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Why We Read Harry Potter

In the days leading up to the release of the Half-Blood Prince, I eagerly quizzed my friends about their latest theories regarding Book Six. During this grilling of my comrades, I was surprised to learn that one of my friends has never read a Harry Potter book. The conversation went something like this:

"So, who do you think is going to die in the sixth?" "Well, I couldn't tell you because I've never read Harry Potter." "WHAT?! Why not?" "Well, I don't know. I saw the movies, and they just didn't seem very special."

As one could probably imagine, I was dumbfounded and almost enraged. "Of course Harry Potter is special," I thought, "It's such a complicated series, and it's just as good, if not better, than Lord of the Rings at creating a separate world. How could anyone ever even think something to the contrary?" Then I thought, "Why is this such a big deal to me? Why does this one book mean more to me than any other of the myriad of books on my bookshelves? Why do we read Harry Potter? Why even bother? Why not just read Lord of the Rings or watch Star Wars?" After a few hours of turning these ideas over in my head, the answer struck me. We read, and keep reading, Harry Potter because of the amazing world that it creates for us to live in, a world that reflects our own.

"Well," my friend might say, "Lord of the Rings certainly is like our world, with all of the battles and afternoon teas. Star Wars has the spacecraft and the Imperial Senate. Why is Harry Potter different?" It's different because we can relate to the characters and to the world of Harry Potter much more than the ones in other series, including the aforementioned. Harry Potter is the myth of today; Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are the stories of different generations that were written for a different audience and reflect a different time. Star Wars was the myth of the seventies and the early eighties. Lord of the Rings, however unintentionally, reflects the events that made up World War II. Neither of these series mentions the computers and Playstations that are common sights in today's culture. JK Rowling manages to weave these subtle references into her stories even though they focus on an entirely different world. Harry Potter is so intriguing and meaningful to us because it mirrors, and sometimes mocks, today's world, not the worlds of our parents or our grandparents.

That is not to say that there is no relation to our world in other series; that is not to say that other stories of the struggle between good and evil are not worth our time in this modern day and age. Plenty of parallels with today's society and culture can be found in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, just ask any avid fan, including myself (but that is for another time, another editorial). However, the similarities in Harry Potter are much more noticeable to us because they were intended to directly mirror the world today.

This editorial barely scratches the surface of the giant fandom that is Harry Potter. Many people may not read the series for the parallels but for the amazing characterization, some for the detailed subplots woven throughout the book, and still some just for pure entertainment. Whatever reason, despite people like my friend, Harry Potter is read and loved by millions, making it one of the most successful books of all time.

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