J.K. Rowling: The Importance Of Failure and Imagination 

How far from reality is fantasy? Fantasy is perhaps the quickest genre to be placed under the category of fiction. It is other-worldly, different from the norm, and considered ‘un-real’. But how much of that is true? J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is very much a portal quest fantasy story in how it features a regular kid, in the suburbs of London, who quite literally, steps into a fantasy world. Rowling uses her imagination to fit her fantasy world, and the Wizarding world, into the real world. She strategically places these portals hidden within the streets of London; from the door to Dragon Alley in an alleyway, to the entrance of the Hogwarts express train between the middle of two train platforms. These portals act as a gateway from the real world to the fantasy world. What this does is illustrate how the human imagination can be used to perceive regular things and experiences, and turn them into something magical — which ultimately showcases that fantasy, and the fantastic, are very much derived from reality.

J.K Rowling’s past, which is heavily documented, is one of great importance in relation to the Harry Potter series. She uses her past, and failures, as inspiration for her novels in a creative and imaginative way. The soul-sucking creatures known as the Dementors were spawned from Rowling’s experience with depression. She uses the eerie and lifeless feeling that the Dementors created to allow her readers to experience a fraction of the pain she felt. She called upon the horrible memories of a bully from her past, and used those memories to create the character of Professor Umbridge. Umbridge’s toad-like features and unpleasant demeanor could not have upset millions of readers worldwide had Rowling decided not to spin her misfortune into fortune. Harry’s bravery, unselfish nature, and courage itself are representative of Rowling’s own belief in the Harry Potter series and its future. She lived her life so that others could one day relive it in a fantasy world. Rowling’s story showcases that fantasy is every bit as real as it is imaginary. The settings, creatures, and tone are drawn from real life and human experiences.

Furthermore, Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard University in 2008 highlighted the importance of failure and imagination as the key to success. Rowling believed that “imagination is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared”. By personifying depression – turning it into a faceless creature with a ghostly hood – she made it into something physical allowing its presence to be more tangible to Harry and the readers. She used her failures to create success for herself. She then constructed her fantasy world building around the real world to help establish a bond with the readers. By establishing this connection, she’s able to use imagination to formulate empathy from the readers. The feelings, emotions, and even the world itself is meant to seem real to the readers. She conjures a fantasy world out of her own reality, and allows imagination to help understand “experiences we have never shared”. Rowling ultimately illustrates that fantasy, and the fantastic, are not so far from reality.


Author: Idil Dahir

Idil Dahir is a freelance writer and editor living in Toronto, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto in which she completed a specialist program in English. Idil enjoys everything from Films, TV Shows, Sports, Novels, and Comic Books. She is currently working on launching her blog in which she will react, review, and discuss the above mentioned topics. If you would like to contact Idil you can reach her at: idilmdahir@gmail.com


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