Why Harry Potter Should be Considered Classical Literature and Taught in High Schools

Spoiler alert! This article will go into detail about important events in the Harry Potter book series. 

 

Harry Potter is a name known around the world, not only from the overwhelming popularity of the books, but for the cultural weight it carries. People born in the ‘90s and later grew up with the anticipation of the book releases, itching to discover what becomes of the magical boy with messy black hair. Something so culturally significant, not only to the people who grew up with the series, but the generations who read the stories to their children or grandchildren, should be considered classical literature. 

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, classical literature can be defined as “notable for the excellence and enduring quality of its writers’ works.” The enduring qualities of Harry Potter have manifested themselves in the culture of today’s world, not only visible in merchandise available almost everywhere, but “Harry Potter Weekend” showings of the movie franchise on TV, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios bringing the fictional world to life. The story of Harry Potter has spurred the filming of a prequel movie series and the writing of a sequel play. The lasting impact of Harry Potter on the world should merit a definition as classical literature despite its submersion in pop culture. 

Harry Potter should be taught in schools because even the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, has just as much, if not more, value as novels that are currently taught in high schools. There are five major themes that can be pulled from the Harry Potter series, and many of them have better representation in Harry Potter than in the classical literature taught in high schools across the nation. 

 

Family and Friends

The Harry Potter series is largely oriented around the importance of family and friends. Harry Potter, a boy deprived of the privilege of having living, loving parents, prioritizes his friends and loved ones above all. The series emphasizes that not all who are blood have to be family, referencing his abusive aunt and uncle, and those who are not blood can easily become family. Of Mice and Men is a popular high school read with the same focus on companionship, but without the wholesome feel that the Harry Potter books bring to the reader. Of Mice and Men is based on the relationship between George and Lenny, and though they have a bond that could be described as closer to a brotherhood than a friendship, similarly to Harry and Ron, the reader can sense that George feels somewhat tied down by Lenny’s mental disability. Harry and Ron have a much more ideal relationship in which they get into spats and become jealous of one another, as all friends do, but their friendship is balanced in a way that is healthier than the one depicted in Of Mice and Men. This comparison is meant in no way to discredit the weight and meaning behind Of Mice and Men, but there is more to gain from the friendship between Harry and Ron than the one between George and Lenny. 

 

Identity

Hermione Granger is an underrated example of what it means to be firm and confident in one’s own identity. Holden Caulfield’s depiction of his struggle with identity in Catcher in the Rye is one of self-doubt and low confidence mixed with a level of conceit that combines to create a bitter main character that many find unbearable. Hermione’s character is not only oriented towards encouraging young girls to be themselves, an audience that is often left out of classical literature, but she is also comfortable not being the most liked person in the room. Described as “bossy” and a “know-it-all,” she has no shame in her intelligence and ability to take charge, something that is not often seen in well-liked female characters. Her growth in the series builds on these unique aspects of her identity, and instead of erasing them as her character develops, her intelligence and leadership is made essential to the storyline. Holden Caulfield’s bitterness is not essential to the storyline and only frustrates the reader. Hermione’s shameless intelligence gives confidence to young girls around the world, encouraging them to embrace their unique qualities in ways that are nontoxic, even if they do go against the grain. Statistically, the self confidence of girls drops drastically during puberty and those ages fall over the years most girls spend in high school. Introducing a strong female character to that age group that is easy to relate to and analyzing what makes Hermione so powerful and iconic in class among other girls could have a positive impact on their own self-confidence.

 

Love

Love is an essential theme in Harry Potter as it is more powerful than any magical spell. Love is what saved the life of Harry when his mother gave her life for his. The theme of love in Harry Potter is unique because it is not in reference to the romantic storylines in the series, but to the individual love that Harry feels for his friends and loved ones. It is a refreshing change from the recycled ideas of romantic love depicted in books like The Great Gatsby being the most important kind of love. The love found in everyday relationships with friends and family  is more valuable than fleeting physical attraction.

 

Death and Sacrifice

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular reads for high school that deals with themes of death and sacrifice, and though Romeo and Juliet is a required reading, its themes of death and sacrifice are not as extensive as in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort finds dark and twisted ways to ensure that he live forever, avoiding death no matter the cost. Meanwhile, Harry, in order to save the lives of his friends and loved ones, embraces death in an emotionally charged part of the book as he walks into the Forbidden Forest to meet Voldemort. Romeo and Juliet’s deaths were beautiful and tragic, but their deaths were the accidental results of severe miscommunication more than they were symbolic of their undying love for each other. Harry Potter’s love for his friends is not superficial and is well-established throughout seven books, validating his final decision to sacrifice himself for his loved ones, as opposed to a four day crush that ends in the avoidable death of two teenagers. 

 

While all of the above themes are important to the story, it should be noted that they are by no means the only themes that are important to the Harry Potter series. Different virtues and values can be identified in the series and the same themes have the potential to be interpreted differently from reader to reader. What seems to be lost as to whether or not Harry Potter is a classic and should be taught in high schools is that books should not have to be complicated in order to be considered classical literature. Simple prose does not make a book unsuitable to be a classic, just like how having complicated prose does not make a book good or fitting of being deemed a classic.