SRABONTI NARMEEN ALI
blockbuster hit Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came
out in movie theatres all over the world in December 2000.
Audiences were glued to the screen and waited with bated
breath as half-giant Rubeus Hagrid, keeper of keys and grounds
at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry stated proudly,
“Yer a wizard, Harry.”
“I'm a what?” Harry exclaimed. “No, you've made a mistake.
I mean, I can't be a wizard. I mean I'm just Harry”
“Well 'just Harry',” smiled Hagrid. “Did you ever make anything
happen? Anything you couldn't explain when you were angry
It was at that moment that Harry Potter realised there was
more to his “strangeness” than just a lightning shaped scar
on his forehead and a “funny look about him.” Without so
much as a second glance backwards, he followed Hagrid out
of his “muggle” (non-magic folk) life and into the world
that he was born to live--the wizarding world.
Most people can agree that at some point in their lives
they have wanted magical powers. I am no different. There
are many instances in which an invisibility cloak would
have come in handy and I can think of countless irritating
people that I would take pleasure in cursing with a wave
of my wand. (My favourite spell being the “eat slugs” one).
Unfortunately, it seems that I am indeed a muggle and therefore,
can only get a glimpse of the magical world through the
eyes of J.K. Rowling's boy wonder. Rowling has currently
written five books on Harry Potter and his numerous adventures.
Although the books are intended for a younger audience,
it seems that this is one literary work that transcends
age, as was made very clear to me when I went to Etcetera
for the book launching of Harry Potter and the Order of
the Phoenix, the fifth book in Rowling's series. As I stood
with my back against a wall in order to avoid being trampled
by the throng of people coming in and out of the bookstore,
one question rolled around my mind.
What is it about Harry Potter?
Sure, the plot is imaginative and exciting, the suspense
is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, and the
reading is uncomplicated and unpretentious.
what takes me extra distance, however, is that Harry suffers
from an ailment that we all have probably faced at some
point or another: being different. Be it in the muggle or
wizarding world, Harry is in a league of his own. He is
famous for being the one wizard who survived the attack
of the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, whose name still terrorises
the wizard community. He also succeeded in stripping He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named
(as the magic folk like to refer to Voldemort) of all his
powers--that too when he was just a helpless baby.
As unnerving as fame must be, Harry accepts his status with
a grain of salt. In the first two books, Rowling kept her
hero unbelievably brave, slightly confused, endearingly
unhappy and quietly rebellious. It is in her three most
recent books that Harry experiences emotions that we are
all too familiar with: self pity, defiance and anger. In
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry struggles
with his rage when he learns that his father's best friend
betrayed his parents for Lord Voldemort, resulting in both
of their deaths.
As a teenager Harry deals with what most of us deal with
and manages to pass through the years, not with flying colours,
but clumsily as we all would have done. What sets him a
number of notches higher than most of us, however, are his
unshakable ability to follow his gut instincts, his inherently
good heart and his unfailing courage.
We see characteristics in Harry that we can all relate to.
Despite being a big name in the wizarding world, Harry still
remains the boy next door--ordi-nary and extraordinary at
the same time. Like most people, Harry shines in different
aspects, in a different community. The lesson here being
that there are always some people who accept you for who
you are, and others who do not.
What makes Harry a hero is not the fact that he has magical
powers, but what he chooses to do with his powers. As Headmaster
Albus Dumbledore told him in Harry Potter and the Chamber
of Secrets, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we
truly are, far more than our abilities.”
In the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone, the reader gets an almost over-exaggerated sense
of just how close-minded and cruel muggles can be when they
are faced with something unfamiliar. This is evident from
the way Harry's only living relatives (Aunt Petunia and
Uncle Vernon) treat him. As they do not understand the magic
world they automatically assume that the entire wizarding
community is comprised of 'freaks.'
Something about Harry's aunt and uncle made me uncomfortable.
It seems to me that we muggles do not limit our prejudices
to the wizarding world only. We take it a step further at
times. In many instances anyone with a different language,
skin colour, religion, or background is put in the 'freak'
category. But prejudice works both ways in the wizarding
world, as it does for muggles. For example, Lord Voldemort
and his followers (the Death Eaters) are against anyone
from muggle families, be they wizards or not. The result
is a split within the wizard community, feeding into the
age-old, but never tiring concept of good fighting evil.
Not that good always triumphs over evil. Rowling is always
careful to be realistic, emphasizing that the end result
of such a battle is usually a compromise of good winning
the overall war, but losing many of the battles. Harry ends
each of his adventures with a bittersweet taste in his mouth.
The death of his parents, and lack of a real family is something
that he feels more deeply as he grows older. It is the fact
that he is able to feel these emotions--emotions such as
loss and loneliness that we muggles relate to so well--that
endears us even more to him. Rowling's dark knight may be
a famous talented wizard, but he is also, as he said, “just
And being “just Harry” is good enough.