Bookish Stuff

Why Harry Potter is not just a kid’s book

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Harry Potter.

The story of a boy wizard whose parents were killed and who then attempts to fight the evil Lord Voldemort as he grows older.

A tale of fantasy and fiction. A different world altogether. A book about magic, witches and wizards, and a tale of good versus evil.

Sounds like a children’s book, right?

Harry Potter is far from being just that. Yes, it probably appeals to kids because of all of what I just mentioned. But there is a lot more to Harry Potter than just the good versus evil and the magical world. There is lot there for adults. This post is probably for those adults who pooh-pooh Harry Potter [including some individuals I know personally who cannot fathom why I continue to re-read my Harry Potter series with the same enthusiasm as a 27 year old as when I first read them at 18]. The reason I say that Harry Potter has a lot more to it is because of the themes covered in the series.

Death: Yes, death. J. K. Rowling got the idea for the books following the death of her own mother. As a consequence, the books have a lot to do with death and this is one of the overarching themes albeit subtle in the first few books. Not only does it deal with how the death of loved ones can affect us, it is also about the fear of death. Voldemort fears death. His own death. And it is because of this fear, he goes on to divide his soul into seven thus rendering him immortal until and unless all the parts are destroyed. Harry on the other hand, accepts death — in the final book, that is. And this makes all the difference in the world. The manner in which Harry’s mother sacrifices her life to protect him creates a protective charm. In a similar vein, when Harry truly accepts that he must die for Voldemort to die, he creates a protective charm for his loved ones. Dumbledore too chose to die on his own terms. In terms of dealing with death, no one knows it better than Harry. Having lost his parents at the age of one, he grows up to lose people he loves as well — Sirius, Dumbledore and Lupin — as well as people he is friends with — Fred Weasley, Cedric, Tonks, Moody among others. He yearns to bring back the dead when he knows there might be a way. He years to speak to the dead. And it is a pain most of us can identify with because even if we haven’t lost someone, the fear of losing them is always there.  

Prejudice:This is probably one of the biggest themes and the core reason why Voldemort is who he is. Voldemort thinks that all wizards and witches should be pure-blood. In other words, both parents should be magical themselves. A half-blood is one with only one parent of magical descent while the other might be of human (or muggle) descent. A mudblood is a person whose parents are both of muggle descent. Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends is of such descent. Voldemort aims to get rid of mudbloods and muggles and half-bloods. The irony is that he himself is half-blood. This whole notion of trying to wipe out mudlbloods and half-bloods is akin to what Hitler did with the Jews. It is also similar to racism in general. The manner in which the pure bloods talk about mudbloods and half-bloods is filled with prejudice and the notion of pure bloods being supreme in the magical world. In the final book, you understand the importance of education in forming the views of the young and innocent. What is it that stops some of us from being racist as compared to others? It is education.

Mental health and stigma: The Dementors are meant to represent the blackness tormenting so many of us in the real world — depression. Rowling identifies exactly what it is like to have a mental health problem like depression through the use of the dementors — where you feel like you can never be happy again. In the second book of the series, when Ron and Hermione think Harry is hearing voices, Ron tells him that hearing voices is not a good sign even in the wizarding world. How many times have we heard this in the real world? Where if you hear voices, no one wants to be with you. You are almost alone apart from your loved ones. Talking about these issues in popular books like this helps people think differently and kudos to Rowling for talking about mental health.  

Free will versus Destiny: Even though a prophecy is revealed in Book 5 which reveals why Voldemort targetted Harry in the first place, we go on to learn that it doesn’t mean a particular path is destined. Voldemort heard part of the prophecy which stated that a child born around the time Harry was would overcome him and that neither could live while the other survived. Voldemort took that prophecy to mean Harry was a danger to him. He marked Harry as his equal. What Dumbledore tries to teach Harry is that Harry doesn’t have to kill Voldemort because a prophecy. But rather, Harry wants to avenge his parents deaths. I think this is a lesson to all of us who think that things in life are destined to be a certain way. Personally, I believe, if that were so, why would we bother? Yes, there may be paths but I think we have a certain amount of free will to choose which direction we want, thereby changing our destinies.

In addition to all the above, there are also themes about the damage of malicious rumour and gossip, the manner in which the media can and does blow things way out of proportion, how we judge people incorrectly based on their looks or who they are related to, the power of self-sacrifice and selflessness, independence, coming of age, and of course, the importance of love, friendship and family. However, if I were to go into all of these, I think I could write a whole book myself!

If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books, you probably don’t know what I am talking about. But I would highly recommend you read them.

If you have read the books, well, share your ideas too…I know there are lot more themes I probably haven’t touched upon!

Finally, if you wish to read my reviews on the books in this series, go to the ‘Read and Reviewed‘ section and click on the respective links.

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And on a slightly different note, this is my 500th post on this blog! Thank you all for continuing to read my thoughts and views — you make blogging even more worthwhile!

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Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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  • Raindrop
    August 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Hi, have been away for a while. Good to be back to read a great post on Harry Potter. As a pottermaniac, my few takes on what makes the series and Joanne Rowling so awesome:
    1. The theme of friendship-strong loyal bonds between friends which are tested over time, but they remain strong as ever. Even if you are disadvantaged(harry -an orphan, Ron-not rich, Hermione-born of muggles) in some ways, true friendship overlooks and overcomes it. Even if in reality, relationships may not be that perfect, we still long for the elusive everlasting bonds.
    2. Greater cause than oneself: In real worldmost people are toosefl absorbed to notice/do anything for the greater good. Everyone in the order of the phoenix and the dumbeldore army are ready to put everything at stake for the larger cause. Like Harry mentions- it’s great to have something worth fighting for
    3. Every one can be a hero: You don’t have to be good looking, famous or rich to be a hero. Old world values such as loyalty,bravery, honesty can make you one. Case in point: Neville Longbottom. We all grow up learning such values, but somehow they get eroded watching the world. HP reinstates the power of such values.
    You  mentioned Prejudice. I agree…Elves are treated like slaves, goblins with contempt, and a giant (gwarp) is considered to have no feelings at all.
    This comment will go on….I’ll stop here!
    Great post! Will read the others I have missed now.

  • Maddie
    August 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Wonderful post PB! I could have written it myself.
    To add, Courage, taking each day as it comes, accepting your fate or rather accepting the bitter past and fearlessly facing the future, standing up for your friends – I love Ron and hermoine for the way they stick up with harry and not because he is famous or something but because he is their friend, even in the last book, they follow him and leave Hogwarts.

  • Priyanka Victor
    August 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    You are an amazing writer, that you are. All this from HP? Wow.

    And I almost love you for justifying HP as an adults book as well, there are so many people I know who dismiss it as children’s fiction. Now, thanks to you, I can shove this post under their noses and keep myself from punching them out cold.

    yes, I can get very violent when it comes to defending things I love:) Sorry.

  • nidsitis
    August 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    So interesting this post is. I have always known the book was not just for kids. But you put those thought into words and so well. 🙂 I loved reading this post. 🙂 I even shared it with friends I am sure who will enjoy reading it. 🙂 Hope that is okay. 🙂

    Superb girl! 🙂 Keep writing. 🙂

  • starsinmeyes
    August 11, 2011 at 3:04 am

    Am re-reading them myself….and agree whole-heartedly with your post…the reason they’re so re-readable us that they totally echo real life…JK Rowling is a brilliant master.

  • Avada Kedavra
    August 11, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Great post PB. You have mentioned all the important things that make the books so awesome. I don’t know why many people think it is for kids, which is so not true. Atleast the last few books are not for kids, according to me. They will hardly understand anything other than enjoying some special effects/seeing people fly on brooms. 
    And there is the SPEW stuff too.. about making some people slaves, about oppressed people. Though Dumbledore appears to be perfect in the first few books, I liked the way she made him human by showing us how he was when he was young. I also like the fact that she made Harry make mistakes, judge people wrongly at lot of places, and not making him some kind of superhero who is always right.

  • Avada Kedavra
    August 11, 2011 at 4:17 am

    And forgot to wish you… Congrats on completing 500 posts!!! That is really an achievement..

  • Deepthi
    August 11, 2011 at 5:23 am

    That was Amazing Psych Babbler…I have fallen in love with your blog and your style of writing :)….Yes,the entire Harry Potter series was written beautifully by J K Rowling…I especially like the way she depicted Death and Mental health and stigma and the way Harry overcomes them…The way she expressed about the power of LOVE and FRIENDSHIP is really enchanting…On the whole I feel reading HP makes us better friends and better persons..I am just awed at the way JKR wrote the entire series with the same charm and beauty…I read some authors,the first and the second books seem ok,but as it goes on we can’t help feeling that something is missing from the book…As you said if we start speaking about Harry potter it can go on and on…

  • Lazy Pineapple
    August 11, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Fantastic…congratulations for the 500th post 🙂 
    I so agree with your post…I am a decade older than you but am a huge fan of Harry Potter..apart from what all you have written…you can never forget lessons of courage and friendship that you can learn from the books…plus respecting people that are different from you.

  • Arundhati Venkatesh
    August 11, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Great analysis and articulated so well too!
    We (Harry Potter fans) know a good thing when we see one 🙂

  • Shail
    August 11, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Well, I was in my forties when I read Harry Potter and I enjoyed it so very much. I remember waiting for each new book with as much if not more eagerness than the younger lot, and the sadness I felt that each new one meant that a time would come when there would not be a next one. 

    I love the way you have enumerated the different themes one comes across in the book. 

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Raindrop, there are so many themes in the books, aren’t there? I reckon we could all write a whole other book just focussing on the themes! I agree with you on the importance of friends and family that comes through as well as emphasis on values in the books. It is very moralistic in many ways and yet, not really preachy. Gotta love Rowling for creating the series…

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Aw thanks PeeVee! I have been annoyed too by people who think it’s purely kid’s stuff because of the magic and fantasy…and I think because I’ve argued about it, I figured, why not put it down as a blog post too! 🙂 And remind me not to disagree with something you love… 😛

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Thanks Nids for the lovely comment as well as for sharing it! And yes, we Potter fans truly know what the books are all about! 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 4:19 am

    The books are so very re-readable aren’t they, Starry? And it’s so great how no matter how many times you read them, you are still captivated by it all. She definitely is brilliant!!!

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Thanks Ava…this post has been in the making for a little while now! You’re right…I thought the last 4 books in particular were not kids’ books…hell, I remember getting scared the first time I read Prisoner of Azkaban! And I was 18 or 19 when I did. Slavery and oppression are pretty significant through the books as well as you said. And I loved that no one is perfect in the books! Even the hero is like an anti-hero…not perfect in any way and wears glasses! (Nerds rejoice…me included!) There is just so much to love about the books…we could all write a whole book on that alone! 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 5:04 am

    And thanks for this! 🙂 I can’t believe I’ve completed 500 posts! Seems like just yesterday when I started blogging…

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 5:57 am

    Thanks for the lovely compliment Deepthi! Love and friendship are so beautifully expressed, aren’t they? Despite the many ups and downs Harry, Ron and Hermione seem to have, in the end, their friendship and love for each other still prevails. I agree that it makes us better persons and even if young people don’t get all the themes, if they at least understand the prejudice, friendship and love themes of the book, they are more likely to become better persons themselves. I’m sure we could talk about the books till the cows come home and still have more to say! 😀

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Thanks LP! 500 is a big achievement 🙂 It’s so nice to see people of several ages loving the books…apparently Rowling did not have a particular age group in mind when she wrote the books…and looks like she has succeeded by enthralling a large audience. I think the respecting people who are different from you theme/lesson was a very important one that came through…something we don’t always do in our daily lives. There’s so much to gain from these books!

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Welcome here Arundhati! Thanks for the lovely comment and yes, we HP fans definitely know a good thing…:D

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 6:01 am

    I know the feeling you are describing Shail…went through exactly that! It was bitter-sweet waiting for that final book especially…wanting to know more, yet knowing it was the end. It’s great to see that people of all ages can love the series with such a passion…Rowling truly is gifted in that way!

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Thanks Maddie…I think most HP fans could have written this one, huh? I agree with you in terms of how one can accept the past and not let it determine your whole life in a negative way. And of course, the friendship is just so wonderfully portrayed with all the ups and downs and still coming through…

  • Maddie
    August 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    PS:- Congratulations on your 500th post. Forgot to comment about that in the thrill of HP 😛

  • Psych Babbler
    August 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Haha…thanks! Did the trick though…I wanted something worthwhile as the 500th. 🙂

  • Gurdit
    August 13, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I skimmed through your points (The post was too long :P), but I think you’ve made valid points. The very first point had me–death. No kids books have as many deaths as this one. I remember my close friend even saying “JK Rowling just doesn’t care…she just kills off a lot of important characters”, and she really does.

  • Psych Babbler
    August 13, 2011 at 5:01 am

    Welcome here Gurdit! I know it was a long post…I could have gone on further but then I think I would have lost more readers! 😛 In terms of death and Rowling not caring, I think rather than that it’s that she tries to express that death is a part of life and it hurts but is something we need to accept…I think that’s the angle she was coming from. Do keep visiting!

  • The Survivor
    August 14, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Like your analysis of the Harry Potter series……..

  • The Survivor
    August 14, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Liked your analysis of the HP.

  • Psych Babbler
    August 14, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for that! I think I could have written heaps more but risked losing readers :p

  • Priyanka Victor
    August 15, 2011 at 4:56 am

    😛 Naah, you are safe. You defended Potter na:D

  • Psych Babbler
    August 15, 2011 at 5:02 am

    Lol…whew! 😀

  • Psych Babbler
    August 21, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Thanks! 🙂

  • Nikhilsayshey
    November 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Wow, you gave me a whole new perspective to the HP series.  HP was one book where girls weren’t given a passive and damsel-in-distress role, where parents were not cruel and careless, where every character had shades of grey, where their was a lot of emphasis on the bond of friendship unlike many fairytales that were read to me and my sister when we were kids.

  • Psych Babbler
    November 24, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Welcome here Nikhil! Harry Potter is nowhere like the fairytales we read about and it was even different from the Enid Blyton fantasy novels because of the role of women as you mentioned…I stand by what I said and I’m glad it gave you a new perspective! 🙂

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