For Tuesday’s class, we started off with a presentation about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The presenters talked about the first book and its movie adaptation, as well as the rest of the books, movies, and other spinoffs associated with “the boy who lived”. Since the seven original books have been published, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has opened in Orlando, Florida, and is set to open a second location in California very soon. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play written by JK Rowling about Harry’s children after the end of the seventh book, has been adapted for stage in London and is planning on touring around the world. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was first written as a one of the three books in Harry’s collection of Hogwarts library books, has been adapted as a movie which serves as a sort of prequel for what the wizarding world was like before the rise of Voldemort; there are several planned sequels for it in the future. Everyone in class has at least heard of or knows about Harry Potter, and millions of people around the world at least know about Harry Potter, even if they haven’t read the books or seen the movies. It’s incredible to see what a huge impact one book series has made on pop culture. I believe this is largely due to the themes that are represented throughout the series and the positive messages that they convey.
Some of the most important themes from the book we discussed were friendship, acceptance, and bravery. Several people in class chose the word “friendship” as the main theme, which I also agree with. I think the main reason why Harry is able to accomplish anything in the first book, as well as the rest of the series, is because he has Ron and Hermione to help him out. Their friendship helps drive the plot and actions of the characters; without Ron and Hermione, I don’t know if Harry would be able to accomplish as much or make it as far as he did later on in the series. I also think friendship goes hand in hand with the theme of “love”. Without James and Lily’s love for Harry, he would not have survived Voldemort’s attack; without Snape’s love for Lily, he may not have helped or protected Harry to the extent that he actually does; and without the love from Sirius, the Weasleys, Hagrid, Dumbledore, and the countless other adults in Harry’s life, his quest to stop Voldemort would have been a lot harder.
We also talked about the differences between the original British title, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the American title, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the different connotations between “philosopher” and “sorcerer”. I’d never really thought in much detail as to why the publishers decided to change the title for American readers. I thought it was possibly because Americans are more used to hearing “sorcerer” and associating it with magic and witchcraft, and wouldn’t really understand what a philosopher has to do with a book about young children using magic on a daily basis. However, we talked about the different meanings that these two words carry. A “philosopher” is someone who wants to know the answer to a questions and therefore goes out in the world to find that answer, whereas a sorcerer would make their own answer rather than finding one. I think both of these titles would be appropriate for the book, as we can see that during the book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all use magic to escape the antagonists, but they are all clever enough to figure out what they have to do themselves; before they can use the magic, they much first figure out the best plan of action.
We also had a short conversations about how appropriate Harry Potter is for children. There were a few people in class, even one of the presenters, who had not been allowed to read or watch the Harry Potter series as children, due to parental concern about the prominent role of witchcraft. I personally see nothing wrong with the Harry Potter books or movies. As we discussed in class, the main themes of the story include friendship, love, bravery, acceptance, and that goodness should always triumph over evil, among others. I think these themes are critical for young children, and should be taught at a young age so that children can grow to be king and accepting of everyone they come across. I do understand why some parents wouldn’t want their children to read the books, however. Yes, they do participate in witchcraft and do use magic on a daily basis. This may make some children think that they too should be involved in such things, which can lead to them trying to use witchcraft in a negative way to bring suffering or pain to others. However, the only characters abusing their magical abilities are the “bad” characters, antagonists such as Voldemort and Quirrel, and the three main characters, as well as their friends, classmates, and the adults in their lives, constantly talk about how terrible “he who must not be named” and his followers are, and that they should be destroyed. The use of magic in this series is not evil or demonic, like many people think; the use of magic is aimed at defeating the “bad guys” and bringing peace and love to the world. I think this series doesn’t pose any serious threat to young children.