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The power of words


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In reflecting on the events of my life that have impacted me, I returned to the night of August 1, 2006. I found myself in Row G of Radio City Music Hall in New York City sitting by my mother, not at all tired, although we had flown from Las Vegas to Syracuse the day before, and my family had driven five hours to the city for “An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp,” a charity event with readings by three authors. The excitement rushing through me kept me awake and alert; I was standing and applauding a tiny blonde woman with amazing silver snake shoes as she prepared to read.

The Harry Potter series was my gateway drug into my intellectual puberty. I was so fascinated by the Harry Potter world that my mother began taking me to academic conferences focused on the books. Beginning with The Witching Hour in 2005, through Lumos, Prophecy, Portus, and Azkatrz in 2009, I have attended presentations about the Latin etymology of terms and spells, the mythical tales of the artifacts, and the idea of literary alchemy. These books opened my eyes to the whole world, and to knowledge itself. They were the stimulus that kept my brain working over the summers. More importantly, they helped me adopt the philosophy useful in school and beyond, that there is always another way to do something, or to perceive an issue. With uncertainty and doubt, comes innovation and new ways to look at problems that may result in new, different, faster and easier solutions. And all this came from a little “magic,” from a book that many people see as a series for children.

Along with fans and students from many countries, I attended lectures about Ms. Rowling’s ability to beautifully craft the saga, with every painstakingly small detail connected to something else. For example, Dr. John Granger, a “Potter Pundit” who has written several critical and religious-based analyses of the books, reminded the audience that Harry’s (and his mother Lily’s) green eyes owe a literary debt to Dante’s Beatrice. From Jonathan Swift to Chaucer to Dickens and Austin, I learned that like all great books, Rowling’s stories fostered a connection across mind, body, and soul. Although the series has been criticized by those who believe it corrupts children and teaches witchcraft, I was able to hear discussions by those who purported that, like the Bible, these books teach wonderful messages if one goes beyond the literal level to the allegorical. It is my generation’s shared text; all college freshmen are familiar with the stories, and that gives us a set of common beliefs and ideas that can serve as a springboard to new learning.

As I sat surrounded by avid fans and scholars of John Irving, Steven King, and J.K. Rowling, it gave me hope that this country will not be consumed by the mundane. With so much emphasis on physical aspects of life, and the material and sexual focus of the messages thrown at us by the media, it would be easy to become jaded or depressed. But I am not worried. I have been surrounded by 6000 people, all of whom paid good money, not for a sporting event or a concert, but to hear authors read their work. I have evidence that words on a page can change not only my life, but the world.




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This article has 156 comments. Post your own!

Kikuneechan said...
Oct. 30, 2010 at 11:17 am:

Personally, I love Harry Potter and I find it interesting you chose to write and relate to it.

However, I feel as though you're just praising the Harry Potter series...

"Beginning with The Witching Hour in 2005, through Lumos, Prophecy, Portus, and Azkatrz in 2009,"
^ I just see a lot of names.

Also, as someone mentioned, watch the spelling.

"I have evidence that words on a page can change not only my life, but the world."
^ Could you say what again c... (more »)

 
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wolf749 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 3:53 pm:
This essay is about harry potter not about an individual. Despite explaining the effect that harry potter had on the author, this places an event in the foreground not a student.
 
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ssdtonoy said...
Oct. 24, 2010 at 10:59 am:
It has always been this way that words leave much power on one than the spoken words.
 
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Alison L. said...
Oct. 4, 2010 at 11:10 am:
I like it, and it really is true about the power of words in a story.
 
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impossibleisfun said...
Oct. 3, 2010 at 10:43 am:
Overall this is an excellent essay! You've got a great voice, interesting angle, and a great mix of experiences and ideals which you relate not only to yourself, but to our culture without getting preachy, something that can be hard to do!
 
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salt+peppa said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 9:24 am:
Strange but good story, watch some of your spellings
 
Mary replied...
Oct. 14, 2010 at 10:36 pm :
I agree. I really enjoyed the essay. However, I reccomend that you change Steven to Stephen!
 
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Brittany W. said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 9:09 am:
I really enjoyed reading this essay, it was really good. Great job!
 
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Snowmanapple+carmel said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 9:01 am:
I really enjoyed your essay it was well thought out it was really good and i understand what you are saying, and your flows well
 
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jessicags said...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm:
Harry Potter is amazing by itself but you writing a college essay about harry potter AND it being amazing is just spectacular. kudos(whatever those mean...you have lots from me :)
 
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Diver said...
Sept. 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm:
This was a GREAT essay. I have read some of the other comments and I was surpirsed how negative they where. This was a great piece. It wasn't boring. It was interesting and well written. I felt as if I was sitting down listening to you read this. Which is how I think it should be. When people read they want to feel like they are apart of the book, like they are playing a role in it or at least that is how I want to feel. I am a big Haryy Potter fan and that series are the books that got me ... (more »)
 
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Jesse H. said...
Sept. 6, 2010 at 9:45 am:

Unfortunatedly, I myself didn't enjoy this work that much.

I like Harry Potter, by every means. I like the focus on the book but otherwise, it's a bit vague, and in my own opinion, it's a bit disorganized as well.(Sorry!)

For example you said:"philosophy useful in school and beyond", I think you should give a specific example to make it clearer. I would really like that

 

But hey, I'm also just a Senior trying to write his essay off so what do I know?

&... (more »)

 
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GalaxyRise said...
Sept. 1, 2010 at 11:59 am:
What drew me in immediately was Harry Potter... as an avid fan, I quickly scrambled to scan for anything about the books. However, as I read, I must say that your voice throughout the piece is very strong and consistent. The way you presented it could not have been more brilliant. Kudos!
 
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AndYourBirdCanSing said...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm:
SQUEEE, Harry Potter. I love this.
 
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Elphaba said...
Jul. 10, 2010 at 9:14 am:
Love the sense of how life taught you things that school did not! Best of luck.
 
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Galatea said...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm:
I loved the essay. Brilliant. I am also an avid Harry Potter fan. Have you watched J.K. Rowling's speach at Harvard's graduation? Amazing.
 
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TheRecluse said...
Jun. 27, 2010 at 3:53 am:

Hi,

Wonderful essay! It really struck a chord in me. This book was the key to my love of books. Sometimes I find it hard to describe what this book really means to me!! You said it all for me... :) 

therecluse

 
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WorldCupFan said...
Jun. 20, 2010 at 10:28 am:
God beginning for the kind of narrative writing you will have to do in college. Hope you can apply these skills to more research based tasks where your voice is not as important.
 
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Daffodil said...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 1:20 am:
Nicely worded; your voice is strong and clear. That fits with what colleges look for in an essay. Do you do any other kind of writing?
 
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Mrs.M. said...
Jun. 10, 2010 at 9:04 am:
I liked this, and I am sorry that so many comments are negative. All writing can be improved, but this has a strong voice.
 
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