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Let’s Meet These ‘Experts’

Classic: exhibiting timeless quality; a perfect and example of a particular style.

Literary merit: A quality of written work, generally applied to the genre of literary fiction. A work is said to have literary merit (to be a work of art) if it is a work of quality, that is if it has some aesthetic value. The concept of “literary merit” is practically impossible to define.

Some key differences between Tale of Two Cities and Harry Potter:

  1. Tale of Two Cities is a ‘classic,’ while Harry Potter is a ‘children’s book.’ (Despite the fact that Dr. Seuss wrote many classics and my 80-something grandparents read and love Harry Potter.)
  2. I never fell asleep reading Harry Potter… when I wasn’t even tired.
  3. Tale of Two Cities has sold about 200 million copies. It was first published around 1859. Harry Potter has sold about 400 million copies (as a series, the first book on its own sold about 100 million copies,) it was first published in the late 1990s.

According to my English Literature Professor, who I will call Mr. Stiffneck for privacy’s sake, I could not write a term paper on symbolism through Harry Potter because  Harry Potter is not a book of literary meritA Tale of Two CitiesThe Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, ect. ect, those are books of ‘literary merit.’

My reaction was roughly as follows “Wha-at!?”

Apparently, Harry Potter is not a book of literary merit (not a classic) because of it’s “lack” of symbolism, relative recent publishing, and the “fact” that it’s a children’s book. (Is my sarcasm translating into the text? oops.)

Let me repeat this, fellow Harry Potter fans, lack of symbolism. The only book I’ve read with more symbolism is the Bible. How does Harry Potter lack in symbolism? Oh Harry Potter symbolism, let me count the ways…

  • Peter Pettigrew obviously symbolizes Judas, the traitor of Jesus.
  • Self-Sacrifice. Self-sacrifice/love are huge symbols in Harry Potter. Love is a shield, Lily sacrificed herself for Harry.
  • Good prevails. Notice how Harry never uses a deadly spell against Voldemort? Voldemort is killed with his own evil spell,Avada Kedavra. Harry almost always uses the simple and harmless Expelliarmus. Good prevails.
  • The phoenix. Historically the phoenix is a symbol for rebirth.
  • Harry dies and is resurrected, sound familiar?
  • Malfoy, Lupin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, almost every name carries a symbol.

I could go on, but I have stuff to do and places to be, my point is… I could go on for hours.

Who is to say what is a book of literary merit? Let me meet these so called “experts” who can say that Steinbeck but not J.K. Rowling is an author of merit. ‘Classics’ is not some high-class blue-bloods-only club. The public has decided Harry Potter is a merit-worthy book. In less than twenty years, the series has sold more than A Tale of Two Cities has in over 100 years. The first book alone has sold half as much as A Tale of Two Cities, in one tenth of the time.

Harry Potter not a book of literary merit? What is a book of literary merit?

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