Rereading Harry Potter

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If you know me, then you already know I’m a Potter Head — a Harry Potter nerd.  I’m a 48-year-old woman who still thinks that the Harry Potter series is the best piece of writing on the planet.  I first picked up the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was teaching high school English.  I had heard the book was on a banned book list and was curious.  And turns out, a few chapters in, I was hooked.  For years, I would devour a book, then wait a year or two for the next book to be released.  It was great fun, and my only wish was that my kids had been old enough to celebrate the release of the books with me.  

Back to the point — my rereading of the series. Over the years, I’ve picked up a book or two and reread it or listened to it on CD.  But I’d only gone back to the first few  books.  When asked by students or even by my children which book was my favorite, I’d always say Book 1 or Book 4 because I remembered those the most.  In January, when I was going through a tough period with my daughter’s health, I started listening to the entire series again.  To me, the novels are comfort reading, a wonderful escape from reality.   When I was struggling to be able to sleep worrying about Ally’s health, these books helped take the edge off and let me relax.  

I decided to purchase all the books on Audible, even though we own the whole set of books.  Jim Dale is the narrator, and he does an excellent job making each character really come alive.  I began Book 1, which is probably still my favorite, and let myself get wrapped up in this magical world J.K. Rowling created.  As I’ve been reading, I’ve also been thinking.  And I realized that these books — aside from being a great escape — have a lot to teach us about life.  Here are a few of the lessons I’ve gained from these novels

  1. Love and kindness are more powerful than hate. We find this out especially in Book 6, when Professor Dumbledore is teaching Harry about the horacruxes.    Through the pensive, Dumbledore takes Harry into Voldemort’s past.  Harry and Voldemort have many similarities, but Dumbledore reassures Harry that he is set apart by kindness and ability to love.  Harry had parents who loved him and died to save him.  He was loved by his friends, by the Weasleys, by Hagrid.  It was Harry’s ability to love, ultimately,  that empowered him to take on the task of destroying Voldemort and survive.   
  2. Life is better with friends. This is a critical theme throughout the series.  Friends matter.  Sure, these friends may fight.  They may not talk for days.  But ultimately life is better when Harry and Ron and Hermione (and a myriad of other characters) lean on each other.  In Book 6, when Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he will be going on a quest, they refuse to leave him.  That pretty much sums up their friendship; these three never abandon one another, even during the darkest of times.
  3. We all get to decide what kind of person we become.  Rowling foreshadows a strange connection between Voldemort and Harry throughout the story, beginning in Book 1 when Harry gets his wand.  His wand (remember, “the wand chooses the wizard”) is a companion to Voldemort’s wand.  Voldemort, like Harry, didn’t have the best childhood.  And yet, Harry made decisions to be a decent human; Voldemort, instead, chose power and isolation. Rowling wants us to understand that we all get to decide who we become, even if we were not blessed with an easy beginning.  Harry is the perfect example of this.
  4. It is good to be kind to misfits.  This is one of my favorite things about Harry — that he is kind to misfits.  Now, he may not start kind.  These quirky characters may initially be off putting to him.  But Harry generally comes around.  Harry takes Neville, Luna, Dobby and many other outcasts into his fold, even though he could choose to ignore these characters and their tribulations.  Harry constantly engages with Hagrid, believes Sirius is innocent, and befriends Lupin, a werewolf.  He chooses to accept characters that have been misunderstood or mistreated by others, and I love him for it.  
  5. A mother’s love is the greatest protection.  This, dear readers, is perhaps my favorite theme.  Lily Potter died to save her son.  And he was marked by her love, which offered him a powerful protection.  In Book 7, we learn that this protection expires when he turns 17.  But I disagree.  This protection changes form.  Instead of being a tangible charm that offers physical protection, his mother’s great love for him protects his heart.  Harry refuses to give himself over to evil because he’s had the greatest love there is – the love of his mother.  And Harry’s ability to love is what makes him the one wizard who could defeat Voldemort’s evil.

I am now on Book 7 of my re-reading, and I am sad.  What do I do now once I’ve revisited this series that I love?  Do I immediately start again?  Do I host a Harry Potter movie marathon?  Do I mourn the ending of this amazing series until I find something new to read?  I haven’t figured out my “what next,” but I do know that I will continue to apply these lessons to my own life.  When I teach, when I Interact with friends and family,  I will think of Harry and hope that in some small way, I can emulate his strength of character.  

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