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Friday, July 9, 2010

How college ruined Harry Potter for me

I realize this may be a bit of a touchy subject for some of you potter fanboys out there, but if you happen to be reading this, please bear with me.  I dont think the Harry Potter series holds any real literary value for society; and i believe that part of the challenge of "Building Bookcases" means that we should, as readers, think first about literary value before we even begin "thinking deeply" about any book we read.  What do i mean by literary value? Well, I'll tell you, to the best of my abilities:

Last fall, i had the privilege of being taught by johnny turtle, one of the most fascinating people ive ever met.  His class was called "the experience of literature," and i think his most important message in that class was that we need to be honest.  At first, I didn't think that would tie in too well in an English class, but somehow he made sense.  He stressed, time after time, that we need to not only live honestly, but read and write honestly:  write honestly, by pouring our own convictions, joys, and sorrows into our words; read honestly, by analyzing the author's message and applying it to our own lives.   After listening to his lessons, I began to realize that Harry Potter, which had been one of my favorite book series to that date, was dishonest on both accounts.  It was written to entertain, by a single mom looking for a financial escape.  And as im sure you're aware, it was a huge success.  And over time, midnight release after midnight release, i followed a generation of young illiterate "readers" as we consumed the nonsense of j.k. rowling:  the problem being that there was no underlying message, no deep theme in her work apart from the very simple cliche of "good vs. evil" complicated by teenage hormones.  The only thinking that the series required was how to solve the mystery of the horcruxes or whether or not ron and hermione would finally confess their love for each other.  In the end, Harry Potter did not allow me to grow, apart from maybe learning some new vocabulary and giving me the satisfaction of having actually read some 7000 pages at my own leisure.  But really, what good are 7000 pages if they don't offer growth for their reader?

Anyways, there you have it.  College ruined Harry Potter for me.  It changed the way I perceive its value in my life and in society, and I'm grateful for it; I can now honestly turn by back on the series, and move on to find growth in God and in other forms of art and literature. And that is the bottom shelf that will hopefully shape my future posts on Building Bookcases.

Nick Natoli


  1. While I agree that Harry Potter isn't great literature, I don't think it's as pure drivel as you remember. I read the books a few years ago in my mid-twenties and was impressed with how deep Rowling went in a children's book. There's certainly plenty of lame teenage romance and suspense, but the main plot of the books is that sacrificial love, even unto death, is the only thing that can defeat evil. Definitely a message worth thinking about :-).

  2. That is true, and it may be the fact that I have not read the books for years that I feel I should just throw them away completely. I mean, you can find truth in just about anything if you look hard enough for it. I guess it's just a matter of how hard one is willing to look for that truth in a piece of literature. Granted, the theme of sacrificial love isn't that hard to find in Rowling's books; but the problem is that everything else tends to weigh it down a substantial amount. And I think that causes me to doubt Rowling's intentions in writing the series; whereas J.R. Tolkien (since we're talking fantasy) crafts a world of characters and history that collectively points to one Truth. Hah, now that you've got me started on Tolkien though, don't be surprised if he pops up in a post in the near future ;)

    Thanks for you comments, Anita. By all means, keep em coming!