I remember when my dad stubbornly refused to read the Harry Potter books for years. Anytime my mother, sister, and I would encourage him to pick up the hard-cover 7-part series, he’d scoff and claim that Harry Potter is for kids. He was a fan of heart-racing action adventure novels, not some magical fantasy children’s series. Of course, I finally convinced him, as I can be quite persuasive.
Fast forward a few months. We are in line for the midnight premiere of the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Typical of my father, he has still not completed the series. However, he has become absolutely enthralled by the novels (a fact I would gloat about for years to come). He is mere chapters away from the last line, “All was well.” While my family friends, sister, and I wait in line in outside the theatre, we urge him back into the car to finish the book. Thankfully, just in time for us to enter one of the best movies of our lives, he had closed the cover and left it to rest in the backseat.
Harry Potter is not just for children, as proved by my skeptical dad. And here’s why:
Everyone knows that the characters can make or break a show, movie or book. If the characters are lifeless and bland, they can make the plot fall apart at the seams. It’s also important not to confuse good characters with good character development. You don’t have to like them; you just have to understand and really experience them. What sets Harry Potter apart is its superior character development. Within chapters of meeting each character, you already feel like you know them. This can be shown by my distaste of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Being the obsessive fan I am, I wasn’t constantly repeating throughout my reading, “He/She would never say that!” When a series lets you connect with the characters on such an intimate level, it’s impossible not to be riveted by it. Whenever Harry does something unnecessarily brave (and borderline stupid), Hermione makes a matter-of-fact comment or Ron is just plain obnoxious, it just makes sense. And that’s a characteristic of a series that adults can’t help but enjoy.
Whoever claims Harry Potter is for children must have not read or seen the series. If they had, they’d recognize that every single book is overflowing with action, adventure, and violence. We constantly experience the characters looking death in the face and somehow warding it off. From facing three-headed dogs to being chased by enormous serpentine creatures to fighting dragons to battling dark figures, your head might spin from the danger with which many of the characters face between the ages of 11 and 17. J.K. Rowling scripts these action sequences eloquently. You feel the pulsating fear, the slow pace of the intense battles, and the heart-wrenching deaths of beloved characters. There’s never a dull moment. Some of these scenes may prove a little to frightening for kids, and that’s why they’re perfect for us fearless (ish) adults.
Nothing keeps someone hooked to a series quite like a well-desired relationship between two characters. Several of these occur throughout the series, but none other like that of Ron and Hermione. It’s an underlying idea that we see develop through each book. Watching the two grow from enemies to friends to best friends to something more can be simultaneously frustrating and exciting. You just want to shake them both and say, “Just go for it already!” But the years that spread out between them makes it all the more engaging. The woes of their inevitable relationship are entertaining to read, especially when they’re so obviously into each other but refuse to admit it (a.k.a. The iconic Ron and Lavender Brown relationship that left Hermione in pieces). A little romantic drama always creates a more exciting plot line and makes this series much less of a “children’s series.”
The best part of Harry Potter, of course, is the incredible magic. J.K. Rowling creates a world that most of us would die to be a part of. Learning about spells, divination, and transfiguration in school rather than math, physics and English? Count us in! Rowling manages to take magical creatures and experiences that we’ve heard about as children and make them into a realistic world. For most of us adults, we’ve learned to accept that “magic isn’t real.” Maybe this is true and maybe it’s not, but Harry Potter makes us believe that it could be real. It helps us see an honesty in Rowling’s words, and not just view magic as silly magician’s tricks, ancient witches brewing bubbling potions, and meaningless Abracadabra’s. This type of magic actually makes sense to us, and we believe in the power of magic and how it can be used for the good and bad. With this, Harry Potter teaches readers a valuable lesson about the world. As Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” It reminds us that not everything in the world is black and white; there is a lot of gray area that we can interpret in our own way. There is a beauty and mystery in the idea of magic, and Harry Potter gives us a reason to believe in something more.
So, next time you hear your mere Muggle friend scoffing about the ridiculousness of Harry Potter, remind them that it is so much more than a magical, fairytale series. It is packed with incredible character development, an intense and enthralling plot, riveting action and adventure, and a beautiful world of magic. Maybe this is just coming from a woman who’s read the series more times than she can count, but, in my humble opinion, there’s a lesson that we can all learn from Harry Potter about believing in what we don’t quite believe.