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Not every novel can reach the reputation of the Harry Potter novels. Without the originality and uniqueness of the novels, it will never be possible for the culture to sweep the world. Therefore, it is crucial to start to investigate the cultural and literal essence of the novels themselves.
The Success of the Harry Potter Novels
J. K Rowling, the writer of Harry Potter, is a British female writer who firstly emerged on the literary stage at the end of 20th century and made a splash. Rowling published her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in the UK in 1997, and the book quickly topped the bestseller list (Brown, 2010). In the following years, her Harry Potter novels rapidly gained popularity in Anglo-American countries and even around the world, attracting not only a large number of children, but also countless adults who were amazed by the stories and characters. The main stage of the first six novels is the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with the protagonists gradually growing from children to young adults.
Harry Potter, a young wizard student, who had great experience in the wizarding world and learned about life and adventure for six years in Hogwarts. In the last book, the story is about how Harry Potter eliminates the main villain of the novels, Voldemort, in the second Wizarding World War. Eden Ross Lipson, editor of Children’s Literature Lipson The New York Times, said: “Rowling’s success is unprecedented among American literary writers, unprecedented among English literary writers, and unprecedented among global writers”. The British version was published by the Bloomsbury Press, which was introduced in part after the introduction of the United States by the Scholastic Press, and the Simplified Chinese version was issued by the Chinese People’s Literature Press. The series has been translated into 73 languages, with total sales of more than 450 million copies of all versions in 2015, ranking among the world’s best-selling fiction series.
The Literature Value of the Harry Potter Novels
Literature is the combination of joys and sorrows of people. From ancient times, storytellers portrayed life with its sweetness and bitterness in an entertaining way. Story narration is in essence life experience, with both strong entertainment factors and profound philosophical nature. The bizarre and twisted storyline is a core element of Harry Potter novels, and it is also an excellent way to attract readers. The popularity of the Harry Potter novels is mostly due to its unpredictable and thrilling storyline. Many of the themes in the Harry Potter series, including the antagonism between good and evil, are common to many popular literary works. In the Harry Potter series, however, there is combination of both the style of detective fiction and the elements of magic and supernatural power.
These seven novels actually had only one main plot, in which Harry grew up in a battle with Voldemort, the main villain in the books. The story begins with an 11-year-old boy, Harry, who is accepted to the wizard school Hogwarts. The stories in school is just like the everyday life of a normal 11-year-old. They go to classes, do homework, have group projects, try to deal with campus bullies, and even develop a crush on a classmate. However, this experience is also mixed with many magical things: messenger owls, revolving stairs, roaring letters, flying cars and broomsticks, magic wands, cloaks, a living map, etc. Besides, there are many magical creatures around the campus: horseman, giant spiders, punching willow, trolls, and so on. In the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry discovered the Philosopher’s Stone and learned that it was the missing piece that would regenerate the evil Voldemort, he stood up bravely and battled against Voldemort and his servants.
Harry, intentionally or unintentionally, vandalized their actions every time. In the face of a powerful opponent, Harry wins victory every time, because his ability to understand magic is constantly improving. Harry and his friends got help from many great wizards, such as Principal Dumbledore, who taught them not only the secrets of magic, but also how to treat people with love and patience. The readers are offered to join the growth of the main characters. As these fictional characters grow, so does the reader.
The Harry Potter novels were firstly popular among children for a reason. Children are most open-minded readers to the accept the bizarre world in these novels. Compared to adults, they have less cultural barriers, less rational analysis and value evaluation. As the series became more popular, the plot of the Harry Potter series attracted both young people and adults because the novels are actually a detective mystery in disguise. In the novels, Harry and his friends are always on their way to solve mysteries, such as “mistaken identity” and “secret evil doers”. The emphasis on the latter confirms the fact that the primary conflict is between good and evil. In the Harry Potter series, the use of magic and supernatural powers is woven throughout each book, but even readers from a completely different culture will understand and be attracted instantly, because the magical elements are presented as normal parts of the lives of the Harry Potter characters. After the first book in the series, at least readers from all over the world do not have the culture shock about the western supernatural beings and magical items.
One of the distinguishing elements of the Harry Potter series is that the fascinating adventures are made real by the fact that they are a regular part of life for its characters. The books are a great example of effective combination of folklore, myth, and supernatural elements. For example, the books contain references from the successful classic fictions including the works of Tolkien, such as his “Lord of the Ring” series, and C.S. Lewis, such as his “Chronicles of Narnia” series.
The fantasy and sci-fi fictions that emerged in the 1990s are from the reality but above the reality. The post-modernists are confused about value of life and cannot be satisfied in reality. Fictions have become a reasonable escape. The great success of Harry Potter was referred to by critic Philip Hensher as “infantization”, and writer Byatt believed that the Harry Potter series lacks skill and seriousness that a great work should represent. To these critics, the Harry Potter series are only for readers with poor imagination, and adults are addicted to the books only because such books allow them to return psychologically to “the comfort of childhood”.
On the other hand, after analyzing the fantasy theories of Tolkien, Todorov and Jackson, Steven Barfield argues that the Harry Potter series constitutes “satirical fantasy”, in which the work presents flaws in the real world in the form of parody. He believes that the novels have more significance than just story books for children. These mixed views on Harry Potter novels from different writers and critics reflect the diversity of the story itself. The books adapt to the tastes of different audiences, and provide diverse perspectives on understanding the content.