Harry Potter is a scrawny boy with glasses and untidy hair. He’s from England. As a matter of fact it all takes place in England with one rare scene in America and a photograph from Egypt.
In the beginning he is forced to live in a “cupboard under the stairs” and left out of the magical world. A world which he discovers he is wonderfully a part of at the age of eleven. An age at which he seems to have no skill or talent other than letting snakes loose at the zoo. Which in the end was a feat of magical skill.
His aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon are a questionable folk. They put on airs of high class and society but treat their nephew like trash. Their son, Dudley, bullies and teases Harry nearly every chance he gets. But that’s where Harry was dropped off when he was around one year old and has been living there ever since.
Let’s discuss who left him there and why.
Albus Dumbledore is the Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Minerva McGonagall is the deputy headmistress and professor of Transfiguration at the school.
An evil wizard by the name of Voldemort had just killed Harry’s parents in the name of a prophecy he had heard and truly meant to kill Harry. But the killing curse must not have been uttered properly. For instead of killing Harry, it split off a piece of Voldemort’s soul into Harry, who has been living with it all his life, unbeknownst to him (Harry).
These secrets aren’t revealed until much later in the story, and you may wonder why I tell them so soon. Well I assume you’ve heard the story!
Anyway, a boy with a dark connection, like holding on to the soul of a dark wizard in the shape of a lightning bolt on the forehead, can get very far it turns out in the world of magic.
I ought to mention that it is my view that throughout the series of books and movies, our protagonist Harry Potter has a fight brewing within himself and it is between his parent’s blood, and his connection to the Dark Lord.
The way it mathematically or not turns out is that Harry gets everything that makes him… him… from his father, his eyes from his mother, but his very viscera belong to the darkness within. The nightmares that begin in his fifth year, the anger he’s had since he could remember, and his skill at curses, talking with snakes, nearly everything except quidditch comes from the split soul of Voldemort. Quidditch is a sport played on broomsticks. That’s enough about quidditch!
Harry Potter is a complicated hero. And he is a hero because of something Dumbledore reminds him of in the very last book:
“It is not how you are alike, it is how you are different.”
The difference is that Harry’s life was full of fond memories of friends, goodness, and honesty. While Voldemort’s life was full of deceit, cruel social withdrawal, theft, murder, and bigotry. Truth be told, Harry had plenty of opportunities to make a darker decision, and it didn’t take a large complicated dilemma to point it out.
Harry Potter led people, just like Voldemort led people. It took more prodding on Harry’s part. Voldemort needed a following so he could purge the magical world of non magical blood, which he saw as “impure” and to defeat those who would stop him from murdering Harry finally.
What I think JK Rowling was intending with Harry was a simple unlikely hero type. He isn’t prepared for any challenge he faces until he has to prepare for his toughest challenge of all; the defeat of Voldemort- by death. Imagine having to kill 7 parts of a man’s soul before you get to kill him and free your world of his serial killer legacy thereby bringing peace to that world, oh and by the way, that world is the world of charms, curses, spells, and incantations, potions, and magical creatures. Imagine not knowing you were a magician by bloodline and that magic is real and that there are magicians who want you dead and it is your duty to kill them first.
I imagine you would want to learn as much magic as you could so that you could be prepared for the many challenges and battles ahead of you. Is that what Harry wants? Let’s examine the boy’s motives shall we?
Harry Potter’s motives change over the years of the story told of him. In the first year, we know he just wants his secondary family off his back. Especially Dudley. But his chances at normality pass him up at every opportunity. Harry Potter doesn’t get normality. At best he gets events of conscious euphoria: riding the back of a hippogriff, flying on his broomstick, realizing he has a godfather who cares for him, drinking potions of luck, winning school competitions, and the like.
But Harry’s normal is usually filled with a moodiness he doesn’t understand, or that he, at times, attributes to his current circumstances. Harry is a dark hero. He is atypical and marked by a dark curse that no one fully understands until the author reveals her secrets. Revelations on a schedule that leaves the reader completely amazed and excited to turn, if not pages, chapters in order to get to the jelly in the middle of the doughnut. The beauty is, there are so many doughnuts you could read for ages.
It is a marvelous feat of Rowling’s to have created such a marvel. Such a treat. I don’t mean that simply as a boy with a connection to uncommon magic, I mean that as a boy with a connection to dark, destructive skill. I also could have chosen my dark side. I know what I was born into, I could have faded away in to gangs, murder, grand theft, and drug abuse.
As the sorting hat said when it placed Harry in his first year:
“You could be great, you know. It’s all here…no…?”
We could all be great big assholes. But it is not how we are like assholes, but how we are different that matters. That makes us heroes of our own world of magic.
That’s the lesson as I see it.