strong moral messages inside, the sense of acceptance it instils in those who read it and the impact it’s had on an entire generation.
Harry Potter deals with a number of serious modern day cultural issues. Racism, Slavery, government censorship and imperialism all come under the radar in the Hogwarts universe. The word “ Mudblood “ is used to describe any witch or wizard that isn’t born of magical parents. It is considered to be a grave insult and totally unacceptable to use in public. Towards the end of the series, one of the characters uses it to describe herself to reclaim the word from others. “Mudblood and Proud“. I’m certain that I don’t need to go into detail about the modern day parallels. The Ministry of Magic has control of the majority of Wizarding media as well as employment. If you don’t work at Hogwarts or have your own business then the likelihood is you work for them. Highborn families keep slaves that have been conditioned to harm themselves if they speak ill of their masters and half breed or non-human sentient creatures are restricted into living in special territories. But, throughout the books the characters that we as readers identify the most with fight against these injustices. As children we see people standing up to prejudice and hatred through literature at a time when we’re most impressionable. If a book teaches a child that racism is wrong then does it matter that the grammar isn’t of the highest grade?
I could go on for hours about Harry Potter, as many of my friends will tell you, but one point has to be addressed. These books taught millions of children about the joys of reading. I can’t count the number of people I talk to about books who have told me that they started with Harry Potter. For so many people this was their first experience of the true escapism that literature brings. So who cares if there are elements of “Tom Brown’s School Days”? Who cares that the language isn’t clever or intellectual? I will continue to love Hogwarts and the home I found in its pages. Nothing has changed from the 11 year old boy desperately wishing for a letter to come through the door. I may be a muggle but I can always enjoy the magic that Harry Potter has brought to my life.