Harry Potter has not only inspired a generation of kids to read as they grew up together, J. K. Rowling’s character survives the brutal challenges of adolescence. Some parents worried their children might mistake wizardry for devilish powers and didn’t let them read the books. Really the book is about the power of friendship and love.
The boarding school setting at Hogwarts throws young people together to make the best of growing up. For all its special effects the story centers on relationships. Harry plays team sports with classmates, eats and learns with his house, and learns spells and wand maneuvers with other kids. He finds a trusted mentor in Dumbledore.
Unlike the brilliant but evil Voldemort, who isolates himself and divides himself into parts to become immortal, Harry connects himself with others in lasting friendships that see him through conflict and dangers. His closest friends, Hermione and Ron, accompany Harry. They eat and study together, learn the Hogwarts’ grounds and secrets, camp and travel together, risk their lives to find and destroy the horcruxes together. They descend to the goblins’ treasury where every piece of gold they touch multiplies; they free the security guard dragon and ride it out of the lower bowels of the bank into the sky.
Hermione always has the needed spell in her bottomless purse. Ron abounds in feelings enough for all three—excitement, fear, jealousy, crazy love. The Weasleys, his family, are wizards who claim Harry and Hermione as their own.
Only at the end of the story when Harry recognizes he must face Voldemort and die to save his friends does he fully realize his identity. He is marked by love and scarred by hate. Harry’s mother died saving him from Voldemort, her killer. But Voldemort planted a part of himself within Harry and made him the last horcrux. His mother’s love lasts and protects Harry. When the resurrection stone opens at the close, it floods Harry with memories of his parents who with others accompany him in spirit to face death at the hands of Voldemort.
Harry’s love for his friends makes him willing to put his life on the line to end the reign of Voldemort and his Death Eaters that thrive on menace, depression, and destruction. Harry survives, partly because Draco’s mother doesn’t tell Voldemort he’s alive. Harry saves her son; she protects Harry. In the end it is not Harry who kills Voldemort but another adolescent who has grown up—the clumsy, awkward Neville, whom we cheer as he steps forward as a leader and kills the snake and its master.
Harry is less a super hero than a friend among friends. Some people see a Christ figure in Harry as I do, too. Harry is like Jesus in laying down his life for his friends. For both, love is the power that proves life-giving.
Written by Joan Mitchell, CSJ
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