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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.
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!
Until next time,