Harry Potter Is A Millionaire, And The Story Keeps Ignoring This
The Harry Potter stories start out as very much a wish fulfillment fantasy, the sort you can't really get away with when writing for adults but works just fine in a kids' book. The main character, whose eyes you see through, gets to leave his awful home and magic is real and his parents were heroes and he's the most important person in the world and beans now have EVERY flavor. On top of that, within the first few chapters, Harry learns his mom and dad left him a vault full of gold, which is kind of putting a hat on a hat when it comes to the whole escapism thing.
Fans did the math and found he's easily a millionaire. It's a decent amount for any adult to have, and for a child whose every regular expense is already taken care of for the next several years, it's a bit more than decent. Harry responds to his newfound wealth by immediately splurging on candy.
Now, do you think I'm going to mock a child for buying candy? No, that's a perfectly fine thing for him to do. I put in my own bulk order for Tootsie Rolls and Starburst just last Thursday. My complaint is the opposite of that: I'm baffled that he never goes on any other spending sprees, like any kid with that much money would. You might say a kid who's never had any money before especially would, but any kid would really. There's a reason that in the real world, 11-year-old heirs don't receive full access to the family fortune. They get an allowance or a trust fund, else they'd go nuts and spend it all.
Harry's inheritance means he's never short on money during the series, which is convenient, but the story rarely treats him as richer than the average Hogwarts student, though he is. He sometimes doesn’t even spend more than his underdog friends, one of whom is explicitly poor. As this video points out, his friends buy him Christmas presents, but he doesn't return the favor. And while he later stakes the Weasley twins' joke shop, his inheritance doesn't fund this—he uses his ill-gotten winnings from the Triwizard Tournament.
That video goes into how Harry ought to have used his wealth and power to right the world's wrongs, but I don't know about that, the kid had his hands pretty full as it was. Even ignoring that, though, it's surprising that he doesn't use the money to just have a good time. The rival sports team get new expensive brooms, and Harry just sits back and accepts this setback, rather than buying even better brooms to beat them. He studies the same subjects as his friends and makes the same plans to get a government job after school, never considering that he is a young fellow of great expectations and has more choices open to him. He starts dating, and even here, his money makes no difference, and he takes his girl to the same crowded tearoom every other couple goes to, instead of Diagon Alley's invisible champagne room that only rich kids can afford.
"You're an idiot," some of you are now saying. "Literally every one of your alternatives would have made the story worse." That's true. The story only works so long as they keep telling us Harry is an underdog (telling us this, even while he's the Chosen One, a star athlete, etc.). But that just means the story never needed to make Harry filthy rich in the first place. I'm not here to point out a plot hole, I'm here wondering why the story chose the setup it did if following through on it was such a bad idea.
The dynamic between him and the poor Weasleys, if you're a fan of that, could have worked similarly if he merely had enough to live on instead of being a millionaire. Some readers assumed his parents' wealth set up a mystery—how had the Potters, both just 21 years old, gotten so rich? had they used the philosopher's stone?—but that ended up never being a thing. A different rich relative eventually dies and leaves Harry a mansion, rendering the original inheritance even more pointless. Even what I said earlier about the gold being pure wish fulfillment doesn't pan out because it's only wish fulfillment if we get to see him using it to fulfill our wishes.
Really, that entire vault of gold served to set up a single scene: Harry and Ron having a feast on the train. Guess the writer must have been really hungry when she wrote those chapters. Ha, ha!
Wait, that's not a joke. J.K. Rowling figured wealth and gluttony had to be a part of this fantasy because she herself was poor and hungry. Later, she wasn't, so Harry's money no longer mattered.
Top image: Warner Bros.