ByÂ Sneha Roychoudhury:
Innumerable cups of coffee, deleted paragraphs of struggled composition and an annoyingly persistent writer’s block later, I haven’t been able to come up with anything appropriate or fitting enough to describe my passion for a saga that has shaped and impacted my childhood in such strong ways. When on a breezy summer night, the clock strikes twelve and on the quaint streets of a wondrous city a car pulls up beside me to take me for a ride to a place so immortal- to the land of art and the small cafÃ©s of queer inventions (yes the reference is to the Woody Allen masterpiece); I shall in that fancy, chance upon this woman, this very vital lady who has given me the power to imagine, to believe and to have faith. She has given me “magic”. I belong to a generation that has been nourished and nurtured with a very important segment of literature, a generation that has witnessed a momentous phenomenon and a generation gifted with a blossom of hope and beauty in the times of despair and disillusionment. And we owe it all to this one author without whom we would not have known how “There is a lot more to magic… than waving your wands and saying a few funny words”, without whom the very firm conviction in the ultimate victory of the good over the evil would be lost for young impressionable minds- we owe it to J.K. Rowling.
The 21st of July 2007- a date etched on the deified stones of the revered past as the end of an era- was the last time a “Potterhead” knew the joy of purchasing the first copies of the epic that in inexplicable ways made them who they truly were, that was the day of uncontained joy and unfathomable pain- every reader knew the sweetness of courageous justice and the salty heartbreak of letting go… of setting free a loved one. It’s been around 7 years since that day, and as part of that ‘fandom’Â I know I haven’t moved on entirely. I know “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome… (me) home”. And I know that I carry a little bit of Harry’s story with me, wherever I go and whoever I may have become since that day. We all do.
Rowling’s genius has in many ways transcended the boundaries of conventional literature. Her magic has been manifested in the woven fabric of a story so immortal, a story that has embroidered, with finesse, a stark resemblance of history on the silhouette of imagination, a story that goes beyond every human emotion to uphold the ultimate- the truth. Here are six ways these books take the reader for a kaleidoscopic roller-coaster ride; a ride that falls where the line between reality and fancy may almost disappear- an experience of amalgamation and union.
The tragic hero: Epics, all of them, give birth to these immortal heroes who in their mortality leave for the world a glorious tale, a story and a narration of herculean feat- achieved by the sheer power of their honour and grandeur. Rowling’s man was Cedric Diggory, the unfair death, the wonder boy who was sacrificed in the futility of a battle, butchered at the altar of fate, all his promises lost in the utterance of one forbidden fatal curse. The hero had fallen, like the once great Achilles or the much revered Hector, death was doled out to the worthiest.
The rise of dictatorship: “Bone of a father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son. Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed, you will revive your master. Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe.”- and thus rose the Dark Lord, yet again. Thus was struck into motion the wheels of another terrifying regime, summoned once again to whip up a propaganda and to work from the insides of a system, aiming hard at growing into an all powerful dictatorship. And why, just why does that one sound so familiar? Whether through Grindelwald or through Lord Voldemort, J.K. Rowling has keenly painted for us an absolutely conspicuous picture of men who have risen and fallen and thrived in this all consuming lust for power that others around him have drunk down and been intoxicated by. Thus grew a generation absolutely blinded by the self-consuming, self-destructive monstrosity of a glittering rule.
The policy of appeasement: The word appeasement is broadly and rather rigorously associated with Britain and France, when it comes to international affairs in the pre-second-world-war phase. Rowling, very tactfully hints at it through the Ministry of Magic’s denial of the rise of Lord Voldemort, in the fifth book. Cornelius Fudge’s absolute negation of Harry’s truth, his disbelief in both Dumbledore’s foresight and the urgency of the impending situation makes matters rather out of hand for the entire wizarding community when You-Know-Who finally reveals himself… yes so much like Hitler’s attack on Poland. Resemblance much?
The Wars and the Holocaust: Many historians, from time to time, have felt that the Second Great War in human history has been a mere veil, a facade, to cover up Hitler’s bigger plan, Hitler’s planned extermination of the Jewish race. Voldemort (and Grindelwald) too worked hugely on the “pure-blood theory” (and yes you have got this one right- like the Aryan race theory) his inspiration being an insane hatred for muggle-born wizards who were slowly and selectively picked out, tortured and ultimately Avada Kedavra-ed into the nameless oblivion of a “Final Solution”. In these times of mirthless fright we also witness the “great purges” where yes-men of the dictator replace the protestors against the established party (read: death eaters), all those in any way involved in secret services or aiding the established “minority” were met with the same fate of painful extermination, while an entirely scientific “Goebbelisation” was initiated of an entire society of sheepish population. All in the name of superior race jingoism. Doesn’t seem like a fairy-tale of a series anymore, does it?
The trials: Rowling makes a striking reference to the Nuremberg Trials in her description of the treatment meted out to the offenders in the First Wizarding War. The justice or injustice (read Sirius Black) delivered in the hasty and unforgiving panel, in the entire demeanour of Bartimus Crouch and his followers only goes to show how the victorious in war are never fair, they are never the symbols or the paragons of absolute virtue, and how the spoils of war are always the discretion of the triumphant. An interesting observation on the author’s part, indeed!
The aftermath of disastrous war: Harry Potter- the boy who lived. The boy who escaped death once and came back from it another time. The man who had willingly embraced death with all the love he had in him. But the reason Potter becomes one of the most relatable fictional character is because he is a product of a generation, a very ashamed generation left with a disillusioned legacy of war, a generation forced and absolutely coerced into another war, another combating mission which they haven’t asked for or initiated. A generation left without a choice, pushed to the corner and expected to protect, to step up to protect. And Harry is the face of that generation. In most ways Neville Longbottom’s story augments the apathy of the point I am making here. This is the result of a war ridden society- depicted in beautiful and heartrending excerpts by an insightful mind.
After much interaction with Potter fans from all over the world, I have come to realise that this story means different things to different people. What ties us together is, however, our love for Harry and our passion to have stuck with him “until the very end”. And that, in my book, is the paramount enchantment in Rowling’s style- she has brought together millions from across nations and tied them together with a common cause- Harry’s cause, Harry’s love, his hope and his ability to defeat the evil with the sheer power of his devotional love.
“Of course, it’s happening inside your head… but why on earth should that mean that it is not real”– so yes, Harry may be a figment of an imagination, but he is real, he is flesh and blood for all that holds imperfectly perfect and virtuously flawed in all our heads.