Why Harry Potter Appeals to Adults as Well as Younger Audiences
Harry Potter is a series that needs no introduction. It is the most popular book series of all time; the movies were fairly popular as well and by “fairly popular” I mean they are the most popular movie franchise of all time. So why is it that a children’s series has garnered the attention of those who are supposed to have surpassed the age for children’s books? Simply because J.K. Rowling created a world that is so intricate that adults are amazed by the connections she made between all of the minute details, one full of magic and wonderful characters. Rowling’s writing grew with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as did her readers. The readers have now grown up and are ready to share the series with our children, just our parents did for us.
In Depth Plot
Upon first reading of the series, it is easy to overlook the nuances of the plot in the excitement of reading about an entirely new world and Harry’s brushes with death. Upon more readings, one can realize that the artifacts that Harry examined in Borgin and Burke’s in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets were all used in later books. Four books later, in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Draco tried to kill Dumbledore with the cursed necklace and instead almost murdered Katie Bell. In the same story he used the Hand of Glory to get the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. This was accomplished by him having fixed the magical cabinet that Fred and George shoved Montague in to in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that was the partner to the same cabinet in which Harry hid in Chamber of Secrets.
The subtle details and comments are appreciated with every additional reading. From the question Snape poses to Harry in his first Potions lesson to Professor Trewlaney’s predictions, everything seems to relate to another aspect of the series. Snape asked Harry about powdered root of asphodel which has been shown to mean that Snape bitterly regrets Lily’s death: asphodels are a type of lily and wormwood is a flower that means bitter sorrow (Ceron 2014). Trelawney’s reluctance to sit at the Christmas dinner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because the first to stand up from a gathering of thirteen will be the first to die foreshadowed Lupin’s death in Deathly Hallows. Lupin was the first to leave the gathering in Mad Eye’s memory in Harry Potter of the Deathly Hallows and was the first casualty of the main group in the Battle of Hogwarts.
The careful thought Rowling put into every line of her stories can only be truly appreciated by people who are older than the children and pre-teens that the books are meant to be for. Perhaps that was also part of her plan: she knew adults were starving for something well written, something that deviated from the mundanity that can be experienced after reading too many novels deemed fit for adults. The scripts that every adult genre seems to have can make one feel as though if they have read one romance novel, one mystery, one fiction, they have read them all and thus run frantically back in to the shelves designated for young adults in order to read something different.
The magical world Rowling created is so appealing that readers who passed their eleventh birthday bemoaned the missed opportunity to receive a letter from Hogwarts, while those who had yet to pass that particular milestone were still able to hold out hope. Unable to accept that Hogwarts would not be a reality, adults utilized their authority and decided to make their own versions like the theme park in Universal Studio while those in London were able to visit the locations mentioned in the books. Candy makers attempted to make Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean, Chocolate Frogs, and Droobles Best Blowing Gum realities of the Muggle world. Many vendors have Harry Potter themed purchases i.e. wands, wizard robes, Time Turners, Felix Felicis etc. All can be seen as simple toys for kids who love the books, but are really for the adults. Adults who wish for the opportunity to cast a spell to eradicate the need to manually clean their homes or to let time (or doctors) heal their wounds, and everyone wishes for the chance to turn back time and get a do-over, or a swing of lucky potion to make a day go perfectly. As there is, sadly, no literal magic world that we can tap three bricks on the left of a pub’s wall in order to enter, adults turn to the magic of Rowling’s words in the books and audiobooks, as well as through movie magic. The works act as brief escapes into Harry’s world and to see his loved ones and to battle his enemies.
Rowling’s characters were so well thought out that even Lord Voldemort, the villain of the series, has qualities that make people able to understand why he felt the need to destroy all but the Pure-bloods. After all, how could anyone born as a result of a love potion and raised in an orphanage understand what it means to love anyone else? The only truly reprehensible character is Dolores Umbridge. The cruelty of Umbridge is highly relatable for anyone who has had an educator or boss who manipulated their power and used it to make the lives of their subordinates miserable. She has no redeeming qualities and is so detested that I feel safe in saying that if she were the villain against whom Harry had to contend for seven years, the books would be far less popular and films might never have been made.
Those who were beloved are numerous and the reasons more extensive. Fred and George for their senses of humor and willingness to help with any mischief, Sirius and Lupin were father figures for Harry who had gone so long without, Molly Weasley and Minerva McGonagall were Harry’s mother figures, Dumbledore was the mentor and grandfatherly figure. Ron and Hermione were the friends who he had lived without for so long but would have been unable to survive without after he entered in to the magical world. We mourned the deaths of every beloved character, perhaps none more so than that of Dobby. Dobby had been faithfully devoted to Harry after having been set free from the service of the Malfoys and celebrated when those with evil tendencies got what they deserved. We were invested in the success of the marriages we witnessed and were relieved to find out that, despite losing his parents in the Battle of Hogwarts, Teddy Lupin lived happily with the help of his godfather, Harry.
Adult readers can appreciate and relate to the difference between a biological family and the family you create for yourself. Both are important and beloved, but sometimes, as with Harry’s case, it is the family we make that can make one feel that they have found their people. Harry never felt that he was accepted or loved while he was growing up in the Dursleys’ household because his aunt and uncle made it clear that he was a burden. Only when he met Ron on the train did he find his first friend, and after they saved Hermione from the troll on Halloween, the trio was complete.
Harry was informally inducted into the Weasley family and then he discovered that his father’s best friend, Sirius Black, was his godfather and another of James’s best friends, Remus Lupin, became a surrogate uncle. Harry’s family kept growing as the Order of the Phoenix was introduced and Harry was mentored by Dumbledore who was his ultimate protector, and Professor McGonagall proved how much she cared for Harry during the seventh book. It all came full circle when, in the epilogue, Harry was at King’s Cross Station to send his two sons off to Hogwarts. He finally had a biological family that was as loving as the one he had created during his time at Hogwarts. This family was created with Ginny Weasley so Harry was officially a part of the Weasley clan, as was Hermione because she married Ron. Watching Harry make his dreams for a happy family come true is comforting for any adult: if Harry can battle the Dark Lord, die, lose a lot of his loved ones, and still find happiness, so can all of us Muggles.
Harry Potter is special because it is a series in which the author does not shy from a fairly sophisticated vocabulary and a character who adores alliteration (Professor McGonagall) while still being easy to reach and highly amusing. Readers of any age do not feel like they are reading a book that is inappropriate for their reading level. It is a world that is welcoming to all with characters who will make sure you are never lonely and always engaged. It lives on because people are still analyzing and finding new layers to the books, or creating their alternate story lines through fan fiction. I myself have listened to Jim Dale’s reading of the series so many times I have lost count, but every time it is like being welcomed back home and never gets old. I miss being able to read the series for the first time, but do look forward to reading it to my kids and watching them fall in love with the magical world as well.
Ceron, Ella. “15 Details in the Harry Potter Books You Missed the First Time Around.” ThoughtCatalog.com February 15, 2014. Web. 20 September, 2015.
“Harry Potter series to be sold as e-books.” BBC News. 23 June, 2011. Web. 20 September, 2015.
“Movie Francises.” The Numbers Where Data and the Movie Business Meet. Nash Information Services, LLC, 2015. Web. 20 September, 2015.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1998. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic, 2007. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 1999. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.
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