Straight Talk Advice

Aug 03, 2011

Harry Potter: Hero in a hero-less world

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Harry Potter was such a sensation for so many young people who grew up on the books and then the movies. I would love to hear what Harry Potter meant to them, and if they think it changed the way they think about the world. — Cynthia Hartman, Sand City, Calif.

Lara 20, Concord, Calif. Ask me a question

Harry Potter and I were the same age. We grew up together, starting right when childhood magic and Santa Claus had disappeared. I think it saved me from growing up too fast. Lots of us secretly pretend that the Harry Potter world is real. In our materialistic world, it’s important to have magic. The books also address race, religion and corruption. “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.” — J. K. Rowling via Kingsley Shaklebolt

Christina 19, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

Harry taught me that evil is the absence of love. I’ve read the books five times each — they are new each time.

Akasha 17, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

The best thing for me was Harry’s evolving understanding of death. I lost a brother right after Book 7 came out. Harry overcame his fear of death by calling his deceased loved ones to surround him with love. Rowling was spot on that people from the other side can be called when you need them. That they’re “gone” is an illusion. While I avoid danger, death is no longer something I fear.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles, Calif. Ask me a question

I read all of Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and George R. R. Martin. Harry Potter hooked me from the first sentence. Besides the sci-fi, the books mirrored the social aspects of real high school: sports, girls, fights with friends, ego, image, right and wrong. It was easy to place yourself in a “house” and be part of the story.

Elise 20, Orlando, Florida Ask me a question

I cannot tell you how much Harry Potter has been a part of my life! The series definitely helped my imagination and creativity. It also played a big role in introducing me to reading. The world holds so much more than we can comprehend. There is definitely magic out there, you just have to find it.

Lennon 24, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

Harry Potter didn’t change my worldview. The books are fairytale-like, the characters archetypal. Except for Snape, you can peg a character “good” or “bad” the second they’re introduced. Young people got swept up, not unlike during the rise of rock ‘n’ roll. But Harry Potter doesn’t inspire complex thought like “Imagine” or “Satisfaction.” It’s good overcoming evil, not a youthful cry for change.

Sarah 19, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

For five magical years, Harry and I aged at the same rate. I devoured every new installment, rereading previous books multiple times in anticipation. Harry Potter was a phenomenon. It was one of the first series where fans connected on the Internet, growing the movement exponentially through fan fiction other online extensions of J.K. Rowling’s universe. Harry served as inspiration and role-model. His unrelenting struggle against evil set a high internal standard for his fans. The brilliant, believable, magical world of Hogwarts made it acceptable to be creative and spurred us to think outside the box. Truly, the masses would be different without Harry Potter.

DEAR CYNTHIA: The books truly were a phenomenon. Almost every member of this generation devoured them multiple times — many read little else. I’m grateful that in these times of few heroes, even fewer unifying missions, and a dramatic loss of traditional childhood, that this generation was able to grow up with a collective fairytale of good triumphing over evil. Humans crave unified purpose and heroes to inspire them. According to generational theory, this generation is a “hero” generation. Maybe that’s why they craved Harry Potter off the charts.

Editor’s Note: I was one of those “Muggles” who thought the books were superficial and unworthy of my precious time. That was until I was catapulted into reading all seven at once. I read them as a tribute to my son, Jarrad, who was killed days after Book 7 came out. Book 7 was released July 21, 2007 and Jarrad died August 4, 2007. He, and my other kids, too, read the series over and over until the pages fell out, literally. (And yes, he did read Book 7; he couldn’t depart before doing that!) And his friends read many passages to him AGAIN as he lay there between worlds. The nature and illusion of death was a major theme of Book 7 and his friends were helped immensely by those passages.

Over the years, Jarrad implored me repeatedly to read the books. And so, in those first painful weeks after he left this world, and everyone had gone home, I followed his instructions and escaped into this other world he loved so much. I was not disappointed! They rank among my favorite books now, too! The following year, to “get through” his first anniversary, I read them all again. And here we are again at August 4; another circle passed. Jay, this column’s for you. LOVE, Mom

  1. By Jessica Skropanic, age , from Redding, CA on 08/06/2011

    PS: The books helped ME (at age 39 when the 6th book was released) to escape from the death of a close family member, too. Rowling’s books and Jane Austen’s got me through the bouts of insomnia that often come with grief. Thank you for the moving column!

    Jessica Skropanic

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