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|Written by Taryn Cheal|
|Thursday, 18 November 2010 08:36|
With the release of part one of the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter movies I realize there are those who have yet to come aboard the Hogwart's Express and read the Harry Potter series. I understand some of the reasons people are hesitant or flat out refuse to read them (I was one of them until I caved sometime between the release of the fifth and sixth books), but I am here to provide a far from comprehensive list of why you should.
I could go on and on about the reasons that Harry Potter rocks my one black sock but I have pared it down to five of my personal favourite reasons to read the series.
5. The movies leave a lot of stuff out
Generally, movie adaptations leave things out and changes story lines which is understandable considering some of the constraints (time, feasibility, etc) of films. The Potter series has really suffered from this ailment to the extent that the film version of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince barely made sense to a non-reader (just ask my poor mom who so kindly took me and my two older sisters to the movie and was pretty much stumped as to what was going on the entire time). So much was left out of the movie (and it was expected that the audience knew so much) it was hardly a coherent story. Also, they added that super weird burning of the Burrow scene which was just puzzling. The movies do a decent job, but begin to leave more and more out as the series progresses so it becomes more necessary to read the books.
4. It is more than a coming of age story
Simply put, throughout the series we watch Harry and his friends grow from innocent children into strong adults. But the story is much more complex than that. When these children become teenagers and they are faced with not just hormones, rumours and an ever present mountain of school work but mortality, adversity, morality, evil and deceit. Harry specifically faces tests of character that fit can be categorized as part of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Harry, through his struggles, transforms into only into an amazing man but also a hero. He finds himself in situations grown men would not be able to face and not only does he accept the responsibility but he does so with dignity, proving time and time again that he is not going to accept failure as an option and he will persevere through adversity. This series is about a boy growing up but it also shows the strength of character it requires to become a truly remarkable person.
3. These are not just children's books
J.K. Rowling may not be a giant of classical literature, but she certainly deserves credit for using literary techniques in books that were originally intended for a young audience. For example, Chekhov's Gun is the introduction of an object that seems irrelevant into a story but later becomes crucial to the plot line. This is a good way to develop believable plot and Rowling just slaps you over the head with it. Again and again and again. The vanishing cabinets that first appear in The Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry hides in the one in Borgin and Burkes and later when the other is used to distract Filch, Tom Riddle's diary that is destroyed in The Chamber of Secrets and a locket that won't open and is thrown out during the cleaning of Grimmauld Place in The Order of the Phoenix are all examples of Chekov's Gun. All of these objects become essential to the story and there are many, many more examples throughout the series. Rowling keeps us on our toes-never introducing something without it being an important part of the story later. These are not just simple children's books, they have layer after layer of in-depth concepts and literary devices.
2. The exploration of the importance of love and family
Harry loses his parents and lives with his despicable aunt, uncle and cousin. He is alone and seemingly unloved until he makes his way into the magical world and soon finds a larger and more loving family than he could have ever imagined. It becomes evident that the love of a family is not restricted to a traditional family unit and Harry comes to discover this every time he must face a challenge he finds that he is never alone or without some sort of support. Throughout the series we are reminded of the various forms that love can take and how much family, in whatever form it comes in, means and needs to be kept close especially in times of danger. This is something that is clearer in the books than it is in the movies. Quite often the movies talk about these concepts, but the books are able to better demonstrate them with their depth of story.
1. An old man's mistake
As I mentioned, the movies tend to leave out important moments from the books. This is true of plot points, but perhaps more true of emotionally charged moments. One of the best moments in the series comes in The Order of the Phoenix when Dumbledore finally tells Harry about his destiny with Voldemort. He admits he has acted in a selfish way as it pertains to Harry tells him that he owes him:
An explanation of an old man's mistakes. For I see now that what I have done, and not done, with regard to you, bears all the hallmarks of the failings of age...I cared about you too much. I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act.
The weight of this statement is owing to the investment the reader has in the characters. If you don't cry when Dumbledore tells Harry how much he loves him and that all he wanted to do was protect Harry from any pain he could you have a cold, cold heart of stone. This is one of the more heart-wrenching scenes because it deals with the idea that there are realities that must be faced by the ones we love no matter how much we fight or resist it. And then there is the tear behind Dumbledore's half moon spectacles that rolls into his long white beard for the sadness he feels for Harry's unfairly immense burden of responsibility and, excuse me, I must go sob for a while. In the movie version of this scene, Dumbledore the second (the original actor, Richard Harris, died after the second film was made) impassionately utters the line "I cared too much". I have much less invested in that version of Dumbledore than the one that exists as J.K. wrote him in the books.
For all of these reasons and so many more, I strongly encourage you to read this great series.