He’s a whiny, scrawny adolescent. He has anger issues. He’s “the Chosen One.” And yet, Harry Potter just might be the best character of all time.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series inspired millions of children to love books. Those same children are now adults and still obsessed with the franchise, as is clear from the enormous popularity of the films, merchandise, theme parks, fandoms, and memes.
Many adolescent characters are popular and compelling to their adolescent readers. Harry, though, is the head of a universe that has spawned an era. Readers of every age adore the Wizarding World.
Even those who haven’t read the books know and love him.
While haters insist that Harry isn’t even the best character in the series, Harry is the title character because he represents today’s everyman. Even his suburban-sounding name is a signal of his incredible ordinariness, and yet he overcomes the challenges we all face today. He is an average hero destined to do extraordinary things, and we all see ourselves in him.
As a pre-teen, Harry represented the precocious, downtrodden orphan in all of us. In a culture built around Disney movies, quest narratives, and individualism, we love a good underdog. To see Harry pushed around by the Dursleys and yet maintain his courage, kindness, and ingenuity is an inspiration to people of today. I think we all yearn for a brighter, safer place in the world.
Besides, who doesn’t want a bearded half-giant to show up and announce that they have special gifts? Who doesn’t, in their innermost heart, know that they were meant for better things?
As Harry grows up, so do we.
He flirts and fights and falls in love, and overcomes physical, emotional, and mental challenges. His mentor characters are at first inspiring and then disappointing, until he realizes that mentors are people too; we’re all just struggling to get by. With Harry, we agonize over tedious daily struggles even as we fret over the safety of an entire world.
Finally, Harry triumphs over the forces of evil, but not solely due to his own abilities. He has greatness thrust upon him through the support of his friends, family, and even strangers. Like the rest of us, he must navigate a dark and confusing world but cannot do it without realizing that his best abilities come from being a part of something bigger than himself.
Harry is ultimately compelling because he is so incredibly real. Yes, he’s the teenage title character of a fantasy series, but he has depth, growth, and realism not often possessed by young adult fiction characters. He learns, lives, and loves, and while we don’t always like him, we still love his world and the part he plays in it. We resonate with who he is and what he stands for. While we’re not always good people, we try, and with Harry, we overcome.
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About The Blogger
Sarah Beach is a writer, editor, and researcher with an intense need for herbal tea. She writes about a variety of subjects, including social media, mental health, memes, and holistic wellness. Sarah is a graduate student in the field of Communication Studies and teaches rhetoric. She is also a registered Reiki practitioner and enthusiastic ukulele player. When she’s not writing, you can find her wandering aimlessly outdoors or watching period dramas.
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