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Harry Potter is one of the true staples of my generation. My childhood and adolescent years were largely spent listening to the audio books as I fell asleep, powering through 700 pages of magic and dressing up for midnight premiers. I know that many of my peers have done the same. But unfortunately, several of my closest friends just aren’t that interested. This one goes out to you guys.

Harry Potter isn’t just a fictional story. It’s not just Dan Rad with a makeup scar plastered on his forehead. It’s not just a chapter book about a magical fantasy land. I mean on the surface, yeah, it is all those things. But it has something more.

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3/4 of my college library.

Harry Potter started as a children’s book. The first and second books were naive enough and followed Harry, Ron and Hermione as innocent and pure children. Once we get to the third through fifth books, the series deals with adolescent angst and larger responsibilities. Finally, the sixth through seventh books (and eighth if we’re talking movies) deal with an entrance into adulthood with tragedy, love and overall uneasiness. And when you really think about it, JK Rowling is writing a story about growing up and the hardships that follow. On the page and on the screen, sure theres wands, potions and and flying brooms. But on a broader scale, JK Rowling is attempting to teach us very non fictional life lessons.

For me, growing up has always been followed with a very real feeling of foreboding. I would love if I could stay a kid forever. I would love to be worry-free and wide-eyed. I don’t think I am idiotic in thinking that many of you probably feel the same way. Reading/watching the childhood of Harry brings us back to the goodness of being a kid. It reminds us how freeing it was to not have the burden of responsibility. However, we still get the hints of hardship when we’re reminded of Harry’s home life with his awful aunt and uncle and the fact that he’s orphaned. It is also indicated that Harry’s fight with Voldemort didn’t end the night he got his scar. It is these little hints that make the story relatable. Every child should have a perfect childhood, but that is not often the case. Most every child has faced adversity in some form. Harry is merely an example of this, and his eventual happiness is a model for overcoming it.

Harry’s adolescence, I think, is a hilariously accurate depiction of the real-life awkwardness of it all. Aside from the Siruis-Black-dementor-Voldemort-rising-from-a-cauldron-godfather-dying of it all, his adolescence is quite realistic. In number three, Harry begins to become frustrated with being a kid and not knowing what the grown-ups are discussing. He gets angry that he doesn’t know who his family is or why his parents died. This very obviously reflects real-life angst and emotions found in all teens, and is revisited constantly in the fourth and fifth books as well. In the fourth book, Harry experiences the burden of responsibility more and more. He becomes responsible for those closest to him and for himself. He also must learn to handle the angst of those around him (i.e. Ron’s jealousy of Harry being in the Triwizard tournament). The fifth book is almost completely dominated by anxiety, emotion and hormones. Harry is disconcerted and angry all the time. He works through his first “fling” with a girl, Cho Chang, including his first kiss and date. Definitely two parts of adolescence that we all go through at some point. But most of all, the fifth book is about coping with death, tragedy and fear. Harry copes with the death of Cedric, and then his godfather. He also must look pure evil in the face (Voldemort) and conquer his fear of it. Now, of course, not all teens deal with death and have to face their worst fears. But just like his child stage, some teens do experience these things and Harry’s ultimate triumph is a sign of hope.

I’m almost done with this rant-stay with me.

Finally, Harry’s adult-ish stage in the sixth and seventh book (and eighth movie, but c’mon we’re talking books here) help lead us into our own adulthood. Harry faces true independence and the feeling of not knowing where to go or what to do. And isn’t that what we’re all feeling like right now? There’s really no conclusion to this ominous feeling however, and JK Rowling is sure to remind us of that. Although Harry eventually defeats Voldemort, a lot of lives were destroyed in the process. It’s a bittersweet ending for sure. But on the whole, I think some of you Harry Potter lovers can agree that there isn’t a clear and happy ending. The epilogue, though it offers some conclusion, doesn’t leave us with a feeling of closure. I certainly would love to know what Harry’s adult life turned out to be in excruciating detail. Mostly because I would like some reassurance that even someone who has experienced more tragedy than the average real-life person, can turn out okay.

OKAY I’M DONE. Take a deep breath that was a lot to take in. But I can’t have written 870 words about Harry Potter and ended up not convincing the doubters out there. Harry Potter is important. And if you haven’t read the books, shame on you (read them!). If you haven’t seen the movies, you aren’t even real.

That is all for this essay.

-Zoe

p.s. stay tuned for JK Rowling’s new Harry Potter short-story about Dolores Umbridge coming out on Pottermore on Halloween.

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