<%-- Page Title--%> Impressions <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 113 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

July 11, 2003

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Just Harry


The 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 or scared…”
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.

However 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 Harry.”

And being “just Harry” is good enough.


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