Muggles around the world will flood theatres today to see the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two. As the Potter saga comes to close, UTC students, faculty, and staff take a look back on the life of the Boy Who Lived and the story that has bewitched their lives.
Dr. Abbie Ventura, Assistant Professor of English, has used the Potter series as a case study in her undergraduate and graduate children’s literature classes.
“The series represents a lot of what’s going on in children’s literature right now in terms of both its literary merit and marketing. It’s raised the bar on what a good book should be,” she said.
“Author J.K. Rowling’s success story has become the model that publishing houses and Hollywood studios look for. They want a quality book that bridges age demographics and can sell really well,” she continued.
Though many are trying to emulate Rowling’s success, Ventura cautions that it won’t be easy.
“Rowling was very conscientious. She’s not just a great author, she’s a great businesswoman. Instead of copyrighting her books, she trademarked them. Trademarking protects her work. That means she is in control. She gets to say which products are created and she gets the profits,” she said.
According to Ventura, people are also trying to recreate Rowling’s success too quickly.
“Hollywood is aware that children’s lit is selling right now. Film studios are gobbling up the rights to young adults books two weeks after they hit the market. It doesn’t give these books enough time to get a loyal following on their own,” she said.
“Publishing houses need to wait and see if people like the story for the story. Not for the lunchboxes, backpacks, and t-shirts,” she advised. “With Harry Potter, the first film came out two years after the first book was published. We were able to appreciate the story first.”
For Ventura, the appeal of the books rests with the classic underdog story Rowling uses throughout the series.
“We’re all rooting for Harry. He’s on the classic hero’s quest that begins with special birth, continues with education with a mentor, trials and tribulations, a literal or figurative death, and finally a rebirth. The books blend humor, reality, and fantasy incredibly well. I think his story will amuse and delight children for generations,” she said.
Dr. Roger Brown, UTC Chancellor, echoed Ventura’s statements.
“Both my wife, Carolyn Thompson and I were avid readers of the Harry Potter books, and we have seen all of the movies, too. The attraction of the books is to watch the characters grow up and change as the challenges of life get ever more difficult and dangerous as we all experience in real life,” he said.
“I think the books will be classics because Rowling does not try to solve all of the life dilemmas for the characters. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but life goes on because we are essentially a species with faith and optimism,” he continued.
The current generation of UTC students have grown up with the series, following Potter’s journey from the cupboard under the stairs to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to final showdown with arch-nemesis, Lord Voldemort, for more than a decade.
Nyssa Hunt, a junior, began reading the books in elementary school. “I like the books because there’s so much detail that draws the reader into Harry’s world and story. When I first started reading them, I couldn’t put them down,” she said.
Rachel Brosius, another junior who has read the series multiple times, agrees. “The narrative is so intricate. Something that you think is insignificant in one book plays a huge part in another book later on,” she said.
Andrew Clark, a UTC senior, became hooked on the series after reading the first book in an elementary school class. “I liked learning about Potter’s world and culture as a child. It was a nice escape.”
Jill Pennyman, a graduate student who became interested in the series in high school, likes the universality of the books. “What’s great about Harry Potter is though the books are set in a fantasy world, there’s a character or a situation that anyone can relate to. We’ve all been bullied, dealt with the death of a loved one, and gone through ups and downs of adolescence,” she said.
Though many are excited about seeing the epic conclusion to the series in theatres, students are also experiencing bittersweet emotions.
“I know I’m going to cry. I’ve always had a new Harry Potter movie to look forward to, and now that’s gone,” Brosius said, who plans to attend a midnight showing for the film, just like she has done for the previous ones.
Hunt also plans to attend midnight showing in Chattanooga, but not before feasting on some well-known treats from the series.
“My family and I are making butterbeer [a drink mentioned in the books] and chicken wings for dinner. Then we’re dressing up in old graduation robes and sweater vests with wands we bought at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, Florida, this summer. We’re going to be so nerdy, but I don’t care. I’m excited.”
Unlike most fans, Pennyman does not have plans to see the last movie. “I’m too sad that it’s ending. If I don’t see it right away, I can postpone it for a little bit.”
Fans are also split on whether or not they would like to see the series continue in the future.
“The epilogue in the last book wrapped things up for me,” Pennyman said. “Besides, with Voldemort gone, what would she write about?”
Brosius agrees, “Rowling set out to only write seven books. She already knew how the series would end when she was writing the first book. I feel like continuing would be more for the money than for the story.”
Other students are eager to read more about Potter and his adventures.
“I would be okay with more books as long as she doesn’t stretch it out too much, like the Shrek series. She’ll need to end it eventually,” Hunt said.
“Rowling could write about a new set of Hogwarts students, like Saved by the Bell did. It could be Harry Potter: The New Class,” Clark joked.