Harry Potter Inducted for Literary Canon
The 90??™s are known for a variety of things: the Beastie Boys, Mark McGuire, Beanie Babies and best of all Harry Potter. This generation of individuals grew up with the tales of Harry Potter and the Hogwart??™s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry??™s story has become a standard for young adult reading. The Harry Potter series of books should be included as part of the literary canon for three important reasons: their popularity, the use of feminist characteristics and their use of a caste system.
Children who had never picked up a book before found find themselves immersed in the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron were eagerly observed as they submerged themselves in a magical environment enriched by their curiosity, growth and maneuvers through an unknown land. The Harry Potter series created characters that were relatable but also very easy to fall in love and become enamored with. This was the first time that adults began to pick up the same books as their children to read and actually enjoyed the storyline. Typically, parents ???see the phrase YA, and they tend to dismiss the work as disconnected to the literary community (Daniels 2006).??? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer??™s Stone was published in 1997 as the first installment of what would become a seven book series. Librarians were eagerly suggesting this title to students in what seemed like an unending effort to get young people to read.
An entire generation grew up with these books, specifically because the series begins with Harry at fifth grade and continues until his graduation at seventeen. As Harry increases in age so do his experiences. J.K Rowling has created a series that allows reader growth with Harry but also through him. This growth created the first separation between children??™s literature and young adult literature citing specific differences between both genres and providing their strengths. ???Publishers need to create a specific category for books that can be read by adults and young, books that have both literary and teaching merit (Daniels 2006).???
Although Harry Potter series is often considered genre literature, there is no reason why genre literature can??™t be considered for canon acceptance. Specifically, when the canon is so open to interpretation based on reading preferences and style. ???In fact, the idea that YA works are truly literature is what lies at the heart of the ???theory barrier??? problem, even though in reality the problem is not of a literary nature (Daniels 2006).??? Books like Mary Poppins were never expected to make any literary history yet they have been accepted into the shelves of libraries as well as creating a move toward greater amounts of young adult literature. Until this point, very little had been written for young people and even then much of the writing was to broaden the mind and not for enjoyment.
The Harry Potter series was one of the first series of books written for enjoyment and entertainment in the Young Adult category. Although the books may have stylistic errors and other flaws that remove them from typical canon categories due to lack of subtlety the Harry Potter series does prove distinct. Frederica Weeks from the Atlantic is quoted ???the book deserves the success it is enjoying; it will, I feel sure live to be thrust upon our grandchildren as ???one of the books I adored when I was just your age (Giaimo 2007).???
Besides their popularity, the Harry Potter series meet the literary canon for their use of feministic characters in each story. The strong female characters of Hermione, Professor McGonagall and the Weasley women, Molly and Ginny provide an instantaneous role model for young female readers. Specifically in young adult fiction there is a great deal of literature for females based on gossip, clothing trends and relationships. Harry Potter manages to surpass each of these qualities and instead transition into a more adult version of social problems. Previous literary canons show the importance of strong female characters, specifically Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice as well as the girls from Little Women.
Strong female characters are included within literary canon because it encourages females to read and create associations with the characters about whom they are reading. Female characters often fall into the category of intelligent outcasts who go to great means to both fit in and express their desire to be different. Hermione in many ways mirrors the personality of Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. Hermione immediately asserts herself as a single, independent lady, even at age eleven. She can hang with the boys, be top of her class and still be beautiful. She quickly shows the boys that she knows what is best, and she is clearly the cleverest and most knowledgeable character in the book. Specifically, she creates Polyjuice potion in the Chamber of Secrets, which allows Ron and Harry to become boys of an opposing house and sleuth for answers about the heir to Syltherin House. The boys wouldn??™t have thought of this nor would they have been able to make the potion on their own. She uses her knowledge in The Goblet of Fire to help Harry win the Tri-Wizard tournament by enabling his victory in a variety of challenges.
Hermione comes from parents who are supportive but lack the ability to understand her life, which seems to be the way most teen girls feel. Hermione is at times embarrassed because of her background and yet she doesn??™t hide who she is. She is often looked down upon for her Muggle upbringing but this makes her work harder to prove that she deserves to be at a school for Witchcraft. She works so hard that she gets a special necklace, the Time Turner, to go back in time to participate in a doubled class load. She uses this in the Goblet of Fire to create a distraction from killing Buckbeak, as well as prevent Harry from watching his newly acquired uncle Sirius Black, being killed by the Dementors.
Not only are the female characters important for the structure of the story but Hermione provides another interesting perspective through her placement in the caste system. Harry Potter is provided with money through a type of trust he gains after his parents??™ death. It is never made clear if this money was left as a type of will or if it was just a type of savings account they had. ???The bag of gold, silver, and bronze jangling cheerfully in Harry??™s pocket was clamoring to be spent…(Rowling 58).??? The relationships between characters, their social status and their financial standing are immediately apparent upon the introduction into the Wizarding World. Harry visits the Wizard Bank Gringotts and assumes his status as financially upstanding. This is sharp difference with the tattered and worn attire of the Weasley family and their lack of funds. The Weasleys a large family of seven are the blue collars of the Wizarding World. ???Dunno how Mum and Dad are going to afford all of our school stuff this year??? explains one of the older siblings upon entrance into Harry??™s second year at Hogwarts (Rowling 46). The Weasleys work for everything they have but don??™t have a lot nor do they expect anything from anyone.
The Malfoys in contrast have ???old money???. Draco Malfoy and his father consistently throw their familial connections to the truebloods back in the faces of those like the Weasley??™s. ???I suppose your parents will go hungry for a month to pay for all those,??? becomes a common retort from the young Draco Malfoy (Rowling 61). The Malfoys believe that they are better than everyone else because they have that monetary backing to keep them afloat while the Potters or Weasleys do not. They instead come from a family setting that is what is described as new money or poor respectively.
Caste systems have consistently been a part of English literature and what is often considered canon based literature. From the Great Gatsby to Twilight, caste systems have become a popular necessity to the plot development and character contrasts in literature. Additionally, this caste system provides a social dynamic that is easily associated with in Harry Potter by the poorest kids or the richest kids. Either has been around people like the Potters, Weasleys or Malfoys.
Although many critics claimed that Harry Potter would not withstand the test of time we have entered year twelve since its original publication. On July 21, 2007 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows was released with an expectation to trump the 6.9 million copies sold in 24 hours after the launch of book six (Giaimo 2007). This fact alone shows the valuable addition to our culture that Harry Potter has provided. Although it hasn??™t been accepted into all literary canons it was in fact adopted by millions of people and is still widely popular with a young crowd. Specifically, the movies are drawing more attention to the books and the series with two more movies yet to be released. Beyond that however, Harry Potter was a teaching tool about good choices and the benefits of good friends.
Harry Potter should be accepted as literary canon because it created a generation of readers. Although it could be considered genre literature it still focuses on multiple topics seen throughout classic literature and those listed on the canon of literature, specifically caste systems and feminism. Particularly, I find it most important because people actually enjoy reading it and it wasn??™t meant for just those with exquisite literature choices. Specifically, it paves the way for young readers to learn about what makes good literature and then venture into some of the things many consider good canon literature. However, until canon literature is specifically defined as excluding this type of literature it is important to remember that thinking outside the box may be exactly what the literati needs.
Alcot, Louisa May. Little Women. Roberts Brothers, 1868 1st part, 186 2nd part.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. T. Egerton Whitehall, 1813
Daniels, Cindy Lou ???Literary Theory and Young Adult Literature: The Open Frontier in
Critical Studies???. ALAN Review. FindArticles.com. 25 Apr, 2009.
Giaimo, Melissa. ???Harry Potter Joins the Canon.??? The Atlantic Monthly. 19 July, 2009.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner??™s Sons. 1925
Meyers, Stephenie. Twlight. Little, Brown and Company. 2006
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. Scholastic Publishing, 1998.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic Publishing, 1999.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Globlet of Fire. Scholastic Publishing, 2000.
Travers, P.L. Mary Poppins. Harper Collins, 1934.