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Who is Harry Potter?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Harry Potter is a fictional character created by J.K. Rowling. He is the lead protagonist of a fantasy series which also carries his name, accompanied by two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. A large segment of the English speaking world is familiar with Harry Potter, thanks to the wildly popular seven book fiction series which began with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997) and ended with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). The books are among the most widely read in the world.

Harry's full name is Harry James Potter. According to Rowling, she picked the name “Harry” because she liked it, likewise with “Potter.” His middle name comes from his father, James Potter. The books initially deal with the childhood of Harry Potter, beginning at age 11, and follow him into young adulthood. The essential premise of the books is that there is a magical world which exists hidden within the real world. Harry Potter is raised in the conventional world, and learns at age 11 that he is actually a wizard, and belongs with other witches and wizards.

The Harry Potter novels are about an epic struggle between good and evil, personified by conflict between Harry Potter and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, who terrorized the wizarding world before Harry Potter was born. The child is involved in a prophecy which suggests that he may be able to defeat Lord Voldemort. Determined to stave off that fate, Lord Voldemort kills Harry's parents and attempts to kill Harry as well. However, Harry is able to resist Voldemort's efforts, although he is left with a sizable head wound which turns into a trademark lightning shaped scar. The details of these events unfold slowly over the series of books.

In the first book, readers are introduced to Harry Potter and the relatives he is living with, the Dursleys. The Dursley family is portrayed as a suburban, bumbling, fairly bland family of three. When Harry Potter receives a letter informing him that he has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, all chaos breaks out as Harry learns about his parents and heritage. Over the course of the books, readers follow Harry's myriad adventures, and are introduced to a large and varied cast of characters.

Many readers all over the world have fallen in love with the Harry Potter character and the books in general. Rowling created a lush, yet potentially believable fiction in the books, which cater to the secret desire of all children to find magic in the world.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Oct 25, 2012

I think the Harry Potter series goes to show that a great idea with a great character can fuel a story that never dies.

J. K. Rowling had a lot of imagination in coming up with the world in which Harry Potter lived in and was able to introduce different characters and terms that were completely original.

This is what I think is most surprising about this book. Its originality is out of this world and I really think that it fueled the series and why it was not a flash in the pan, but rather kept going for years until the conclusion of the series, which is how J. K. Rowling wanted it.

By titans62 — On Oct 25, 2012

@stl156 - It is incredible to think of how much money she has made and how much her books has taken over the minds of people across the world.

In order to put her success into perspective, I will say that other successful authors that wrote many books like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy combined would not equal the amount of money she has made off of the Harry Potter series, and I may even go as far as to say that her book sales are even greater than those three, which is saying a lot considering all have written at least two dozen books.

By stl156 — On Oct 24, 2012

@cardsfan27 - Wow, that is incredibly interesting and I would have never guessed that she struggled to get her idea off of the ground from the beginning.

I guess that it is safe to say that she was adamant about her idea and knew that her book would be successful, although I doubt she would have even thought that it would be as successful as it became.

By cardsfan27 — On Oct 24, 2012

What I think is so incredible about Harry Potter is that this idea by J. K. Rowling has taken over pop culture and the world in general and turned an entire generation back towards reading in school, but her idea was originally rejected by publishers.

It is amazing to me to think that this idea, which has made her a billionaire, turned off so many people in the beginning, who thought that it would never be successful and she had to keep plugging her idea in order to even get it published, let alone become even mildly successful.

By jonrss — On Oct 24, 2012

Which one of the movies was your favorite? I liked the second one best.

By tigers88 — On Oct 23, 2012

I know a lot of people who think that Harry Potter was just a form of lightning in a bottle. It was the right story for the right place at the right time. If the series started today it might not be nearly as popular as it went on to be.

I think that now that the series is over people have been able to look at the books more objectively and realize that even by the standards of children's epics they are pretty mediocre.

By nextcorrea — On Oct 23, 2012
Has anyone read J.K Rowlings non-Harry Potter novel? I would be very curious to hear what you thought of it. I loved the Harry Potter books but I don't know if I want to read grown up Rowling.
By MissDaphne — On May 28, 2012
@jholcomb - I guess you're right about the writing, but I never really noticed it to bother me. The story is just too exciting!

I love the Harry Potter books, but I actually think that the movies got better when they stopped trying to follow the books quite as closely (around number 4, I would say). The sixth movie is probably my favorite, and it has some nice scenes that were not in the book.

For instance, there's the scene where Professor Slughorn tells Harry about the enchanted fish Harry's mother had given him. One day the fish had disappeared -- by implication, this was the day Lily Potter had been murdered. Awfully moving, not in the book. The first kiss between Harry and Ginny also seemed more believable in the movie than in the book.

By jholcomb — On May 27, 2012

I love these books (I have the whole Harry Potter book set in hardcover), but I feel like they could have been so much more. So many things are wonderful about them. It can take a child a long time to read the whole series, and accordingly the books start out rather simple and get longer, more challenging to read, and darker as they go on.

And the plot is so truly entrancing. Harry and his friends seem like really believable characters - incredibly brave but making kid-type errors in understanding.

My quarrel is with the prose. Rowling's prose is pedestrian and she tends to over-"tell" and over-explain, especially in the lengthy later books. A good editor would have helped sharpen the writing style, keeping the books a little shorter and the writing more interesting.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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