The answer first lies in the author herself, J.K. Rowling. Her intelligent and often quirky description challenges the reader, for she constantly invents new ideas that astonish and please. From her conception of such items as a “penseive” (a basin to hold one’s thoughts until one decides to think about them), to when she describes one Mrs. Dursley as having “twice the normal amount of neck,” Rowling continually pokes and prods the reader with novel depictions and creations.
Alongside her thought-provoking creativity lies her skill in narrative itself. The rush of the players at Quidditch, the repulsiveness of “you-know-who,” and the rumbling jocularity of Hagrid, the Hogwarts groundskeeper, are so abundantly clear that the reader is quickly and unknowingly immersed in Harry’s world.
“The quality with which these books are written, along with their character development, allows the reader to forget that they are actually reading books written for children,” said Lindsay Elliott ’04.
The world of Harry Potter is at once so believable and yet so fanciful that we as readers cannot help but be drawn to it.
Still, a large part of the cause for Harry’s popularity rests within the audience itself. Harry’s plight often reminds us that as Yale students we all have often felt ostracized as children.
“We all secretly have been the nerd when we were growing up, and we often wished there were secret boarding schools to escape to where we learned that we were the cool ones, ” Eleanor Ainslie ’02 said.
To many, Yale represents this opportunity, as students are whisked away from the normality of high school to a world of their intellectual and emotional peers.
“I certainly think great children’s literature lingers on as a favorite for many people throughout their lives,” University President Richard Levin said of the Harry Potter series, which he said he has not had the chance to read. “I could reread many children’s books.”
But ignoring all of this typically Yale abstraction and analysis, “Harry Potter” is simply a fun read that takes us back to our childhood. We all at one point or another wanted to have magical powers and to be able to fly on broomsticks. These books appeal to us because they are well-written fantasies where we not only root for the good guy, but we identify with him.
“[J.K. Rowling’s] imagination creates a world that allows us to escape to the infinite possibilities of our childhood,” Katie Marie Zouhary ’03 said.
These simple tales allow us to transcend our daily grind of books and work and meetings, transporting us to worlds of wonder and excitement.
Especially considering recent events, an escape to the wonderland of childhood is exactly what many people crave. The release of the new “Harry Potter” movie is bound to draw record crowds as people yearn for the simplicity and innocence of their childhood as a distraction from the horrors occurring in the world today.
“Harry Potter” is not good literature, nor was it intended to be. But it relates to our inner child so well that we can’t help feeling envy for Harry’s world. We want to be the ones sent to Hogwarts and escape our struggles, as Harry does. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of being fictional characters. We must (and do) work with the hand the world deals us. But who can’t resist getting a little sidetracked on the way?