I’m all for Harry Potter. It’s true: I was one of the first generations to enjoy the J. K. Rowling novels. My brother was the first in the family to buy them, and I followed suit and read all seven as quickly as I could. I laughed at the Weasley brothers, cried when Dumbledore died, and hated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as much as anyone else did. But I am not an advocate for the Harry Potter fan club rooting for the books to be considered a “classic” piece of literature.
Yes, the saga has been praised for its ability to improve children’s desire to read. And while that is significant and is well-deserved credit in a world where reading is a venue to educate one another, literary critics deem “classics” as pieces that transcend beyond the stereotypical hero and villain novel, i.e. Harry Potter.
While the school of witchcraft and wizardry is unique, the stories built within them are not. How many times have we seen the group of friends fighting against a higher power (Harry, Ron, and Hermione vs. Lord Voldemort)? The best friends turned lovers (Ron and Hermione)? Good defeating evil (the finale)? If we took the time out to replace the world of Hogwarts, and put this story in the context of a novel in a high school setting, the storyline is clichéd. We’ve all seen Harry, the leader, Hermione, the nerd, and Ron, the klutz, and we’ve grown to love them.
While Rowling’s writing is built for child-level learning, the content of the novels are not. Death is one of the most significant themes, especially as the series progresses. The series grapples with death and the struggles that accompany it. However, the mere idea of death within a children’s series does not constitute for the merit it needs to be considered a masterpiece.
In short, Harry Potter is meant to tell a story, and to sell a story. As I said, I enjoy reading Harry Potter books, I do (the movies are a different story). Yet the conversation in regards to its ability to be regarded a “classic” has yet to be proven to me, especially in literary terms. We look at novels like “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and realize how intricately delved these are into issues within our society: racism, class structure, the lives of Southerners during the nineteenth century. But does Harry Potter truly grapple with these same issues that are prevalent today?
The purpose of Harry Potter is set out to entertain and inspire children; so was every other children’s book that I read when I was in elementary and middle school. I encourage devoted fans to remain faithful to J. K. Rowling and Harry, and I expect nothing less. But it takes more than just a multi-million dollar fan club to produce a classic piece of literature, and I find it difficult to believe that Harry will ever surpass his current level of admiration by adoring, faithful fans to captivate the public on a level considered to exceed basic levels of literary thought.