June 26 marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. News@Northeastern interviewed Professor of English Kathleen Coyne Kelly about the series’s enduring appeal.
[Professor Kathleen Kelly] attributed Harry Potter’s widespread appeal to Rowling’s ability to indulge the escapist fantasies of readers of all ages, from the schoolchild to the retiree. She noted the similarities between the early life of the eponymous boy wizard and Sigmund Freud’s family romance theory, in which young children fantasize that they are the offspring of parents of higher social standing than they truly are. “Harry Potter was a much abused outsider, living in a closet under the stairs in the home of his Muggle family,” she explained, using Rowling’s term for people who lack magical ability. “Under Freud’s theory, some children fantasize that they are living with the wrong family and will be rescued, identified as a prince or princess, and then returned to their real family, which is similar to what happened in Harry Potter.” As she put it, “Why shouldn’t we have a little magic in our lives?”