So I mentioned the other day that I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books again. Usually I blast through this series like a dog scarfing a hamburger, but this time around I’ve been reading them as a part of my round-robin reading style (usually library book, personal book, library book, series, library book, mystery series, and then around again), which means I’ve had a bit of contemplation time between each title, and that’s been kind of fun. All I have left is the final book in the series, so my most recent reads were my least favorite of the series (Order of the Phoenix) and my favorite (The Half-Blood Prince).
As I mentioned before, I really enjoy these books. They have loads of plot holes and plenty of discrepancies, but so do most epic series, so I just go with it. However, as I also mentioned before, what I don’t really enjoy about these books (besides Rowling herself, who really, really gets on my nerves) is the fandom. I’m an avid tumblrer, and I find myself rolling my eyes frequently at oh-so-clever Harry Potter books that really aren’t clever at all. So, for today’s personal opinions about Harry Potter: Why Harry Potter Isn’t Stupid and a Bit About Teenage Angst.
So one of my pet peeves is posts that go on about Harry is really quite dumb. The one that irritates me the most (probably because it’s always pronounced with such a smug, self-satisfied attitude) is that Harry is so stupid that he couldn’t recognize Snape’s handwriting in his potions book in The Half-Blood Prince because, DUH, Harry has been watching Snape write on the chalkboard for years! What a dummy! Really? That’s the best you can come up with? First off, any time there is any mention of Snape putting something on the board it’s with a “wave of his wand” or something along those lines: Snape doesn’t stand there and writing out the potions recipe – he puts it up there by magic. It could be anyone’s (or no one’s) writing, not necessarily his own. Secondly, does your writing on a chalkboard really look exactly like the writing you use to scribble notes? And thirdly, does your 16-year-old handwriting look the same as your 40-year-old handwriting? Egads.
The point is, Harry isn’t stupid. However, he is a kid. So yes, he makes mistakes. Yes, he sometimes misses the obvious. Yes, he has lots of regrets. But they aren’t because he’s dumb; they’re because he’s young. Not only does Harry illustrate his intelligence by getting top grades and, you know, defeating multiple dark wizards in his spare time, he also proves it by acknowledging that he can’t complete his mission on his own. He has friends who complement him and bolster him where he is weak.
I think that Rowling does an excellent job writing to the age of the characters – the points where they are unreasonable or ridiculous are times that they are most acting like one would expect someone their age to do so. Is Harry super obnoxious in Order of the Phoenix? Yes, yes he is. Why? Because he’s 15 and thinks he knows everything, like the majority of 15-year-olds. There is a great quote from Phineas, a portrait of one of the old headmasters at Hogwarts –
“You know … this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay, that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet led you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognize danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realize what the Dark Lord may be planning.”
To me, that quote perfectly summarizes youth. Youth always thinks that it is the only one to have suffered in this way; Youth assumes that Age does not understand and can never understand the agonies of Youth. And I think that part of the reason I enjoy this series is because Harry learns that his youth is not always a strength.
Like I’ve said, there are plenty of weaknesses in the series. But Harry’s intelligence is not one of them.
Final thoughts will probably include a lot about Snape, so be ready! :-D