The Literary Merit Of Harry Potter
Start writing a post

The Literary Merit Of Harry Potter

Harry Potter deserves to be studied in literature alongside the likes of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby.

The Literary Merit Of Harry Potter
The View From Tuesday

With the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which is interestingly a play turned into a book), Harry Potter has come back into the 2016 limelight (though, it never really left our hearts in the first place). Harry Potter is an example of commercial fiction, which is a story that has an exciting plot line and is designed to appeal to a wide audience. It is often contrasted with literary fiction, a category of books considered to have literary merit (the books you read in English class). The two categories are not perfectly distinct, and the Harry Potter series is the perfect example of this overlap.

The terms of motifs and symbolism from 11th grade English class probably do not come to mind about Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a perfect blend of an imaginative setting, lovable characters, and dramatic plot. Despite its status as commercial fiction, it is still rich in symbolism, a hallmark of literary fiction.

A theme that unites the series is growth. Harry Potter enters Hogwarts at the age of 11. While the first book has dark moments (murderous chess games and a literal two-faced professor), it is overall lighthearted and perfect for young children. This is the book Harry, Hermione, and Ron become friends. This book ends in victory: Voldemort does not get eternal life and Gryffindor wins the house cup by Dumbledore ex machina. Malfoy and his friends are still the run-of-the-mill schoolyard bullies, and Snape is still the typical devil professor.

That changes as the series progresses. The children’s competition of the house cup completely loses its importance. The protagonist trio faces deadlier challenges. Voldemort becomes successful in resurrection and claims the life of a Hogwarts student in doing so. Malfoy is dragged into a dark terrorist group by his heritage, and Snape’s character continues to grow more despicable. Unlike many other children book series characters, Harry Potter ages. His childhood innocence is quickly lost as he sees death after death. The progression of darkness in the series reflects the processes of aging and maturing. It represents the accumulation of conflict and struggle that comes as one grows.

However, hope still exists. Snape turns out to be complex characters with good intentions. Harry defeats Voldemort, and Malfoy escapes his family’s bloodline of evil. The series dark progression with hope at the end is best visualized by movies.

Every frame of the Harry Potter movies has been condensed into a sliver and lined up together to produce the barcode like image. The progression of darkness is easily seen in this picture, and the white light at the end is the famous King’s Cross scene.

The King’s Cross scene is the clearest example of Christian symbolism used in the book. Despite the controversy with some religious groups, Harry Potter actually utilized many Christian references. His parents’ tombstones contain biblical quotes. While no character was perfectly good, Voldemort was portrayed as a true and pure Satan like evil. King’s Cross served as a gateway to another realm (the magic world and some sort of limbo that allowed Harry to speak with his deceased mentor one last time). Religious references are also ubiquitous among works considered literary fiction.

Harry Potter will stand the test of time as a golden treasure in the world of books. Even if it is not discussed in the classroom with the likes of The Great Gatsby or The Scarlet Letter, the readers who grow up with Harry will pass on the books to their children. If it has been a while since you have last read the series, I recommend reading it again and look closely for the literary secrets hidden in the magic.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Content Inspiration

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week

Take a look at the articles driving big conversations on Odyssey.


At Odyssey, we're on a mission to encourage constructive discourse on the Internet. That's why we created the response button you can find at the bottom of every article.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

Holidays With A Small Family

I wouldn't trade what we have for the world.

Matt Johnsn

When I was a kid I always went to my grandparents house whenever we celebrated any sort of holiday. We were a decently sized family and it was always a blessing to be in their house and surrounded by love during the holiday season. However, that all changed when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The family then began to drift apart and life went on, and we ended up all celebrating our own holidays with other family members.

Keep Reading... Show less

Safe Spaces Or Regressive Spaces?

Turns out shielding yourself from ideas can be detrimental to your ability to learn


College is a place for people who want to learn. That is the primary function of any academic institution. Its purpose is not to coddle us, nor should the community always be in agreement with us. We are supposed to surround ourselves with a variety of viewpoints that challenge us to learn, not the same repetitive points of view that make us happy.

Keep Reading... Show less

Black Friday is back to being Black Friday

This year, malls are standing up against Black Friday beginning on Thanksgiving. Doors won't be opening until Friday morning.


Last week my twitter feed was full of exclamations of how excited people were that our local mall, Westmoreland Mall would be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year. For those who work during the busy holiday days and hours, a celebration was in order. For the die-hard deal finders and shoppers though, they didn’t seem very happy.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?

There's been a recent boom in the popularity of vintage style looks and up-cycling thrifted finds to sell at, usually, an outrageous price. Is this ethical? Or does it defeat the whole purpose of thrifting in the first place?

Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?

One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a tweet about upper-middle-class class people thrift shopping. I personally was against the up cycling/re-selling trend because I thought it to be greedy. Then, I began to see more and more tweets, and then stated to see ones about those who buy thrifted, name brand items and sell them for what they're actually worth instead of the very low price they got them for.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments