I began reading Harry Potter when I was eleven. I was Harry’s age and we both began our journey together. He journeyed through his fate and I lived his life with him. I understood his abandonment and dismissal in a home where he was treated like a burden, the resentment he felt and the plight of being bullied by someone stronger who was constantly lauded for doing so. Sounds very much like the world we grew up in, doesn’t it?
Some of us have understood Harry because we came from broken homes, dysfunctional families, or simply by living with guardians who were too much immersed in their own lives to pay any heed to ours. Some of us were from healthy households but we felt equally for the Boy who lived because we were bullied in high school, we were abandoned by our friends and spent most of our time reading because we were dreamers, introverts and socially awkward.
And so, we, who have lived, breathed and grew up with Harry Potter, know how it has shaped our train of thoughts.
A skinny, bespectacled boy, bullied, neglected, and cared for by no one suddenly steps into a world where he is respected for who he is, loved, cherished and most importantly—trusted. Trust can make you do great things; trust can lift your spirits and make you believe in yourself like nothing else. The skinny boy grew confident and we drew inspiration from him to fight our own battles. We found the strength to go on when we were bullied, we didn’t mind being left alone because we knew we could find happiness even in the darkest of times, because now we knew to just turn on the light. We found courage to face our fears from Harry; we learnt the value of knowledge from Hermione, friendship from Ron, loyalty from Sirius and love from Snape.
“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.”
—Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter didn’t just entertain us, it gave us the hope for a better world and it told us that we had the choice to go with the flow, be oppressed for ever or we could make a choice to take our fate into our hands and shape it for ourselves. That’s where it shaped our ‘political views’ without us even realizing it.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
—Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
How Harry Potter shaped political and cultural views
In a constantly changing world where it is not only essential to accept the differences in opinions of the masses and coexist with individuals who are different from you, it is important to understand and respect the contrasts. Being tolerant about political and religious opinions, the LGBT community and their views, immigrants and refugees, plight of the weaker sections of the society, are something that requires individuals to think clearly and practice empathy. Reading Harry Potter taught me to be tolerant, to coexist, and most importantly, it helped me find the empathy that resides within.
Hermione’s respect for the house elves, whom we can relate to slaves, the poor and the oppressed, speaks for itself. Umbridge’s mistreatment of children and ‘mudbloods’, and Tom Riddle’s obsession with power made us hate them and we were able to relate the characters to real-life people. Harry’s concern and respect for everyone around him, be it magical or non-magical people, house elves and magical creatures helped us see through the layers and respect the differences.
When I say that Harry Potter shaped our political views, I do not mean that Harry Potter helped us know exactly whom to vote for, rather it helped us know what traits we needed to look for in a government. Were we looking for an authority that oppressed the people just because it could? Or misuse the power it had to influence young minds and train them to wage war against those who weren’t like-minded? That sounds like something Voldemort would do.
Reading Harry Potter made us liberal, tolerant and accept those who were intellectually different from us. In a world where differences are integral and define individuals, it becomes necessary to vouch for yourself and for everyone else who is unlike you because that’s what coexisting means.
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”
—Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The best part about Harry Potter is that it makes you shape your opinion rationally, building on facts and constructing values for the greater good. You look past yourself and learn that there’s a bigger place out there that can do with your help, and you have the choice to both help and change it or be a mute spectator.
Harry Potter builds on your conscience on so many levels, through various layers that nudge you to look inside deeply and look ahead with the instincts of a leader. Every single person/animal/creature killed in the books signifies something far greater. Hedwig’s death signifies the end of Harry’s innocence, Dobby’s demise refers to the difference made by someone so small and fragile, simply because he was brave and loyal. Lily, James, Tonks, Remus. . . define the plight of the orphans of war. Sirius’s death signifies the end of a father figure in Harry’s life. Fred, Colin Creevey, Cedric Diggory—signify war victims. Draco’s cowardice generated from the fear of not being able to live up to the expectations of his family, and his guilty conscience made him feel what was right to do, even though he couldn’t do it out of fear. And although it may seem difficult to admit, Draco signifies you and me and every single confused teenager who can relate to him.
Harry Potter instills basic moral values in young minds along with empathy, equipping them with a sense of justice and the ability to tell what’s right and wrong. While it is easy to deviate from the path of what’s right in search of power, it takes a great deal of courage to choose the right path and stay on it. But in the end, power doesn’t matter if it builds on what’s wrong.
Basically, Harry Potter makes you a better judge because it motivates you to read between the lines and understand the important issues. This is where the book’s political impact begins, when it has enabled you to choose the right and just over the wrong.
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
A ‘reading’ revolution
Harry Potter made a generation go back to burying their noses into books. In a world of cellphones and ipads, Harry Potter made kids like you and me stand outside bookstores at midnight, eagerly waiting for the doors to open. Harry Potter made ‘reading’ cool again, the old-fashioned way. Honestly, I have never awaited and anticipated for a book to release more than I did for Harry Potter! J K Rowling made reading fun, and she made our imagination leap out of bounds with her characters. In an age when terror and destruction are inevitable, every single one of us needed a hero. Someone like Harry who could take on his world. We needed hope in these dark times and J K Rowling gave us just that.
Everyone needs a superhero at a point, and Harry helped us get through what we dreaded most, he helped us fight our own depression, wars and he gave us a tour into his magical world where men and women weren’t judged by a matter of strength, but they were equalized in power by magic only. Give a man and a woman a wand and they are equals.
Harry Potter made YA come back and take on the world because now we were open to reading and experiencing the emotions of different age groups, and at the same time, face the real issues and believe in magic.
Still believe Harry Potter is just for kids?