For me personally, one of the most interesting aspects of HPMoR is that the people who dislike it the most are the ones that would probably appreciate it the most, and yet they’ll never know that.
Allow me to explain.
Among the people you’ve tried to share HPMoR with, but who disliked it, what is the most common complaint? If your experience is anything like mine (and most of the people I know), it’s that Harry is an arrogant little brat. His first sin is treating adults like equals and expecting to be treated like an equal in kind, which for many people is ludicrous. After that is his manipulation of others, and his many proclamations that the way something is currently done is either stupid or insane and should be fixed/optimized. Like the Snitch.
Of course this is what I LOVE about Harry! I love characters who are smart, and who fight against stupidity. I’m OK with some arrogance. To be honest, I like to see some spine and hutzpah in my heroes, rather than mewling about trying to please everyone. Blah, that’s lame and boring, grow some balls and take the world by the horns!
Anyway, I chalk this up to differences in taste and move on, as do most people, but every now and then someone gets really offended by Harry and just goes off about this arrogance for tens of thousands of words.
There are early cracks in Harry’s Awesomeness though. He loses his first army battle specifically due to his feelings of superiority. He is undaunted, as befits his character, but the further we get into HPMoR, the more often this happens, and the more dramatic the consequences. I think generally this isn’t noticed by the reader, because it is gradual, and because as the reader we identify with Harry and we want him to excel and win, and so we keep making excuses for him. And he still has enough wins to make us think “See! He is right!”
Until we finally get this giant wake-up call that just slaps us all in the face and says “Hey! Dumbass! You’ve been doing this wrong the WHOLE TIME! Look, let me show you!”
I’m speaking, of course, of Chapter 116, the Quidditch Chapter.
Because the Ur example of Harry being logical and smart and the rest of the world being stupid and insane is the freakin’ Snitch!! Everyone knows this! Even the most hardcore Potter fans acknowledge it. The Snitch is ridiculous. And having Harry call it out in one of his first interactions with the wizarding world, and keep harping on it, makes me want to jump up and shout in glee. It’s also one of the things that detractors feel makes him an arrogant brat.
And in 116, it is revealed to the reader that Harry is not a special snowflake that was right all along. That there are legitimate reasons the Snitch was widely adopted, and that there’s a long history behind what makes the sport what it is. Any wizard who actually cares about Quidditch is already aware of the Snitch Situation (or “Snitch Sitch”) and is deeply concerned about what to do about it. The real problem is that Coordination Is Hard, and Harry hasn’t done anything to address that. And now, looking back on it, wow, there were so many other points in the book where this sort of thing was also the case, but Harry was oblivious to it, and I didn’t notice either.
Of course Harry isn’t privy to this big reveal. He has to wait a few more chapters before he catches up with the reader. But we’re already primed with the knowledge of his flaw, so it’s a natural progression when we see him fall right back into that same trap and nearly destroy the entire freakin world, by assuming that he just knows better than everyone else who’s ever lived. He even tries to route around Merlin’s safeguards, because of course he does, he’s Harry Potter, safeguards weren’t meant for him. It’s a good thing Merlin was careful, and that Voldemort was around to save the world from Harry’s simple assumption of superiority.
Which makes “Don’t get cocky, kid” the longest lesson taught in HPMoR, spanning the entire work. And one of the few that doesn’t have a chapter named after it. And, most importantly, it is a payload that is masterfully aimed and delivered. Most message-fic has limited utility because the majority of its readers already agree with it. HPMoR manages to snare the audience that most needs to learn this lesson by giving us the hero we most love, and then lands that lesson into our face with a 660,000 word rocket-punch we never saw coming. Question yourself. Don’t assume you’re right just because you’re smart. Don’t be so cocky/arrogant. It could cost you the world.
The people who most agree with this at the start of the story are the ones who dislike the story most, and will never find out that the story is secretly on their side the whole time. But that’s ok, because the story isn’t for them. They don’t need to learn that lesson. Those who most need it are the ones most likely to love it. Us. Because Eliezer is a genius.