Has it really been 20 years since the release of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book? It some ways, it seems like only a little while ago that I first cracked open Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and in other ways, it is already such a literary classic that it hard to imagine we haven’t always been enraptured with a wonderful wizarding school hidden within the world of Muggles.
J.K. Rowling is a true hero of mine. Who isn’t inspired by the story of the struggling single mother, writing her novel in coffee shops while her baby napped in her pram, who preserved through what she categorized as “loads” of rejection slips, only to finally have published novels that have truly revolutionized the world?
In my literature class, we focus on three aspects of literary analysis: plot, setting, and character. The thing about Rowling is that she is a MASTER of all three. Her complex and convoluted plots twist and turn without the reader getting lost, even though her clues were planted many chapters, or sometimes even entire books, earlier. Her magician world is so detailed and so realistic and so enticing….really, don’t we all want to visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and Hogwarts itself. But it is her characters that really get me. They are so fully rendered, so funny and common and heroic and full of shades of gray, that they seem like people we really know rather than fictional characters.
So in honor of this anniversary, I am including a few of my favorite quotes from the professor to whose example we would all love to rise up to meet, the character who I think is the mouthpiece for what Rowling herself truly believes–Albus Dumbledore.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997)
“The truth. It is a disturbing and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998)
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)
“You think the dead we love ever truly leave us?”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000)
“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good and kind and brave because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)
“There is a room in the Department of Mysteries,… that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that resides there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full for the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005)
“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Thank you, J.K. Rowling. You have given the world a great gift.