Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Harry Potter and Artful Literature

on August 20, 2012

You knew I would get around to Harry Potter eventually, right?

Does his existence promote reading? I have absolutely no doubt it does. I have talked to many people, young and old, who don’t usually read books and wanted to read Harry Potter. I also know many people who have not read any of the books, have never seen any of the movies, and have no desire to. And that’s fine. But I bet they’ve all heard of Harry.

Does his existence promote bad grammar/writing habits? Probably not any more than Huckleberry Finn or any of a number of other classics. Yes, Rowling does break a number of “rules,” but I’m still trying to figure out who sets all these rules. And her writing gets progressively better with each book, at least in my opinion.

You use whatever works. Madeleine L’Engle used “It was a dark and stormy night” to open A Wrinkle in Time. She forever cemented it as a cliché and insured that the rest of us would not use it. Of course, that didn’t stop Snoopy from repeating it. And often. But Ms. L’Engle did use it, and there’s no doubt the book is a well-revered classic.

No, Harry Potter is not fine literature nor is he on level with anything Ms. L’Engle wrote. But, God help me, I like Harry.

We’re also told to give our characters problems and let them solve them. Harry does that. In spades. A misunderstood orphan, he has to fight one of the biggest evil-doers the world has ever known. Often alone. He’s flawed but lovable.

Does his existence promote witchcraft? Only in Harry’s world. Even outside of fantasy, fiction writers must be free to create their own worlds. No one really believes that the kind of magic Harry practices exists or should be revered outside the books and movies.

Is he over-commercialized? You bet. Is any popular figure today NOT over-commercialized? Chris Evert was once responded to a question of whether she was worth all the money she won in some tennis tournament. She said, “Probably not. But if I don’t take it someone else will.” I get sick of hearing about the costumes, wands, and amusement parks, but it’s all just part of the territory of being popular. At least Rowling does give back generously.

Do I like Harry? I already said I do. He is a phenomenon not likely to be repeated.

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