Friday, May 29, 2009

Harry Potter And The Muggle Struggle Part Three: Character

First let's examine Harry as a character and as the stories' "hero." In his analysis of the series, Karl Miller calls Harry "a real boy, fully capable of errors, resentments and vexations..." (30). Harry is not perfect. He makes mistakes and suffers for them. Often times, his mistakes cause others to suffer as well. He is brash and impudent at times, and (as will be discussed in greater detail later) he feels an apparent disregard for rules. Harry can be quite lazy at times (especially where school work is involved), and is quick to let his emotions get the best of him. At times, he shows traces of jealousy towards others (including his friends), impatience and mistrust with and for authority, and a sense of superiority in thinking he is always right or at least knows what is best. He is definitely not the typical hero of the fantasy genre. Harry is a normal boy with faults and weaknesses.
A great number of parents feel that Harry is a poor role-model because of these weaknesses. However, many modern literary critics disagree. They see Harry's weaknesses as the real strength behind his goodness. For all of Harry's faults, he still ends up doing what is right and that is what makes him a hero. In his book--The Wisdom of Harry Potter: What Our Favorite Hero Teaches Us About Moral Choices--Edmund M. Kern discusses how Harry is a different type of stoic hero. Kern describes the "old stoic" as unemotional, tediously puritanical, and blindly indifferent to enjoyment and grief (19). Harry doesn't really fit that description very well. However, Kern also mentions other qualities and themes of stoicism which do fit Harry: fatalism, endurance, perseverance, self-discipline, reason, solidarity, empathy, and sacrifice (19). All of these traits are manifest in Harry at different times, and show his quality as a character and role-model.
Besides those listed above, Harry demonstrates many other moral qualities that deserve some attention. One of the most noticeable is loyalty. An example of it is found in the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry stood facing his nemesis and remained loyal to Headmaster Dumbledore despite the dangerous consequences of doing so. His loyalty was so great that it summoned Dumbledore's pet phoenix to his aid. Afterward, Dumbledore thanked Harry for showing him loyalty for, as he explained, "Nothing but that could have called [the phoenix] to you" (Rowling, Chamber 332).
That sense of loyalty comes from the great love that Harry's has for his Headmaster. That love motivates him to do great things. It also motivates him to risk everything and endure emotional abuse, physical torment, pain, and possible death for those he holds most dear. In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry risks his expulsion from his school and even his own life to stop Lord Voldemort from returning, because he doesn't want those whom he loves to get hurt (Rowling, Sorcerer's 270). Harry also shows his love for others in the way he treats them. He is kind to others, even when they are mocked and disliked. He accepts people for their inner goodness, and not for their social/political status or because there is something in it for him. He even shows love in the form of forgiveness to those whom he should have every right to hate. In the end of the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry learns finds the man that betrayed his parents and was responsible for their deaths. Instead of letting his father's best friend kill them--something that the adults present were all advocating--Harry decides to turn him into the authorities. He demonstrated morality and goodness when others wanted revenge (Rowling, Prisoner 375-376).

Previous: Part Two
Next: Part Four

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