My children are at an age where they can finally enjoy Harry Potter. Together we are reading the novels and watching the movies. As we discuss the different plot points and characters, I pause to reflect on the controversy surrounding the series over a decade ago. I remember religious factions banning the books for the promotion of bad behavior, witchcraft/magic, and other infractions too long to list. As a lover and academic of literature, I find the Harry Potter books to be well done. I’m jealous of how J. K. Rowling could tell a multi-layered story in a rich, magical world.
J. K. Rowling’s world exploits the horrible underbelly and the simple goodness of human nature. As the reader delves deeper into the world of Hogwarts, there is a longing to shed the Muggles skin and dive into the magical world where the magical misfits can overcome adversity. As we read about the abuse Harry suffers at the hands of the people who were supposed to take care of him, we cringe. How often are people abused because of their differences? As a reader, you know Harry is innocent, so it’s heartbreaking to see him abused because of his family’s fear of his differences. The movies try to make the abusive nature of Harry’s family a bookmark into a comedy, but in the books, there is nothing humorous about the situation. Then the idea of having mixed blood (mudblood) is also very cringe-worthy because it’s the perfect depiction of what people do to discriminate in their social, racial, and gender-based circles.
I don’t think a book like one from the Harry Potter series would be considered worthy literature in public or private schools. There is a time and a place to read literature penned by dead men and women long ago, but in this turbulent time, there is a wealth of learning in the pages of a fantasy world where heroes come from unexpected places and the antagonist is clearly labeled.