The power of words

November 4, 2009
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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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 157 comments. Post your own now!

uriahonfire said...
Dec. 8, 2016 at 1:42 pm
Wow! I read Harry Potter and it made me want to read more other books.I love this!
Wanimwa said...
Oct. 2, 2013 at 9:47 am
Harry Potter changed my life, without doubt. It‘s helped me through basically everything,  and I agree with you on all accounts. I live in Iceland, where there aren‘t any opportunities to go to conferences, or stuff like that, but I wish I could. Harry Potter (and every other book) has the power to change someone. The way you describe everything is amazing, and it‘s well written, just a few misspelled names. 
Alani said...
Jul. 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm
I love this!!!!!!!!!!!!
Chiron said...
Jul. 4, 2013 at 8:03 am
This is definitely an interesting essay. I liked the way you presented your point, although I have to say that your ending fell flat. Also there are two corrections: In the last paragraph, Stephen King is misspelt as 'Steven King'. Also, I believe when talking of the authors in the third paragraph, you meant Jane Austen. Spelling it as 'Austin', in addition to the previous error, casts a dubious light on the authenticity of the essay. Alternatively it shows that you weren'... (more »)
newsie said...
Feb. 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm
I think this is a great essay.  It shows the intellectual curiosity of the writer-- something colleges are looking for when screening applicants.  
Brie M said...
Nov. 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm
I think that all of you are taking the comment too personally. The essay does come off as a little fake to me. I dont think that the original commenter was trying to say that you should dumb down your essay but rather that you should just be yourself. Don't saturate you essay with facny vocab, colleges want to know you not a thesaurus. 
RainbowChild replied...
May 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm
i was reading another essay that was much more pompous, long winded, and boring as this one but every one seemed to like it and even the editorial staff found it quit engaging. i find it odd that only you wold find it that this person is not being themselves while not one person thought that of the author who wrote the other article
mia.juliana said...
Sept. 17, 2012 at 11:26 am
Great essay!  Only thing I have to say is..  "Steven" King is spelled Stephen King.   Only thing I'd change!
jimmy bean said...
Sept. 6, 2012 at 11:12 am
rachdav said...
Aug. 18, 2012 at 9:51 pm
I went to this book reading too!!!! 
BloglessBlogger said...
May 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm
Great! I feel the same way about the books from J.K. Rowling, she had enough bravery to try something that is easily criticized... She can write and so can you
peachybeech said...
Apr. 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

My only critique would be to include some specific examples of how Harry Potter changed your life; I lose that theme somewhere along the way. Great writing, though! Keep it up!


fakku said...
Mar. 2, 2012 at 7:29 am

how to make an essay


Hilidan said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:42 am
Wow! You wrote it very well and how Harry Potter gave a different way to your life. :D
expressionconfession This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 6, 2012 at 11:39 pm
harry potter rocks, as does the heart of this idea however, keep in mind that it's not a book review, it's a YOU review :) hp is a great springboard for delving into personal experiences & applications of the mindset you adopted from the books, but i didn't see as much of that as i'd have liked to
hey sunny said...
Nov. 26, 2011 at 3:39 am
Very nice I like it.You have told about Harry potter changed you life is was nice. I like it.
Jessica G. said...
Nov. 11, 2011 at 9:49 am
I think that this is a great essay and you're a really good writer. It could be better if, when you mention that Harry Potter has changed your life, you give examples as to how it's done that. 
Leonardo. P said...
Oct. 19, 2011 at 6:53 am
I have to say this essay has some meaning of bias about the media. Sports and concerts have changed lots of people's life and their idea. Although the power of words is facinated but the efficient media will be more and more influential to our life! The key solution towards the problem mentioned in the last few paragraphs should be controlling our own mind and making the peaceful environment in our brain.
Mick said...
Oct. 11, 2011 at 12:27 am
I have to disagree with all the comments saying that the essay doesn't tell the audience about the writer; the subject matter may be Harry Potter, but the essay also paints a picture of the applicant. We get an image of his passion for the series, intellectual curiosity, and appreciation of diversity; all traits colleges are looking for. 
Chase P. said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm
This essay is good but the part about the sporting events seemed somewhat unnecessary and a little bias since sporting events influence many people.
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