There is more to the Harry Potter series than meets the eye. Sure, we occasionally meet people who claim it to be a children’s book series, but every Potterhead will give you hundreds of reasons as to why HP is awesome. Take a step back from the spectacular world building, brilliant writing and interesting plot and you will observe many moral lessons.
The emphasis on certain topics, such as friendship, loyalty, courage, love, perseverance, righteousness, equality, sacrifice, community, hope, choice, etc., is pretty obvious. However, there are a few other things that grabbed my interest while reading the series again as an adult. In lieu of Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary, I reread the books and found myself more in love with the series than I did as a child. Here’s why:
1. Ordinary people can lead extraordinary lives
Let’s face it, the titular character of the HP series is not the most inspiring one. When I read HP as a child, I thought Harry was a dumb kid who simply couldn’t stay out of trouble. It was Hermione’s character that I adored. However, as I grew up, I understood the significance of his characterization.
From Harry, I learnt that we can all make a difference in the world, even if we aren’t the smartest or the strongest. I also learnt to say yes when given a chance to do something extremely challenging, unless I’m 100% sure that I cannot do it. At the end of the day, what we know is not all that matters, but who we know is also key to getting things done.
To me, Harry’s character says that everyone can succeed with the right attitude and the right companions. His character is a reminder that it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. After all, we are all the protagonists of our own life.
2. Dealing with depression
The key to defeating a dementor is very similar to dealing with depression – positive and happy thoughts. Even if we all don’t go through clinical depression, at some point in life or the other, every single human would have felt down in the dumps. At those times, when all hope is lost and all energy gets drained out, it is important to remember the little things that matter and hang in there. Invoking happy memories and contacting people who matter are critical to getting through depression. I feel that the dementor and the Patronus are metaphors for depression and how to handle it.
3. Challenging the norm
There are many social injustices in the wizarding world that are reminiscent of the real world. The discrimination of muggle born wizards can be likened to many forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, casteism, classism, colourism, etc. The treatment of house-elves is a depiction of slavery. The rise of Lord Voldemort and the elimination of non-pureblooded wizards reminds me of Nazis and the Holocaust.
Not only does HP portray existing problems, but it also makes the reader look for such things in their daily life and fix them. Most of the wizarding world did not care about the treatment of house-elves because they were expected to be slaves. Even though it never occurred to most people to empathise with the house-elves, Harry found a sneaky way to free Dobby and Hermione fought for their rights.
Although it is common sense and basic morality to treat everyone the same and not discriminate anyone, the people of the wizarding world, especially the ones who followed Voldemort, started feeling superior based on their bloodline and discriminating others. My personal lesson from Voldemort and the death eater’s propaganda is that it is important to not be swayed by persuasive speeches. It is extremely important to not blindly follow the norm and actively look for problems in society.
4. People aren’t always what they seem to be
The evil looking person who seems to always cause you trouble might actually be your guardian angel. The timid person who seems to wish you well might actually be plotting to kill you. The crazy mad murderer locked in Azkaban might actually be an innocent victim who is on your side. As for not judging a book by its cover, from Neville Longbottom to Hagrid to Luna Lovegood to Dolores Umbridge, this is a recurrent theme in the Harry Potter series.
5. Hear the words of those who are overlooked
There are people who cannot shut up and keep throwing out stupid suggestions and most of us simply disregard them. Then, there are people who have a lot of charisma and may or may not come up with good solutions, but most of us take heed. And then, there are people like Luna Lovegood or “Loony” who might hold all the answers we are looking for, but we want to steer clear of them because they seem lunatic. Harry Potter taught me to consult the timid and the eccentric people because they could hold the key while no one asks them.
6. Don’t let your illness define you
Being a werewolf in the HP universe means to be shunned by the society. Instead of going into exile like other werewolves, Remus Lupin conceals this information and leads a normal life by making preparations for full moon days. As mentioned in Pottermore, Lupin’s condition is a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like AIDS. Whatever illness or disorder one may have, whether it carries a stigma or not, it is important to not define oneself based on the illness and rise above it.
These are my favourite lessons from the Harry Potter series. As you can see, these are not just for children. Adults can also benefit from reading books that inspire them and/or remind them of certain morals. The official list of 8 important lessons we learned from the Harry Potter books can be read at Pottermore. What are your favourite learnings from reading HP? Comment below!