Hollins 1 California Baptist University
Harry Potter: The Boy Who Survived
Sarah Hollins Eng 499, Senior Project Professor Bartels 21 April 2013
Hollins 2 To millions of loyal fans, Harry Potter is more than just the Boy who lived. He is the boy who encouraged them to step outside of their comfort zones, the boy who inspired them to make friends, the boy who encouraged them to explore their love of reading, and the boy who inspired them to truly discover the special qualities that they each individually possess. While Harry Potter is all of these things, I propose that Harry is not just the boy who lived; he is also the boy who survived. Harry Potter inspired such a loyal following because he survived all of the emotional, physical, and mental abuse he suffered while living with the Dursleys. He also survived his years at Hogwarts, which were tainted by the many deaths of loved ones, friends, and mentors. He even, in the end, survived his own death. While many question the reasoning behind the series’ long lasting residue among readers, I propose an answer. The Harry Potter series was so successful because the readers spent seven years with Harry and his trauma. The readers watched Harry grow and overcome his traumatic experiences. Rowling’s presentation of such a positive representation of trauma recovery, especially juxtaposed against Voldemort’s clear negative representation of trauma recovery, inspired Harry’s readers to explore their own traumatic correlations and provided them with hope that, they too, could survive and overcome. They need not succumb to the difficult experiences within their lives. They could be a wizard, like Harry, and could escape the cupboard under the stairs for the halls of a magical castle full of endless possibilities for personal growth, achievement, and above all else, a feeling of self worth. In the book series, Rowling presents the effects of Harry’s trauma in multiple ways. Harry experiences frequent dreams, nightmares, and headaches. These side effects are
Hollins 3 common among trauma victims and can show up at any time after the occurrence of the trauma (“Nightmares and PTSD”). For someone who has not only experienced trauma but continually experiences traumatic events like death, Harry is even more susceptible to such mental damage. Harry’s dreams are frequent in the third, fourth, and fifth books mainly. They show up in the other books but are featured most heavily in those three. In the third book, Harry has many nightmares in which he relives his parents’ death and where he fears facing dementors. In the fourth book, he has a lot of dreams in which he fears competing in the Triwzard Tournament. In the fifth book, Harry has many dreams where he relives the death of Cedric in the fourth book. He also has confusing and abstract dreams about the department of mysteries and has odd shared connective dreams and thoughts with Voldemort himself. Harry’s traumas, besides the death of his parents as a baby, include physical, mental, and emotional abuse at the hands of the Dursleys, the death of Cedric Diggory, the death of Sirius Black, and the death of Albus Dumbledore. While his own family is something he has never known, Harry attempts to create a family with the mismatch of friends, teachers, and mentors that appear throughout his time at Hogwarts. Even though these people aren’t technically his family members by blood, he has created them into his own little family and, therefore, is devastated when they leave his life. When they die, it’s almost as if he must relive the pain of losing his parents all over again. He keeps losing parental and family figures and the trauma keeps him in a cycle of loss and death. While he does positively pursue relationships, he also sometimes shuts people out and refuses to open up even to his closest friends. He also shows signs of a lack of trust which is associated with victims of trauma. Those who suffer various types of abuse in their
Hollins 4 childhood have a difficult time relating to others and having healthy relationships with them (Shaw & Krause 470) He seeks advice and comfort in mentors like Dumbledore but is weary to confide, in them, his fears and insecurities. One of the first examples of this is in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second installment in the literary series. Harry begins to fear his growing connection to Voldemort and begins to worry that he possesses Voldemort’s bad qualities as well. When he discovers he can talk to snakes and begins hearing voices within the walls of his school, he does not tell Dumbledore even after Dumbledore asks him if there is anything he wishes to discuss (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 209). Harry waits, until the end of the novel, to confide in Dumbledore. His initial reaction is to shoulder the burden of his confusion and fear on his own since this has been his primary experience in life. He is used to dealing with problems in total isolation. Asking others for help or counsel is new to him. While the summary above is merely an overview of Harry’s trauma and its effects, Rowling’s depiction of them is impactful especially among Harry’s readers. As one of Harry’s readers, I was profoundly effected by the correlations between Harry’s trauma and my own. I, like Harry, grew up in a household where I did not feel wanted and my self esteem was weighed down by many verbal and physical attacks. When I picked up and read, from my second grade teacher’s reading corner, a magazine with an excerpt of a magical game of chess with life sized moving figures, I was hooked. I then read most of the first novel in third grade. While the reading level was a bit higher than my own reading level at the time, I found myself enthralled in the life of the main character. He was living in a cupboard under the stairs which was full of spiders! His Aunt and Uncle ignored him, mainly, and devoted and doted on their biological son, Dudley. While I was
Hollins 5 not raised by my aunt and uncle, I was raised by my mom and step-father. I had my older brother as a remnant from my mother’s old family but that was it in our household. When my sister came along in kindergarten, about a year after they were married, I found myself and my brother were the odd men out. While we were still loved and cared for, I felt second rate to my step-father’s new bundle of biological joy. In third grade, at the time that I first read the book, my mom was pregnant with my little brother and I soon expected to be even more forgotten and neglected. It seemed to me that every time I was punished was with more extreme force and harsh wording. It felt like an attack on the fact that I was not biologically his child. I was sure that Harry felt the same way when Uncle Vernon referred to him as “the boy,” and either badmouthed Harry’s parents or refused to let Harry talk about them (Provenzano & Heyman 108). My step-father began this practice as I grew older and spent more time with my biological father. My step-father would chastise my father’s low income in front of me and my brother. What felt the most personally correlative to me was how Harry’s uncle was often angry at Harry, yelling at him, and manhandling him. These were all things that my step-father did to me. I read along, hoping that Harry could get out of his situation since I had no hope of leaving mine. When Harry discovered that he was a wizard and was loved by strangers, I rejoiced in his good fortune and prayed that I, like Harry, could experience a similar positive escape. I made it all the way to somewhere after Hagrid’s entrance in Chapter Four and then had to return my book to the school library where another student was excitedly waiting to turn its pages. While I did not finish it, the book left lingering questions and excitement within my mind. The next year, I asked for the next available
Hollins 6 installments for Christmas and caught up on Harry and his adventures from underneath a pile of blankets on the floor of my room. I spent countless hours reading about Harry’s adventures and imagining embarking on adventure’s of my own. Living in a house where abuse was a norm and not an exception, reading was my escape and Harry was one of my greatest friends. He understood my plights and he showed me that I could still accomplish things and make friends. Even though some did not deem me worthy, some bullied me, some abused me, none of them could ever truly break me. In their article, “Exposure to Physical Violence During Childhood, Aging, and Health,” Benjamin A. Shaw and Neal Krause help outline the nature of trauma and how to accurately identify it. They define trauma as “stressors..[of a] heightened magnitude and relative abnormality,” “outside the range of usual human experience,” and “markedly distressing to anyone” (468). Their study focuses on the particularly harmful effects of abuse at the hands of the victim’s parents. While Harry’s parents are caring and loving during their short time with him, the Dursleys serve as Harry’s primary parental unit after their death and are the opposite of caring and loving. Shaw and Krause explain that positive parental-child relationships lead to better relationships for the child later in life. If the parental-child relationship is harmful in any way, it can affect the child’s ability to properly relate to others (Shaw & Neal 270). Although Harry does make friends and reaches out to others, he often struggles to completely open up and properly relate to them. He may not be completely damaged but his edges are definitely rough. Shalon M. Irving and Kenneth F. Ferraro’s “Reports of Abusive Experiences During Childhood and Adult Health Ratings” also echoes Shaw and Krause’s sentiment that childhood trauma is psychologically damaging and can lead to mental health problems
Hollins 7 and other issues later on in the victim’s life. Irving and Ferrarro write: “Because childhood is of particular import for the development of factors that help differentiate life course trajectories, adverse experiences and disadvantage occurring during this time may erode psychosocial resources. Individuals who encounter adverse experiences early in life may be set on a trajectory of disadvantage that ultimately results in negative health outcomes” (460). Irving and Ferraro believe that victims have a lack of control over their environments and feel helpless. These feelings can feel validated and can reoccur if similar experiences or different traumas emerge (462). Harry’s experience with trauma did not end with the death of his parents. As the traumas built on top of this first trauma, the risk that Harry would never become a fully functional adult became even greater. Thankfully, Harry remained quite resilient to that fate. Some of the examples of his maltreatment at the hands of the Dursleys include sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs, getting beaten up by his cousin Dudley, being forced to go without meals, not being allowed to talk about his parents, being physically thrown by his Uncle Vernon, and never receiving birthday presents just to name a few (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 19-20, 29-30, 36, 43). In their article, “Harry Potter and the Resilience to Adversity,” Provenzano and Heyman note that these maltreatments that Harry experienced should have led to negative outcomes. They note that most sufferers of childhood abuse experience issues with aggression, depression, anxiety, issues focusing in school, drug problems, and issues relating to others (Provenzano & Heyman 109). Thankfully, Harry does not experience these in such a way that he cannot fully live his life. Harry does experience depression in the series, especially in the fourth novel when Ron and him are not speaking. In the last novel, Harry experiences anxiety surrounding
Hollins 8 his search for the horcruxes when it does not seem to be going well at all. He also experiences issues focusing in school, especially in the fifth novel when he struggles with physically abusive detentions at the hands of his professor, Dolores Umbridge. That year, he also has much difficulty sleeping, but we’ll talk about that more later on. While he may struggle with issues similar to others who have suffered trauma, these issues do not fully derail his life. This association with Harry’s trauma is one I propose exists with many readers. In Colman Noctor’s article, “Putting Harry Potter on the Couch”, Noctor describes his use of the series in therapeutic sessions with patients in group settings. Noctor’s application of the series in this setting operates in line with the views of Bruno Bettelheim whose frequently consulted and referenced book, The Uses of Enchantment, explores the positive role of fairy tales in the lives of the children who read them. By opening a forum for children to use the Harry Potter novels as a means to discuss and work through their traumas and personal difficulties, Noctor is demonstrating Bettelheim’s belief that “children’s literature can develop the mind and personality and therefore equip the child with mechanisms to cope with difﬁcult inner problems as well as encourage the reader/child to be attuned to anxieties and aspirations” (Noctor 580). Noctor’s application coincides with Bettelheim’s belief that fiction, especially fantasy, can help children work through psychological issues and help lessen their negative effects and dull the sharpness of their remnants (581). Noctor’s patients were adolescents who tended to be forced into therapy and did not come willingly. They were, prior to their sessions with him, not used to opening up about their issues. In his sessions with them, Noctor found that the adolescents drew many parallels between themselves and Harry and pointed out events in
Hollins 9 the book that brought out specific emotions in them, particularly the events in which Dementors attacked the characters. Noctor uses this connection to demonstrate the positive dialogue about trauma that the novels produce. Noctor describes the revelation: “The group aligned themselves with the feeling of hopelessness described by the characters in the books when confronted by a Dementor, and also the powerlessness of the victim to overcome the ﬂashback-type experience involved in a Dementor attack” (585-586). Many victims of trauma experience flashback like experiences, including Harry. Harry experienced these in the form of various dreams and nightmares especially when he encountered Dementors. The Dementors caused him to relive the experience of witnessing his mother’s death. Harry’s traumas are numerous and the effects are lingering throughout the entire series. Rowling did not simply introduce his trauma to create sympathetic readers, she introduced it to showcase an accurate portrayal of trauma and how it effects its victims. Harry, while he survives his traumatic events, continues to deal with the long lasting effects of them while encountering new traumas as well. These new traumas test his already scarred psyche. While Harry spends eleven years under the negative care of his aunt and uncle and without his parents, he clearly misses them and is still grieving for their loss while at Hogwarts. In the first novel, Harry stumbles across the Mirror of Erised, a mirror that shows its viewers their deepest desires. When Harry looks in the mirror, he sees his entire family, including his parents. He takes in the sight: And slowly, Harry looked into the faces of the other people in the mirror, and saw other pairs of green eyes like his, other noses like his, even a little old man who looked as though he had Harry’s knobbly knees-Harry was
Hollins 10 looking at his family, for the first time in his life. The Potters smiled and waved at Harry and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them. He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 209). For Harry, the mirror is the closest he has ever been to his parents. This is the first time he lets himself indulge in using magic as a way to connect with them so closely. He doesn’t recognize that he is slipping into a dangerous and unhealthy place. After Harry has spent countless nights visiting the mirror and his parents, Dumbledore secretly waits for him in the room where the mirror is kept. In one of his most memorable speeches in the series, Dumbledore explains the nature of the mirror to Harry and warns him of its power: “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you…However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, nor knowing if what it shows is real or even possible. “The mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, Harry, and I ask you not to go looking for it again If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 213-214). Dumbledore teaches Harry a valuable lesson that Harry will teach himself, yet again, later on in the series when he becomes unhealthily obsessed with bringing pieces of his
Hollins 11 parents back to life. Harry’s journey through grief truly begins with his visit to the mirror and does not end until he uses the resurrection stone, in the seventh book, to call his dead loved ones to his side. In the third book of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry encounters a creature that makes him relive his worst trauma, the death of his parents. This creature, the Dementor, feeds on a person’s happiness, taking their happiness and leaving them with all of their worst memories and experiences. Harry’s mentor in this particular installment, Remus Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, teaches him about the dementors. Lupin tells Harry: “[These are] the very things that the dementor feeds upon-hope, happiness, the desire to survive” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 237). Harry encounters this feeding on board the Hogwarts Express. This section of the book is extremely important as it reveals Harry’s deepest trauma and his reaction to it. The dementor is described as a cloaked figure with a face hidden under a hood that possesses glistening, grayish, slimy-looking and scabbed” hands. The dementor then sucks the air and causes the entire train compartment to become extremely cold (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 83). Harry’s reaction to the dementor is intense: Harry’s eyes rolled up into his head. He couldn’t see. He was drowning in cold. There was a rushing in his ears as though of water. He was being dragged downward, the roaring growing louder… And then, from far away, he heard screaming, terrible, terrified, pleading screams. He wanted to help whoever it was, he tried to move his arms, but couldn’t…a thick white fog was swirling around him, inside him (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 83-84).
Hollins 12 While the others in the train compartment are frightened, none of them are rendered as helpless as Harry is. The dementor’s attack actually causes Harry to become unconscious. Harry feels ashamed of the dementor’s effect on him. After this first episode on the train, he feels alone in his experience: “Harry didn’t understand. He felt weak and shivery, as though he were recovering from a bad bout of flu; he also felt the beginnings of shame. Why had he gone to pieces like that, when no one else had?” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 86). Harry is much more deeply effected by the dementors because he has much deeper issues than his friends and fellow classmates. Later on, in another key scene, Harry is playing a Quidditch match when a large group of dementors descends upon him. Harry’s second encounter with them is even worse than the first and is depicted here: At least a hundred dementors, their hidden faces pointing up at him, were standing beneath him. It was as though freezing water were rising in his chest, cutting at his insides. And then he heard it again….Someone was screaming inside his head…a woman… “Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!” “Stand aside, you silly girl…stand aside, now…” “Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead-“ Numbing, swirling white mist was filling Harry’s brain…What was he doing? Why was he flying? He needed to help her…. She was going to die….She was going to be murdered…. He was falling, falling through the icy mist. “Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy…”
Hollins 13 A shrill voice was laughing, the woman was screaming, and Harry knew no more (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 178-179). Each time that Harry encounters a dementor, he relives even more of his most traumatic experience, witnessing his own mother’s murder. His own subconscious most likely hid it from him in order to protect him. This process is known as dislocation. According to the Center for Subconscious Research, many people who suffer traumatic events bury the emotions, feelings, and memories that surround that event or events (“What is Dislocation?”). Thanks to the dementors’ power to unearth the tragic and psychologically dangerous memory, Harry is forced to relive this memory despite his subconscious’ propensity towards denying the traumatic event. Although the memory is horrible, Harry has no recollection of his parents. These experiences with the dementors are the closest he has ever been to his mother. He has heard, from many people, how he has her eyes, but he has never heard her voice until now. In the book, Counseling Techniques: Improving Relationships with Others, Ourselves, Our Families, and Our Environment, Rosemary Thompson writes about the four phases that victims go through on their road to recovery. The phases include the Emergency of Outcry Phase, the Emotional Numbing and Denial Phase, the Intrusive-Repetitive Phase, and the Reflective-Transition Phase. A trauma victim must move through all of these phases in order to recover from their trauma (Thompson 365). Harry moves through these phases through each trauma that he experiences; however, sometimes he moves faster through some than others and sometimes reverts back to previous stages. When Harry begins to be greatly effected by the dementors, he has entered out of the Emotional Numbing and Denial Phase, where he has “buried the traumatic experience in [his]
Hollins 14 subconscious memory,” and into the Intrusive-Repetitive phase, where he experiences “nightmares, mood swings, intrusive images, and startle reactions” (Thompson 365). While it is healthy for Harry to have moved into this phase, it is still upsetting to him and causes him to fall off his broom, when confronted by them in the previous passage, and even pass out, as shown in the first passage on the train. Attempting to take action against the upsetting experiences, Harry enlists Professor Lupin to teach him the Patronus Charm, a spell that wards off dementors. While one part of Harry wants to be rid of dementors, another part of him longs to be near them in order to be close to his mother. He will not admit this to Lupin but he admits it to himself: “Terrible though it was to hear his parents’ last moments replayed inside his head, these were the only times Harry had heard their voices since he was a very small child” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 243). What’s extremely interesting is, after this, Harry realizes that he cannot continue to relive their death in order to be close to them. He realizes that it is unhealthy and is keeping him from moving forward. He talks himself out of his unhealthy obsession: “ ‘They’re dead,’ he told himself sternly. ‘They’re dead and listening to echoes of them won’t bring them back. You’d better get a grip on yourself if you want that Quidditch Cup” (243). It’s actually quite remarkable that Harry can see his unhealthy downward spiral and pull himself out of it. In doing this, Harry shortly enters into the next phase of recovery, the Reflective-Transition Phase. In this phase, Harry is able to “put the traumatic event into perspective” (Thompson 365). While Harry does not necessarily stay in this phase and continues, throughout the series, to move back and forth between them, it shows that recovering from trauma is not often a fluid process. It is a process that requires great strength and resilience as it is a constant
Hollins 15 back-and-forth sort of emotional, mental, and psychological journey for the survivor. In the article, “What Harry and Fawkes Have in Common: The Transformative Power of Grief,” Misty Hook explores the positive effects of Harry’s trauma. She believes that Harry’s grief is his strong suit and that his experience with trauma has left him a better person for it. She writes: “It is only through Harry’s multiple losses and his ability to be positively molded by his grief that he has discovered the toughness it will take to achieve victory over Voldemort” (Hook 92). Although Harry is abused, he escapes it and finds a sense of self worth at school and through his friendships with Ron and Hermione. Although the dementors force him to relive his worst memories, he keeps moving forward. Although he loses friends and surrogate family members, he keeps going and does not give up. One of the most prevalent illustrations of the effects of Harry’s trauma are the multiple dreams and nightmares that he has throughout the series. In the article, “The Boy Who Lived: From Carroll’s Alice and Barrie’s Peter Pan to Rowling’s Harry Potter,” Amy Billone categorizes his dreams as normal dreams, retrospective dreams, prophetic dreams, factual dreams, and implanted dreams (193). The normal dreams are Freudian in nature and reflect his belief that dreams are vehicles for hidden desires and repressed wishes (Bressler 148). The retrospective dreams that Harry has re-enact scenes from his past, the prophetic dreams predict his future, the factual dreams depict what is happening in his life at the moment, and the implanted dreams look real but have been implanted into Harry’s mind by someone else (Billone 92). Harry’s dreams begin in the first novel. Billone points out that Harry is shown having a retrospective dream about Hagrid dropping off a baby Harry at the Dursleys. Harry remembers his dream: “There had been
Hollins 16 a flying motorcycle in it. He had a funny feeling he’d had the same dream before” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 19). Harry also has disturbing nightmares in the same book. Billone recounts an episode in which Harry has trouble sleeping and experiences highly disturbing dreams after encountering Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest (193). Harry has had these dreams before; but, now they are much worse. Rowling describes Harry’s nightmare here: “Harry kept being woken by his old nightmare, except that it was now worse than ever because there was a hooded figure dripping blood in it” (263). Harry realizes that his dreams are much more disruptive to him than to his friends. He realizes that he has difficulty focusing on school and exams when he experiences “stabbing pains in his forehead” and Voldemort frequently popping up in his dreams (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 263). Harry’s trauma is disrupting the normalcy of his everyday life. According to Provenzano and Heyman, it is a common occurrence among trauma victims to struggle with school and to have behavioral and emotional issues (109). Harry’s dreams clearly demonstrate this struggle. Harry experiences many dreams in the fourth and fifth novels as well. The fourth novel actually begins with Harry having a factual dream about Voldemort killing a house full of rich muggles and their housekeeper (Rowling Goblet of Fire 16-17). Later on in the book, Harry has a prophetic dream where he envisions himself competing in the Triwizard Tournament, despite the age restrictions that do not allow him to do so (Rowling Goblet of Fire 192). Soon after his dream, he actually does end up competing in the tournament. This and the dream he had at the beginning, in which Voldemort not only killed muggles in the house but planned how he could soon kill Harry as well (Rowling Goblet of Fire 10). This novel lays the foundation for the notion that Harry’s
Hollins 17 dreams can be quite powerful and important and not just disruptive and damaging. In the fifth novel, Harry has many different dreams. His dreams, set off by Cedric’s death at the end of the fourth novel, are quite disturbing and psychologically damaging. He has many dreams where he relives the murder over and over again: “He had nothing to look forward to but another restless, disturbed night, because even when he escaped nightmares about Cedric he had unsettling dreams about long dark corridors, all finishing in dead ends and locked doors” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 9). It is clear that he has spent his summer away from Hogwarts reliving Cedric’s death when his cousin, Dudley, pokes fun at him. Dudley says: “I heard you last night. Talking in your sleep, moaning… Don’t kill Cedric! Don’t kill Cedric!” (Rowling 15). Harry is displaying signs of emotional distress after experiencing the trauma of witnessing Cedric’s death. What’s really beautiful is how Rowling finds a way for Harry to find a sort of confidant in the midst of such pain. Luna Lovegood, a student Harry previously had never spoken to, can relate to Harry as she witnessed her own mother’s death as well. The two can both see thestrals, creatures that pull the Hogwarts carriages. Only those who have experienced death can see the thestrals (Rowling 762). When Harry first encounters them, he finds that no one else sees them besides himself and Luna. When he asks her about it, she responds: “ ‘I’ve been able to see them ever since my first day here. They’ve always pulled the carriages. Don’t worry. You’re just as sane as I am’” (Rowling 199). Harry has found someone who understands the weight of his losses. Harry continues to have odd dreams throughout the book. He has one dream in which “His parents wove in and out…never speaking. Mrs. Weasley sobbed over Kreacher’s dead body watched by Ron and Hermione, who were wearing crowns, and yet again
Hollins 18 Harry found himself walking down a corridor ending in a locked door” (Rowling 179). The corridor shows up, in his dreams again, halfway through the book. He falls asleep in an armchair and experiences the dream again: “His restless night was punctuated once more by dreams of long corridors and locked doors, and he awoke the next day with his scar prickling again” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 329). Perhaps Harry’s most disturbing dream in the novel is when he dreams that Ron’s father is attacked by a snake while he is guarding the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries. Harry, when recalling the dream for Dumbledore, realizes that he wasn’t just a bystander, he was the snake (Rowling 468). This dream is a factual dream in which Harry is sharing a connection with Voldemort. This connection is exploited by Voldemort, later on in the novel, when he convinces Harry that he is torturing Sirius for information and Harry must come rescue him. The dream actually disrupts his waking state while he is taking his O.W.L.S (726728). Voldemort uses Harry’s own ability to dream against him, something that Dumbledore tried to correct through the use of Occlumency. Snape attempts to teach it to Harry but Harry proves to be terrible at it. His psychological state is fragile after Cedric’s death and his dreams and Voldemort’s manipulation of them, display this. Despite these dreams and frequent nightmares, Harry does not give up. He presses forward. He attempts to discover the hidden meaning of his corridor dreams and attempts to rescue Sirius from Voldemort’s clutches. Joel Paris, author of the book, Myths of Childhood, speaks about the resilient nature of children. Paris cites the successful evolution of our species as a evidence of resilience. He writes: “In hunter-gatherer societies, starvation was always a possibility, and predation was far from unheard of, particularly for children. Disease was endemic, and there was no medical treatment to
Hollins 19 speak of. Parents often died young, and children did not always survive for long. Strangers were often physically dangerous” (37-38). Paris argues that, in the past, children had to survive much more harmful things than abuse and neglect and that, therefore, much mental illness in adults is not solely the product of negative childhood experiences. Paris believes that experience is not the only reason for mental illness. He believes that heredity determines a person’s vulnerability to negative experiences and stimuli and that the combination, plus multiple traumatic experiences, can result in mental illness (Paris xii, xv-xiv). While Paris makes some interesting points on what helps contribute to adult mental illness, his most important points are on the nature of resilience. Paris argues that resilience is prevalent among those who can “bounce back” from adversity and is a psychological defense system that works much like how our immune system works to keep from getting physically sick. Resilience protects us from getting emotionally sick (Paris 37). Harry’s personality fits these criteria and helps explain how he survives his traumas and difficulties. While Harry is a positive representation of how to deal with trauma, Voldemort is a negative representation of how to deal with trauma. Harry seeks out family units, relationships, and a way to deal with and move past his trauma. Voldemort operates in isolation, refuses to make friends and create a healthy version of his own family, and does not deal with his trauma. The two react to trauma differently but actually have experience similar traumas and similar paths in life. Both were orphaned and isolated and both lived in places where they felt neglected and unloved, for Voldemort this was an orphanage, for Harry this was his aunt and uncle’s home. Both were rescued by Dumbledore’s invitation to study magic at Hogwarts and both felt at home in the school.
Hollins 20 Both found that they were surprisingly good at magic and both gained loyal followers and admirers. Voldemort’s fragmented version of his teenage self, which emerges from a bewitched diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, acknowledges, quite early on in the series, the similarities between himself and Harry. At the beginning of their confrontation within the Chamber of Secrets, Riddle says: “ ‘There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike…but after all, it was merely a lucky chance that saved you from me’ ” (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 317). While readers gradually learn, in more depth and detail, the nature of their connection through the revealing of the prophecy and Dumbledore’s lessons about Voldemort’s past, it is surprising just how early on Rowling sets this up. By including this in the second novel, Rowling is demonstrating the key purpose of her seven book series: to set up a parallel in which she can compare and contrast the actions of both Voldemort and Harry and demonstrate the right and wrong ways to deal with trauma. What’s even more interesting is Riddle’s challenge to Harry after he acknowledges their connection. He says: “Let’s match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him” (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 317). In this quote, Riddle is referring to Dumbledore’s sending of Fawkes, the Phoenix, and the school’s Sorting Hat. These two weapons, underestimated by Riddle, end up saving Harry’s life and destroying Riddle’s diary self, which we later learn is one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. This is not the first time that
Hollins 21 Voldemort underestimates the help of Dumbledore and his unusual ways of dealing with problems. While Harry himself later questions the validity of his mother’s love as protection and as a weapon against Voldemort, he learns to understand and accept this aspect of his person. Voldemort continually underestimates Dumbledore’s arsenal of love, friendship, true loyalty, bravery, and sacrifice. This is an underestimation that costs him his life at the hands of Harry and the elder wand. In the same book, the connection is further explored through a conversation between Harry and Dumbledore, after his defeat of Riddle and the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. Harry voices his fear of their connection, saying: “I don’t think I’m like him!” and “The Sorting Hat told me I’d-I’d have done well in Slytherin” (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 332). Dumbledore challenges Harry’s fear and shows him the positives in his misfortune. Dumbleore tells him he can speak Parseltongue because Voldemort “Transferred some of his own powers to you [Harry] the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure” (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 333). He also explains to Harry that because Harry asked not to be placed in Slytherin, he was placed in Gryffindor. Because Harry acknowledges the sides of himself that he fears, he has control over his choices and his personal outcome. In one of his most famous lines from the series, Dumbledore says: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 333). Dumbledore shows Harry that this is what sets him apart from Voldemort. Voldemort has chosen to embark on a path of isolation, solitude, distrust of others, lack of love, and evil deeds. Harry has already, in his second year at Hogwarts, chosen not to be like Voldemort. Harry has already chosen to set himself on a different path. He has chosen to be in Gryffindor, instead of in
Hollins 22 Slytherin. He has chosen to use his ability to speak to snakes to save Ginny Weasley and defeat the basilisk. He has chosen to make and cultivate relationships with Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore. He has chosen to reach out and attempt to let others in instead of shutting them all out as Voldemort has done. In Virginia Zimmerman’s fantastic article, “Harry Potter and the Gift of Time,” she explores this connection that Harry and Voldemort both share. Zimmerman writes: “The stark contrast in their relationships with their parents shows clearly how differently Harry and Voldemort make use of their pasts” (198). Zimmerman points out that Harry and Voldemort treat their pasts differently and that this is the key distinction between the two of them. Harry seeks out memories of his family, especially his parents. He prizes his connections to them such as his father, James’s invisibility cloak and his father’s Quidditch talents. In the first novel, Harry is recruited to Gryffindor’s Quidditch team and Professor McGonagall, his transfiguration teacher and head of Gryffindor house, notes the similarity: “ ‘Your father would have been proud…He was an excellent Quidditch player himself’ ” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 152). Harry also finds evidence of and admires his father’s sense of comradery and humor in the Marauder’s Map. In the third novel, Professor Lupin, one of Harry’s teachers and one of his dad’s friends, reveals the origin of the map: “ ‘And that’s how we came to write the Marauder’s Map, and sign it with our nicknames. Sirius is Padfoot. Peter is Wormtail. James was Prongs” (Rowling 355). He also relishes him and his father’s similar kind natures, evident in the third novel when Harry shows Mercy to Peter Pettigrew and helps save Sirius from the Dementor’s Kiss. After Harry rescues him, Sirius tells him: “ ‘You are-truly your father’s son, Harry’” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 415). Harry embraces the similarities and prides
Hollins 23 himself on his connection with his father. Harry also prizes his connection to his mother, Lily, including their similar character traits. In the sixth novel, Harry has a conversation with Professor Slughorn, a former Hogwarts potions professor who is brought back to teach the subject again. Slughorn taught Harry’s mother when she was at the school and she was one of his favorite students. Slughorn reminisces about his dead pupil: “’I don’t imagine anyone who met her wouldn’t have liked her…Very brave…Very funny…” (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 489). Harry is much like his mother. He is brave, funny, and liked by most of the wizarding world. Another commonality between Harry and his mother is their similar eyes. Harry is reminded about this by many figures within the wizarding world, including Ollivander, the wand maker, in the beginning of the first novel in the series. Ollivander tells Harry: “ ‘You have your mother’s eyes’” while he is finding Harry the right wand (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 82). At the end of the series, in the final book, the importance of this connection is revealed. Severus Snape, Harry’s long time potions professor and rival, dies and reveals to Harry that he had actually loved Harry’s mother and that this was the reason he had watched over Harry throughout his time at Hogwarts. Snape, who revealed to Voldemort the prophecy which caused him to hunt down Harry, felt responsible for Lily’s death. Dumbledore convinces Snape to be a double agent, working for both Dumbledore and Voldemort, in order to protect Harry. He convinces him by reminding him of Harry and his mother’s connection: “ ‘Her son lives. He has her eyes, precisely her eyes. You remember the shape and color of Lily Evans’s eyes, I am sure?’” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 678). In Snape’s final moments, he asks for Harry to look at him so that he might once more gaze into Lily’s eyes (Rowling Deathly Hallows 658).
Hollins 24 This connection between Harry and his mother helped protect him through his years at Hogwarts. This connection, for Harry, is also valuable because he has no real memories of his mother. When he looks into the mirror, he can see her eyes through his own. When he hears that he has the same eyes as her, he feels a special connection that he would not have felt otherwise. But perhaps Harry’s most important connection with his mother was her sacrifice that left him with the protection of her love. This connection is first revealed to him in the first novel when Harry asks Dumbledore why Quirrell, who was sharing a body with Voldemort, could not bare to touch him. Dumbledore responds: “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 299). Harry’s mother’s sacrifice is revered as extremely important and beneficial to Harry’s power against Voldemort even after its physical power is taken away by Voldemort. At the end of the fourth novel, Voldemort uses Harry’s blood in a spell that brings Voldemort fully back to life. Voldemort admits his foolishness at not realizing the significance of Lily’s sacrifice (Rowling Goblet of Fire 653). After realizing his foolishness, Voldemort decides to reconcile his discretion and rectify it. He decides to
Hollins 25 take Harry’s blood: “ ‘I wanted the blood of the one who had stripped me of my power thirteen years ago…for the lingering protection his mother once gave him would then reside in my veins too” (Rowling Goblet of Fire 657). Voldemort’s ignorant understanding of Harry’s protective shield actually helps strengthen it. While he can now physically touch Harry, he has also kept Lily’s protection alive since it is now in his veins as well. Harry cannot truly die because his mother’s protection lives on in Voldemort’s own blood. Dumbledore explains this to Harry in the final novel: “ ‘He took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon you when she died for you. His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you’” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 710). In his quest for power and dominance, Voldemort again underestimated the finite power of love. Voldemort, never knowing such love, could never understand Harry’s attachment to his parents. Voldemort, whose own parents abandoned him through death: his mother died giving birth to him, and his father, a muggle, left her when he found out that she was a witch, had never truly experienced parental affection. He even killed his father to avenge his mother’s lonely death (Rowling Goblet of Fire 646). While he also has a strong connection with his mother, it is a tainted one involving the murder of his father and the idea of his mother as someone he needed to save instead of someone who could save him. While Harry’s time with his parents was brief, it was still extremely psychologically beneficial for him. Psychologists Danielle M. Provenzano and Richard E. Heyman both believe that this short time is instrumental in his development as a person. They write: “The love he receives from both of his parents in infancy likely supplied him with the secure attachment and nurturance that help protect him from the later abuse he
Hollins 26 would suffer” (113). Since Voldemort never knew this love, he is emotionally inferior to Harry. Zimmerman further demonstrates the disconnect between Harry and Voldemort’s treatment of their past in Voldemort’s creation of Horcruxes. The Horcruxes, created when Voldemort kills someone and, therefore, breaks off a piece of his soul, house his fragmented soul inside of them. Zimmerman writes: “As he dehumanizes himself, Voldemort demonstrates how fragmenting one’s self destroys that self. Rowling makes clear through Voldemort’s negative example that identity cannot be forged in isolation but must be built from traces of the past. Rowling makes clear through Voldemort’s negative example that identity cannot be forged in isolation but must be built from traces of the past” (199). By creating these Horcruxes, Voldemort thinks that he has made himself powerful and immortal but, in reality, he has made himself weak and vulnerable. These horcruxes taint Voldemort’s soul and demonstrate how Voldemort does not value his humanity, while Harry does. This is another of Harry’s strengths and Voldemort’s weaknesses. While Voldemort is still alive, he is never fully living and that is his downfall. Voldemort’s traumas, while similar to Harry’s, are dealt with in a completely different manner. He does not seek friends, he seeks followers and admirers, he does not confide, he dictates, and he does not garner admiration, he garners fear. His only friends are the death eaters who are loyal only out of fear. They remain in hiding until he comes back to life and summons them to the graveyard that houses his father’s remains. In the fourth novel, he speaks to them: “ ‘I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intactsuch prompt appearances! -and I ask myself…why did this band of wizards never come
Hollins 27 to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?’” (Rowling Goblet of Fire 647). Voldemort is met with silence and then proceeds to torture his followers into submission. He uses fear, not love, friendship, or sacrifice, in order to connect with them. He does not understand that this will also contribute to his downfall. In the final novel, when Voldemort and Harry finally face each other, one of his so-called loyal followers betrays him. In the Forbidden Forest, which resides on the grounds of Hogwarts, where Voldemort believes he has slain Harry, Narcissa Malfoy, the mother of Harry’s rival, Draco Malfoy, is commissioned to determine if Harry is truly dead. Narcissa leans over Harry’s body and asks him if her son is alive. Harry tells her that Draco is indeed alive and Narcissa proclaims to the death eaters: “ ‘He is dead!’” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 726). Thus, Voldemort again underestimates the power of love and is vulnerable to Harry’s superior emotional and mental state. What is possibly the most important factor in the distinction between Harry and Voldemort’s traumas is that Harry deals with his traumas. In the first few books, he avoids much of his grief and anger; however, after witnessing the death of Cedric in book four and Sirius in book five, Harry has had enough. After Sirius’s death in the Department of Mysteries in book five, Harry meets with Dumbledore in his office. On his way to the office, Harry thinks: “There was a terrible hollow inside him he did not want to feel or examine, a dark hole where Sirius had been, where Sirius had vanished. He did not want to have to be alone with that great, silent space, he could not stand it” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 821). Harry feels responsible for Sirius’s death because Voldemort tricked him into believing Sirius was in danger, a miscalculation on Harry’s part that resulted in Sirius being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rowling describes Harry’s
Hollins 28 remorse here: “The guilt filling the whole of Harry’s chest like some monstrous, weighty parasite now writhed and squirmed. Harry could not stand this, he could not stand being Harry anymore…He had never felt more trapped inside his own head and body, never wished so intensely that he could be somebody-anybody-else” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 822). This passage is key in understanding Harry’s psychological journey. Whereas he avoided dealing with Cedric’s death and, therefore, experienced much of the pain through nightmares and dreams, Harry cannot do so with Sirius. While he felt guilty that Cedric was a casualty in Voldemort’s quest for Harry, he felt unbearably responsible that Sirius, his only true family, was one as well. Dumbledore, who has spent the whole school year ear avoiding Harry, is finally faceto-face with him. In facing Dumbledore, Harry realizes that he does not want to face himself or his feelings; but, since they are so overwhelming he has no choice but to fully embrace them. In a way, Harry is no longer making his trauma and his difficulties okay for anyone anymore. He is acknowledging how hurt and damaged he really is. Harry begins the exchange by mainly ignoring Dumbledore until Dumbledore claims to know how Harry is feeling. Harry responds that Dumbledore doesn’t and continues to seethe on the inside, remembering Sirius in everything around him (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 823). Dumbledore again reminds Harry that feeling his pain is beneficial and is something that makes him stronger than Voldemort: “ ‘There is no shame in what you are feeling, Harry.. On the contrary…the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength’” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 823). In what is one of Harry’s most honest moments, he lets himself succumb to his anger and rage. As Dumbledore again comments on how his pain is a good thing and makes him human, Harry shouts: “THEN-
Hollins 29 I-DON’T-WANT-TO-BE-HUMAN!’” and takes one of Dumbledore’s trinkets and hurls it across Dumbledore’s office (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 824). Harry, as most trauma victims at some point must also do, finally faces the full brunt of his pain and acknowledges its weight and the depth of his misfortune and grief. The scene shows Harry struggling with multiple stages of recovery. He begins in the Emergency or Outcry Phase in the Department of Mysteries when he witnesses Sirius’s death. He yells, he feels helpless, and he experiences what seems to be an elevation of “pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and muscle activity” (Thompson 365). He then attempts to torture Bellatrix Lestrange, the witch who has just murdered Sirius, in an act that is far outside of his character. When Harry enters Dumbledore’s office, he remarkably moves past the second stage of emotional numbing and denying. He goes right towards acknowledging the event. While he may be acting out and yelling things such as: “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE,” he is acknowledging his pain in full and is not denying or trying to forget Sirius’s demise (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 824). Perhaps his past experience with Cedric’s death and the nightmares that followed it have taught him to confront the reality of the death right away instead of trying to will it away. Harry, for the first time, no longer wants to sugarcoat what he is feeling in order to make it better for those around him. He decides that he wants Dumbledore to feel his pain and to understand it. He no longer wants to shoulder the burden himself. He is now realizing that it is too much to bear and he must release it from deep inside of himself; but, since this is so foreign to him, he struggles with letting it out and facing this side of himself. Harry tries to leave Dumbledore’s office: “But words were no longer enough,
Hollins 30 smashing things was no more help. He wanted to run, he wanted to keep running and never look back…He turned on his heel and ran to the door, seized the doorknob again, and wrenched at it” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 825). Harry tries to escape his problems and Dumbledore keeps his office door closed, forcing Harry to remain inside. Harry repeatedly demands to be let out but Dumbledore stands his ground, forcing Harry to hear the things he does not want to hear and to feel the things he does not wish to feel. While Harry is not technically in therapy, Dumbledore is the closest thing to a therapist that Harry has. Dumbledore always has answers, is level headed, removed from the situation, and gives Harry emotional advice throughout the series. Dumbledore helps him move in and out of these recovery phases by allowing him a safe and open environment to share his feelings. Dumbledore never judges or doubts Harry. He always reassures Harry that Harry is good and worthy, no matter what Harry feels or how Harry doubts himself. They have now reached the process, in their so-called therapy, in which Harry is no longer in denial about his past. Sirius’s death triggers Harry’s to grieve for his past and his fate for perpetual sorrow and a life surrounded by death. While Harry has grieved before in moments such as standing before the Mirror of Erised, he did so in a stage of sadness. When he grieved for them through reliving their death, he was in a stage of denial. By moving into this stage of anger, Harry is finally allowing himself to release all of his negative emotions and feelings, resulting in a sort of catharsis. By allowing Harry to smash his belongings and storm around his office, Dumbledore again provides Harry with a safe place to be emotionally honest and feel safe to explore the depths of his thoughts and feelings. The tool that Dumbledore provides Harry, to deal with his trauma, is knowledge. He
Hollins 31 gives Harry knowledge of Harry’s past, present, and future. He starts, in this scene, by explaining to him just why Voldemort attempted to kill him when he was a baby. It is all due to the prophecy that the death eaters were chasing down in the Department of Mysteries where Sirius met his unfortunate demise. The prophecy, originally told to Dumbledore by Professor Trelawney, the Hogwarts divination teacher, states that the one who will defeat Voldemort will be born “as the seventh month dies” to “those who have thrice defied him,” will be marked, by Voldemort, as his equal, and that neither Voldemort nor this rival can both live and one must kill the other (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 841). Dumbledore explains to Harry that the prophecy could have also been about Neville Longbottom, one of Harry’s fellow schoolmates. Harry latches onto this idea, hoping that he can maybe escape his fate; but, Dumbledore points out that by going after Harry instead of Neville, Voldemort made the prophecy about Harry (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 842). Despite Harry’s wishes, it is too late to change that action and to change Harry’s fate. Harry then directly asks Dumbledore what the prophecy truly means for him: “’So does that mean that…that one of us has got to kill the other one…in the end?’” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 844). Dumbledore tells Harry that this is indeed the case and the first thing Harry thinks of is not his own fate but the fate of Sirius. Harry, in what could be seen as denial or as choosing to deal with the pain he’s feeling now instead of that which he could feel in the future, thinks: “It seemed impossible that there could be people in the world who still desired food, who laughed, who neither knew nor cared that Sirius Black was gone forever” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 844). Perhaps it is easier for Harry to go back to grieving for Sirius instead of for himself or perhaps he has chosen to begin to move forward after allowing himself such a
Hollins 32 grand release of emotions. Harry also somewhat positively copes with Dumbledore’s death. While it is does effect him and makes him very sad, he spends a lot of time seeking answers for it. The death of Sirius, the death of his parents, and the death of Cedric were all deaths that he felt personally responsible for. The death of Dumbledore felt foreign and mysterious. The fact that he sought to understand Dumbledore’s death and his feelings surrounding them, instead of just pushing them away, shows emotional maturity and growth. He has learned how to deal with death from his great experience with it. In the beginning of the novel, Harry shows remorse for never truly getting to know Dumbledore. Rowling writes: “They had always discussed Harry, Harry’s past, Harry’s future, Harry’s plans…and it seemed to Harry now, despite the fact that his future was so dangerous and uncertain, that he had missed irreplaceable opportunities when he had failed to ask Dumbledore more about himself” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 21). He also accepts the fact that Dumbledore is dead. He doesn’t get as angry as he did with Sirius. He realizes: If anything was certain, it was that the bright blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore would never pierce him again” (Rowling 29). Harry also deals with the death of Hedwig, who is killed by a death eater while the Order is moving him to safety. He doesn’t have time to even acknowledge her death because his own life is in danger. Perhaps this is the theme of the last novel. Harry no longer has time to concentrate so much on the deaths of everyone else because his death is much more imminent. It makes him spend less time worrying about the meaning behind other people’s deaths since he has to determine the meaning and weight of his own approaching death. Harry’s final battle with his trauma occurs in the seventh and final book, Harry Potter
Hollins 33 and the Deathly Hallows. In it, Harry has tracked down and destroyed many of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Through Snape’s memories, given to Harry by Snape, Harry discovers that he is the last Horcrux and must die in order to kill off the last bit of Voldemort’s soul. Without this sacrifice, no one will be able to defeat Voldemort. Harry, having spent the last two years learning as much as he can about Voldemort and Voldemort’s past, has acquired as much knowledge as possible. His quest for knowledge as a tool against Voldemort is one which was passed down to him from Dumbledore. This knowledge helps him feel strong enough to face his traumas. Dumbledore also gives Harry a snitch from one of his former Quidditch games. In it lies the Resurrection Stone, a magical object that can recall the dead. Harry uses it to spend his final moments with his family and loved ones. Harry opens the snitch by telling it he is about to die. While saying this, he realizes that he is not calling them to himself; but, they are calling him to them (Rowling Deathly Hallows 698). Harry has now entered into the final stage of recovery, the Reflective-Transition Phase. In this phase, Harry puts his “past traumas into perspective...begins to interact positively and constructively with a future orientation and exhibits a willingness to put the traumatic event behind him” (Thompson 365). By truly facing and embracing the death of his loved ones, Harry faces his trauma head on and accepts it. He moves forward by allowing them to guide him into death. Here, Harry walks toward his fate with his family by his side: “His body and mind felt oddly disconnected now, his limbs working without conscious instruction, as if he were passenger, not driver, in the body he was about to leave. The dead who walked beside him through the forest were much more real to him now than the living back at the castle” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 701). He walks into a spot in the Forbidden Forest
Hollins 34 where Voldemort and his followers have taken residence. Voldemort is waiting for Harry to come and sacrifice himself for the fate of his friends. Harry allows Voldemort to kill him without resisting or fighting. He willingly sacrifices himself. While Voldemort was correct in assuming that Harry would sacrifice himself for the lives of others, he misunderstood its implications. Since Voldemort once took Harry’s blood to survive, he actually has tethered Harry to life while he lives. It’s almost a reversal of the original prophecy. Also, by sacrificing himself out of love, Harry has now protected everyone at Hogwarts just like his mother protected him. Harry discusses these events with Dumbledore after his self-sacrifice. He arrives at a dream-like version of King’s Cross Station, the train station where he had annually boarded the Hogwarts Express to take him to the school, and speaks with an after-life version of Dumbledore. Harry seeks advice from Dumbledore, asking: “’Do you want me to go back?’” and Dumbledore responds: “ ‘I think.. that if you choose to return, there is a chance that he may be finished for good. I cannot promise it. But I know this, Harry, that you have less to fear from returning here than he does’” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 722). Since Harry has decided to face his death, he has emerged whole. Harry again demonstrates that he is in the last recovery phase, the Reflective-Transition Phase. He puts his parents’ and loved ones deaths “into perspective,” accepts them, and is willing to “put the traumatic event behind him” (Thompson 365). He has finally overcome his trauma by experiencing it himself and removing its power over him. Voldemort is not as lucky. The piece of him that was inside of Harry is not human and will wither away in between life and death. Voldemort’s fate is brought about by his lack of understanding and dealing with his trauma. Harry will not suffer the same fate
Hollins 35 because he has chosen to acknowledge, understand, and recover from his trauma. Dumbledore again reminds Harry, before he returns to the world of the living, that Harry is the stronger man because of his trauma: “ ‘Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love’” (Rowling Deathly Hallows 722). Here, Rowling powerfully reminds her readers to look at Harry as an example of strength and courage. He is an admirable person and one that we should aspire to be like. Rowling also could not have given me anymore of a powerful sentiment. I, like Harry, could grow from my experiences. I, like Harry, could face my problems and my trauma and could benefit from the knowledge of those experiences, their damage, and the hope for a life in the wake of their pain. I, much like Harry, spent time in therapy and learned to stop making my sexual, physical, and emotional abuse okay for everyone else. In the course of writing this paper, I have confronted my own inner demons, have begun to grieve for and acknowledge my own personal pain and fate. I have begun to reach out and share my story with others in my life, including my own mother, a conversation I have avoided for twelve years. Harry’s adventures through his own personal pain have inspired my own. When Harry faced a life of terror and neglect in a cupboard under the stairs, I faced that same life in a house where I did not feel welcome. When Harry made friends and could not fully confide in them, I did the same. When Harry belittled his burdens for others, I did the same. When Harry experienced multiple nightmares chronicling his inner pain and anxiety, I experienced nightmares as well. When Harry faced the death of Sirius, a character whose resemblance, in the series’ film adaptations, was remarkably similar to my father, I also faced the death of my father. The series, while no longer churning out
Hollins 36 fresh material, is still relevant in my life and continues to help me heal. Harry Potter has taught me, and millions of other readers that the power a person has over the past is their knowledge of it and the power that a person has over their trauma is their knowledge of it and similar ones as well. By reading the Harry Potter series, children and readers of all ages can find someone who has made it through their own personal hell and found healing, growth, and salvation on the other side. Without God and without his placing Harry Potter in my life at the right time, I do not know that I would have found the other side. I am glad that I found Harry and I am glad that I found myself.
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