What can we say? In our world as well as his, Harry Potter needs no introduction – he's The Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, and the bestselling staple of pop culture who reintroduced magic into our dull, everyday lives. Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series, which was published between 1997 and 2007. And the fact that J.K. Rowling took a decade was significant – after all, it meant that a whole generation grew up with Harry, following him from childhood to adulthood. So, of course, when this final book arrived, it was like the last time we all met up with a dear friend, someone we'd known and loved practically forever. All of Harry's readers and friends waited with bated breath to see what would become of the magical world we wanted desperately to be part of, and that we had become a part of as we learned and grew up with him.
We're not exaggerating when we say that the end of the Harry Potter series was a worldwide event. Within 24 hours of its release, Deathly Hallows sold a whopping and unprecedented eleven million copies. The accumulated hoopla surrounding the seven-book series has made J.K. Rowling the first author ever to reach billionaire status, and has changed the world of children's literature. Our friend Harry helped make young adult fiction a booming market, and reminded publishers of what parents have always known – that children are massive consumers (and we'd add that they love a good book as much as us adults do). Due to Harry Potter's enormous success, The New York Times even created an additional bestsellers list just for children's books.
But let's leave money aside and focus on what's really at stake in this last installment in the Harry Potter series. Sure, Deathly Hallows is significant on an economic level and a cultural one, but it's also tremendously important on a personal level to any reader of the Harry Potter books. This is the end of a long, long journey, and the complex blend of sadness, regret, and delight that it brings about is a reminder of just how much characters and their fictional worlds can touch our lives.
"Why should I care?" Why should I CARE? Are you serious? Have you been living in a Gringott's vault since the 1990s? The end of our relationship with Harry Potter is the end of an era… and it feels a little like the end of the world.
Don't look at us like that – we're deadly serious, and not exaggerating one bit. Really. We're totally serious. You may think that all these italics mean that we're being hyperbolic, but really, we're just being enthusiastic – gosh. This book has everything: Magic! Danger! Passion! Romance! Explosions! Life! Death! Life again! (Italics, exclamations – all excellent tools in hyperbole. But whatever.)
And, in the end, it's really life – actually, make that capital-L-Life – that this book, and this whole series is about. Millions of readers grew up alongside Harry, including a lot of us here at Shmoop, and reaching the end of his story is kind of like reaching the end of a long road that we've all traveled alongside our magical friend. When Harry realizes that his destiny is to die and he has to come to terms with his decision to follow through with it, we're also asked to consider what it means to die. More than in any of the other Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling probes us to come up with answers to the big, unanswerable questions of life. Harry's fate forces us to consider the very issues that we don't want to consider, but ultimately have to. And she reminds us that in order to appreciate or truly live life, one has to think about the shadow that's always just a step away – death.
So, yeah. This is indeed a matter of life and death – and those things, you have to admit, are kind of important. Suddenly, "Why should I care?" seems like a bigger question… it parallels the choice that Harry makes in the end, to return to life from the kind of pre-death limbo he finds himself in. In short, he returns to life because he cares – and this reaffirmation of what life is really about (love, friendship, loyalty, and, you know, saving the world from evil and all that fun stuff) reminds us of why we should all care too.