When the reader explores the thousands of pages covered in the magical adventures of Harry Potter, she cannot help but to learn something extraordinary, even if she is as reluctant to embrace lessons as Ron Weasley. Here are some things that I have carried with me long after leaving the Great Hall.
1. Creativity can be more powerful than magic.
Even when you’re crushed, cornered, or conquered, creativity can creep in unnoticed and trounce your oppressors. I’m thinking here about Hermione convincing Professor Umbridge to follow her and Harry deep into the Forbidden Forest, where, much to their chagrin, the Centaurs vanquish Umbridge for them. Harry and company were beaten, bested with no chance of recovery, except that Hermione had so much creativity it proved to be even more impactful than a magical wand.
2. Appearance is without value.
Of course, I would like to argue that I long knew this, but do any of us actually internalize it? What I think is unique about the presentation of appearance in HP is this: the ugly and the outcast are not always good and the attractive, alluring characters are not always bad. In fact, they’re not always anything. Hagrid is an honorable outcast, but Wormtail certainly isn’t. Lockhart is captivating, but craven and self-obsessed. Cedric is both handsome and heroic. Appearance, HP seems to say, is happenstance; character is the stuff of consequence.
Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore effortlessly unite to communicate a revolutionary idea: age is an illusion. So, age isn’t an illusion, exactly, but our understanding of age certainly is. We make two mistakes: we think elder people are superior and we think elder people are inferior. Yes, somehow we make both mistakes at once. We think children or young people are inexperienced fools who contribute nothing worthwhile while also considering elders obsolete. (We somehow find a way to devalue every human.) Harry and Dumbledore lay those mistakes bare. Harry and Dumbledore are two of the greatest, most impressive wizards we encounter — one a child and the other supernaturally advanced in years. It is not one’s rotations around the sun that crafts one’s ability, value, experience, or intellect — it is the composition of his soul.
What has Harry Potter taught you?