Too many people fail to appreciate the brilliance that is Harry Potter. I’m talking about the character—Harry, The Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One. First, allow me to reiterate this boy’s life to you: The second he was born, he was targeted by a mass murderer. His parents died when he was only a year old, and he had to grow up with people who openly despised him. The emotional abuse he suffered is evident. He was constantly belittled, made to feel like a burden, like a freak, and like he was worth less than everyone else. He grew up being told that he wasn’t wanted, that he was a waste of space, and that no one cared about him. There is plenty of evidence of physical abuse, as well. He was made to sleep in a small, dirty cupboard that was full of dust and bugs. He was not given proper nutrition, or even his own clothes. He was made to do hard labor in the heat with little to no food. He was beaten up by his cousin and his gang daily, and his aunt and uncle encouraged it. Vernon and Petunia have also attacked him physically themselves. The books mention Vernon throwing him across a room, aiming fists at him, choking him, etc., and Petunia going after him with a frying pan. There are multiple points in the books where Harry takes care to keep himself out of arm’s reach of his uncle to avoid being hurt. There was serious abuse going on here, but people overlook it because they’re kids books, and Rowling didn’t linger on these details.
So this abused, damaged kid finally gets to leave this hell hole and join the Wizarding World. But here, everyone sees him as a hero and expects him to be amazing. But he was always told he was the opposite of amazing. He believes he is worthless. He isn’t special in any way, and here are a ton of people looking at him like he has all the answers and expecting him to be incredible. And immediately, everyone already has an opinion of him. He has immediate admirers and enemies, and he still feels like just a kid in a cupboard. But he rises to every single occasion. He is endlessly selfless, always choosing to help people before himself. He throws his life into this war, to save the world, and he doesn’t have to. He could have chosen to ignore the prophecy. He could have let it be someone else’s problem. He did not have to do what he did. But he did. He was just a kid, and he took on this leadership role and fought and risked his life and literally died, all to make the world a safer place for other people to live in.
What makes Harry truly heroic is that he is flawed. He makes several mistakes. He’s a kid, and he doesn’t always get it right. But he always learns, and he always grows, and he never gives up. That’s why, to me, Harry is the truest hero literature has ever offered.