Harry Potter Epitaph (a guest post by Amanda Pekar)

July 15, 2011 children's books 0

[My 16-year-old daughter, an aspiring writer, wrote this piece about the end — or not — of an era.]

Ten years ago, I read a book that changed my life. For ten years, I have read and reread, discussed, speculated about, walked, talked, acted, and dressed Potter. I’ve grown up surrounded by all things Potter. And all over the world, so have thousands of others.

Tonight, thousands upon thousands of people, from rabid fanatics to casual viewers, are queuing up to watch the final two and a half hours of film for the very first time. Midnight on July 15th, 2011 has been called the end of an era.

I don’t think it is.

In some ways, Potter was really over four years ago, on the night that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hit bookstores. With the final installment of the series in our hands, we no longer had the mystery of Harry Potter. The books were all out; there was no more waiting. The part of the books that I had loved best – the tension of waiting for the next book, the speculations and debates about what was going to happen next, and, most especially, the endless hours of searching through the books, looking for the dropped hints and little clues that Rowling had left for her seekers to find – that was all over the moment I turned the final page. I haven’t found anything to replace it since.

But if it was the mystery that gripped me from page one, it was J. K. Rowling’s world that drove me over the edge into fanaticism. It was so complete, it seemed she had thought of everything. Owls for the postal service, incredible kinds of candy, a workable monetary system… the wizarding world even had its own slang. It was all those details, the little unimportant things, things that not even C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien had bothered to put in their worlds, which caught the seven-year-old me, and made me believe.

The final selling point was the characters – and there were hundreds of them. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape, Neville, Luna, Ginny, McGonagall, Lupin, Sirius, Umbridge, Bellatrix, Malfoy, Dobby, Lockhart, Moody, Slughorn, Fred and George, Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, and the list goes on and on and on. Every character developed an individual personality, and in the end, very, very few of them ended up being unimportant.

And Hermione was especially important to me. If I had never run across the character of Hermione Granger, my life would be a very different thing. She showed me that you don’t have to be pretty to have friends, that it was all right to be smart and show it. She became a guide for me and even something like a friend when I needed one badly, and I must say there are worse role models. Never once does she try to be anyone other than herself, and never once does she turn her back on her word, or a friend. An excellent role model indeed.

The mystery might be over, but J. K. Rowling’s world and the characters that inhabit it are in the memories of everyone who read the books or watched the movies, and that’s something that can’t end, either tonight, or in another ten years.

Of course, Harry Potter has never had and will never have universal popularity. There are as many complaints about it as there are rave reviews, ranging from the valid to the outright absurd. Rowling’s prose is not the best, and only an elementary schooler would claim that it was. There are also plenty of inconsistencies in the series; it isn’t perfect. But when it comes to the claims that Harry Potter will lead children to really believing they can do magic or to devil-worship, I have to laugh. Really, children do know the difference between fantasy and reality. They can be far more intelligent than adults give them credit for.

My answer to all other complaints is simple. I have enormous trouble understanding anyone who is against anything that could lead to this:

Photo by Marco Okhuizen

Seven year olds. Reading 700 page books. That’s real magic.

“I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me,” Dumbledore once told Harry. It’s not the end of an era unless we let it be. Eventually, yes, our generation and our children’s generation are going to look back and laugh their heads off at the mania. But for now, the Potter era will only truly be over when we no longer remember the magic.

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