What does Harry Potter say about us?

Published 11:41 pm Thursday, July 19, 2007

The time nears.

The battle lines are being drawn. Which side are you on?

Are you rooting for the Chosen One, the young wizard who was orphaned in a tragic twist of fate?

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Or, are you for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the nefarious ruler of all?

Are you on the side of good or evil? Is there a difference between the two?

How do you know?

Depending on when you are reading this column, it may be a few hours or just a few minutes before area children (and adults) get their hands on the last episode in the J.K. Rowling spellbinding Harry Potter series.

It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since the young green-eyed Harry Potter flew off the shelves of America’s bookstores.

Saturday at midnight marks the end of this astonishing epic story.

Many of my Potter-obsessed friends have been scheming and plotting when and how they will get their hands on the book, avoiding any rumors or hints as to what the book might reveal.

While they have been speculating on Harry’s fate, I have been thinking about what the current series says about who we are.

When I was a kid I loved to watch the Super Friends every Saturday morning sitting in my pajamas eating Pop-Tarts.

For those unfamiliar with the Technicolor Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon, the Super Friends was a television show that featured the classic American legion of superheroes.

My brother and I sat in front of the TV gazing up at the screen each weekend to watch Superman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman and Wonder Woman battle against the Legion of Doom.

It was good vs. evil, dark vs. light, black vs. white.

There was no in between, no gray areas to complicate the picture.

And that was the way the world was to my brother and me — and to most of my friends.

It was the 80s and a time of American pride. Ronald Reagan was president, we had the shuttle and America was on the way to winning the Cold War.

And in many ways, that is the way life was — well or what we had hoped it was.

Now some 20 years later, the world looks very different.

Knowing who is good and who is evil is no longer as easy as identifying the color of one’s cowboy hat.

The world no longer looks black and white, but many shades of gray in between.

And so do our heroes, like Harry Potter.

What began as a simple story about an orphaned wizard has magically transformed into a coming-of-age tale filled with introspection and inner torment.

Growing up at Hogwarts, Harry has struggled with his temper and his disillusionment with his fate.

Book by book, the surety of knowing where good ends and evil begins in Harry and in Lord Voldemort has mysteriously disappeared.

And that may be the lesson of our time.

There is a constant struggle between good and evil in all of us.

From senators who pay prostitutes for companionship to children who shoot windows out of boredom, from the war in Iraq to the war on drugs, the world no longer appears as crystal clear as we might hope it to be.

Over 325 million Harry Potter books have been sold across the world since its introduction on June 29, 1997. Publshers have already printed 12 million copies of the seventh and final book.

Clearly a strong connection has been made with readers worldwide.

Could it be that we see a little of Harry in ourselves and that we are hoping good will prevail in the end?

Only a few hours and 794 pages left to find out. I can’t wait.

Ben Hillyer is web editor at The Natchez Democrat.