Not being a person who has believes in magic, I have spent some time pondering the spell Harry Potter has cast on multiple generations of readers.
I used to say that the only real magic in Harry Potter was what the series accomplished with children's reading abilities: raised their reading level, increased their reading speed, and kindled a hunger to find another story to spark their imagination so vividly.
As a teacher, if I wanted to use an example from a book to explain a literary device, I soon learned that Harry Potter was one of the only stories that nearly all of my students had read. The percentage of students who read the books from their 8th grade English class didn't even come close to the percentage of students who read Harry Potter in their free time.
Recently, I've come to a better realization of what the true magic of the Harry Potter series is and it has nothing to do with the sort of magic students learned at Hogwarts.
It has been such a long time since I've read any of the Harry Potter series (I read Deathly Hallows the year it came out) and since I'm not into the movies (gasp!) so many of the minor details of the stories have fallen out of my memory, leaving only the essential events and characters and themes behind.
When only the essentials remain, the structure of the series becomes clear.
Harry Potter's story begins and ends with two acts of self-sacrifice for the sake of another person and that self-sacrificial love saves the world.
Before the series begins, Harry Potter's life is saved by his mother when she throws herself in the path of a death curse meant for her son. The power of her love deflects the curse and defeats the greatest evil the world has ever known.
The series climaxes when Harry realizes that the only way the evil Voldemort can be defeated is if he sacrifices himself, and he chooses to make the sacrifice because he loves his friends. Ultimately, it wasn't really a sacrifice because he came back to life so I guess it was the thought that counts? (By the way, I hold the unpopular opinion that Harry should have stayed dead for a variety of reasons, but that is another post.)
Does self-sacrifice for love really count as magic is this modern day?
We think pretty highly of ourselves, but there are so many ways to opt out of self sacrifice in our culture that we hardly realize when we are destroying the magic of life for someone else by seeking our own glorious future.
In a day and age when a parent can leave spouse and kids to find self-fulfillment or happiness apart from their family and when kids of healthy, whole families grow up, leave home, and never look back, I believe this idea of self-sacrificial love is really appealing. We live in a culture that tells us to look to ourselves for fulfillment and find our own happiness, but what if the real transcendent love that fills us to the brim only occurs when we pour ourselves into others without a thought for our own future?
Hi, I'm Michelle!
This is my collection of thoughts on good books and great books.