Coming of age stories have been a part of pop culture for centuries and it doesn’t seem like they will disappear any time soon. A popular coming of age story for today’s generation is the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter is a young orphaned boy who learns on his 11th birthday that he is in fact a wizard. After finding out that he is a wizard he is whisked away into the world of magic and attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the way to Hogwarts he befriends Hermione, Ron and Neville. After being placed under the sorting hat he is put into the house of Gryffindor, joining Hermione, Ron and Neville as housemates. He soon learns that the evil dark lord Voldemort murdered his parents and that he also attempted to kill him, but fortunately left nothing but a lightning scar on his forehead. Bildungsroman pertains to a novel genre about the moral and psychological growth and development of a character. There is something about the fact that bildungsroman’s can so easily captivate a wide range of audiences attention, maybe it is because we are mesmerized by a character’s hardships having the ability to teach us something about ourselves. Characters go on adventures, withstand inner turmoil and develop as human beings. People enjoy reading about other people overcoming their struggles because it helps them to learn how to overcome their own. Harry Potter books are a practice course for kids on how to deal with problems that they have not been faced with yet in an offbeat way.
Harry Potter’s character, manifest the stages of maturity we all must acquire on our imminent path towards death. “Harry Potter is fundamentally about death - the most existential theme of all. Harry's coming of age is synonymous with his coming to terms with his immortality. Voldemort's fear of death fuels his evil ways and he violates the laws of nature in striving for immortality.” (Ross 32) His mother and father were murdered when he was a baby by Voldemort. Which led to him being brought up by his Aunt Petunia, his mother’s jealous sister, in the muggle world. Being an orphan really played a part in his moral upbringing. He became his own mother, father, his mentor Dumbledore, and even Snape combined. Voldemort’s obsession with immortality is what led to his eminent demise. “To conquer death, Voldemort splits his soul into seven parts, hiding them in the treasures of his past greed.” (Ross 32) In his efforts to remain immortal he ended up destroying himself in the process. Harry and Voldemort’s view on death are completely different. Dumbledore had a major impact in Harry’s thoughts on death, his wise words: “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more." (HP 6, 529) that have solidified Harry’s acceptance of death. After finding out that he has a a living relative, named Sirius Black, he is elate by the thought that he just might have a real family. That dream soon comes crashing down when he is murdered by one of Voldemort’s minions. This travesty adds to Harry’s realization that death is inevitable and that any attempts to attain immortality are futile. In one of the last scenes of the Deathly Hallows Harry makes the conscious decision for the “greater good” and offers himself to Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest as an attempt to save the others. “Aware of his physical self more than ever
before, Harry walks through the ancient trees with the spirits of loved ones by his side. The image is striking compared to Voldemort's single-minded ambition:"... they marched through the old trees that grew closely together, their branches tangled, their roots gnarled and twisted underfoot." (HP 7) “Harry is symbolically closing the cycle of his life, having learned to accept his death as nature's reality.” (Ross 33) Adolescent Struggles to Adulthood
The massive amount of popularity of the Harry Potter books signify’s the deep resonance readers feel with the psychological issues that this book brings to life. After six years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Harry is still finding himself. While he is disliked and abused in the Muggle world it doesn’t seem like the wizarding world will cut him any slack. Though he is adored by his magical counterparts; that type of fame always comes with a price. Harry had made numerous friends during his stay at Hogwarts. Those friends are what have saved him time and time again. Their diversity of joint effort, bravery, selflessness was Voldemort’s defeat. Through all his hardships Harry still has the ability to be selfless, considerate, and show love and affection. While others ridiculed Luna Lovegood, an eccentric Hufflepuff, he befriended her. Others taunted Moaning Myrtle, a ghost who haunts an abandoned girls washroom, Harry didn’t join in. He didn’t burn bridges with his former girlfriend Cho Chang and was able to gain the respect of Sirius’s house elf Kreacher. Harry has become a true
friend; he defends the weak, supports just causes, and has honor. These examples alone show that Harry’s former experiences in life are what have taught him between right and wrong. Between falling in love with your best friends sister and trying not to flunk your class; you would think that Harry Potter was just an average teenage boy. He is an average student with big dreams to become an Auror. “Adolescence and the transition to adulthood are more than a series of successfully negotiated markers (leaving school, getting a job, among others), they are a magical adventure. The essential transition for Harry and his friends involves establishing a degree of competence as they face the challenges of their particular historical period. In the end, they emerge as “adults” not because of their chronological age, but because they have found a place for themselves in the world and mastered their environment.”(Mcalpine 76) From an insecure humble boy to an overwhelmed and unappreciated adolescent, to finally proving himself to be the father he never knew. Harry has grown into his father’s son. Negation
The bildungsroman doesn’t just tell a story it involves the reader in the character’s journey. Once our hero has tested the reality of the outside world and made his decisions, he has successfully matured. The fact that millions of people are still buying into the tried-and-true plot that bildungsroman’s provide proves that it speaks to today’s generation. It is a tradition that goes back to ancient times. No matter what anyone says reading a book about a character overcoming their own obstacles inspires us to overcome our own. In the Harry Potter books readers follow Harry’s growth and development as he gains knowledge and maturity along the way. The
Deathly Hallows being the last book in the series reveals the transformation that takes place not only in Harry but in many other characters as well. Harry dedicates himself to destroying the Horcruxes, while putting the Hallows on the back burner. By choosing one and not the other, Harry has chosen to fight evil instead of trying to attain power. He has grown into someone that is truly selfless and heroic. In addition, Ron also grows a great deal in this last installment. After rescuing Harry and destroying one of the Horcruxes, Ron realizes that he is significant to the group. He too has a role in fighting evil. He suppresses his feelings of insubordination next to Harry, and comes into his own. Hermione also reveals her growth as Bellatrix was torturing her. For someone who was so emotionally weak, and cries all the time, she revealed how strong willed she could be. Through these characters and their gradual development, this book reveals the coming of age aspect that qualifies it as a bildungsroman. Conclusion
Everybody enjoys reading about other people overcoming their struggles because it helps them to learn how to overcome their own. Harry's coming of age is synonymous with his coming to terms with his immortality. His understanding of life’s dilemma’s are what helped him make the conscious decision for the ‘greater good’ of the world. Harry Potter books signify the deep inflection readers feel with the psychological issues that this book brings to life. Writing this essay has shown me just how much bildungsroman’s have affected me. When Harry was able to conquer his battles I felt like I could do the same. Bildungsroman’s have been inspiring people with their adventures and victories for years. This genre is sure to last for many more years to come.
Call, Kathleen Thiede, and Donna D. Mcalpine. "Harry Potter and the Wise and Powerful Life Course Theorist:TheSeries." Contexts 7.3 (2008): 75-77. Print. Los, Fraser; Ross, Nicola. Alternatives Journal34. 1 (2008): 32-33. KIDD, D. (2007), Harry Potter and the Functions of Popular Culture. The Journal of Popular Culture, 40: 69–89. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00354.x Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine, 2007. Print.