Observing the extreme popularity of the Harry Potter series, success which had been previously unimagined, some wonder if Potter author J.K. Rowling is, perhaps, a magical being herself. Never before has a children’s writer created such fervor in young readers and adults. The New York Times was forced to succumb to publisher pressure and create a new category on its bestseller list to accommodate the phenomenal book sales attained by Rowling and her Potter series. Critics either praise or attempt to discredit Rowling’s literary contribution. Some view her as the savior of children’s literature and rejoice in her success. Others, such as critic John Pennington, claim that Rowling’s writing has little literary merit and that her series has achieved such fame due entirely to publisher hype and excellent marketing. While there will never be a consensus on why the Potter series has achieved such success, I argue that Rowling’s use of traditional archetypal figures and patterns play a dramatic role in the story of the “boy who lived.” Readers first meet Harry as an orphaned infant in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Although the reader is initially unaware of Harry’s future reluctant hero status, there is an almost stately importance surrounding Harry as he arrives on Privet Drive. Professor McGonagall asks, “You think it – wise – to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?” To which the clever Professor Dumbledore replies, “I would trust Hagrid with my life.” There is no doubt in the reader’s mind that Hagrid carries precious cargo – Harry. However, Harry’s noble status is short-lived once he is placed on the Dursley doorstep. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley care little about the boy. The couple has a young
son Harry’s age, Dudley. The Dursleys treat the two boys to extreme opposite conditions. Dudley is doted on, overstuffed, and receives everything he wishes for while Harry is hungry and deprived of all material objects and affection. Again, Rowling presents opposite pairs as she portrays Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, “(Mr. Dursley) was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors.” Harry is subjected to daily verbal assaults and abuse by his new family. The Dursleys have forced Harry to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs for the majority of his ten years.  The dreary cupboard adds to the texture of Harry’s life on Privet Drive. Here is a boy with great celebrity in the wizarding world. However, in an almost ironic turn by Rowling, in the “Muggle,” non-wizarding world, Harry is treated as an animal. Harry’s initiation with magic unexpectedly occurs when he is at the zoo with the Dursley family. As Harry carries on a surprising conversation with the zoo’s Boa Constrictor and eventually sets him free, Harry realizes that perhaps previous episodes of unexplained events were not coincidence and that he might be different from other boys. It is not until Harry learns the extent of his powers and the truth behind them that he finishes the initiation phase of the journey. This moment arrives on the eve of Harry’s eleventh birthday. Harry is shocked to be joined by Hagrid, Hogwarts’ Keeper of the Keys. Hagrid has come to collect Harry and return him to the wizards’ school. “Did yeh
never wonder where yer parents learned it all?” Harry’s parents are an unspeakable topic in the Dursley household. Other than the false explanation of their death, this is the first Harry hears of his parents. “Maybe he (Voldemort) thought he could persuade ‘em … maybe he just wanted ‘em outta the way. All anyone knows is, he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Halloween ten years ago. You was just a year old. He came ter yer house an’ – an’” When Harry learns that...
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