Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Harry Potter's Lenten Retreat

I'm in charge of the Book Club this Lent. Jenna is starting a new job (congratulations!) and Christie has made the Big Move to the Wales-that-is-not-in-Maine (double congratulations!!), and I am sitting through another snow-storm (12-18 inches predicted. No congratulations in order). That means I have the time and the inclination to head things up this season, they don't. But hopefully they will have the time to jump in! Because we're talking about love. This Lent is sort of all wrapped up in love for me this year, as I work on being more loving to those around me, to myself, and especially to God (who is all good, and worthy of all my love..that's right, I just went to confession ;) ). 

There's an abundance of love (and love-seeming-emotions) in Harry Potter. There are good and beautiful loves, there are less than ideal loves, and then there are manipulations-disguised as love..we're going to try to talk about all of them. But not all at once.. Today we're just going to start at the beginning. 

The Rules

     We're not going to be absolutely careful in this discussion, but we are going to try very hard to keep the discussion to the first 3 books. But a few spoilers here and there are just fine. Just avoid focusing on all the love-y stuff from beyond book 3.

    Anyone can feel free to join in by linking a blog and/or commenting on any of the posts linked-in to the discussion. We'd love a big, happy argument about how much love Dumbledore actually shows Harry (cough, not much, cough)..or whether or not it is actually possible to create a human-being who has never and could never love another..and we'll probably get all teary-eyed together over Lily's sacrifice (yes, even me). 

     To make it easier on myself, we'll divide the discussion into four semi-overlapping sections: Friendship, Familial, and Sacrificial love, as well as Un-love - a time to explore Voldemort, the Dursley's relationship to Harry, and any un-charities we've noticed.

Harry potter hipster


    Friendship is, I think, the love Rowling is least comfortable is the weakest portrayed in the series, the most often portrayed, the least inspiring of all the loves shown in the series. The primary friendship: Harry, Ron, and Hermione is a frustrating one for me. Harry and Ron are pretty consistently abandoning Hermione for all manner of petty reasons, Ron is - it seems, never really stops hating Harry for life in the limelight, and Harry has the sort of trust issues that can only come from an abusive childhood..but why do they never, ever go away - at least with his two closest friends?

   I know we don't like to assume too much about the author from her writing, but throughout the series, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Rowling. "She must not have any friends.." kept flashing through my mind. Because the trio aren't the only friends represented in the series, but they're probably the best shot at healthy, true friendships, and it's disappointing. So much simmering resentment. I look back at my own school-day friendships and I remember having friends like that: friends I liked (even loved), but didn't really trust, friends I knew would isolate me at the first mis-step..those weren't my closest friends. My dearest friends from school were the ones I trusted with my whole heart, the ones I know are still there for me, despite the miles, despite the spiritual distance, despite the paths we've taken that lead away from each other. There's still that core closeness..and maybe that closeness is there, somewhere deeply hidden in the trio. Buried behind back-biting, petty betrayals, and thoughtless cruelties, maybe there's the core of friendship. But if it's there, it seems like a sad, struggling thing - beset on all sides. 

   Still, if it is there - and I never see it reading the books, really, only in discussing them afterwards with enthusiastic people who can see it - it does raise the friendships in the series above where I saw them. I like to hope that maybe Rowling is trying to draw that aspect of friendship out. Reminding her readers again and again that love is something constant..something that 'bears all things..endures all things..[and] never fails.' 

What do you think, are her friendships true and beautiful. Are they Loving?


  1. Haha--I love the comment about confession! ;)

    I have SO MUCH to respond to! I think it's going to mostly wind up on my own blog, though... but the hipster picture is AWESOME; it is going to be immensely hard to argue about Dumbledore based on the first three books alone :P ...I need book seven so badly; and I'm totally looking forward to covering all these topics with you. :D Thank you so much for kicking this off, and for running things so I can keep my sanity!

  2. First: that is not hipster Harry. That is a girl. With breasts. She is not guarding my eyes, but then again she's a cartoon so she gets a pass, otherwise I'm more than just creepy.

    Second: friendship is tough. Especially when you've lived the first eleven years of your life under the stairs. So it's fairly miraculous Harry has any friends at all. And it makes sense that they are also broken and outcasts in their own ways. There are some beautiful moments between the three of them; especially in book one. One thing Rowling has going for her is how the bonds are formed, it's very natural (well, okay, trolls aren't exactly natural but you know what I mean), very sudden, and very, very childlike. In a good way. Storming down the road totally makes sense with these kinds of relationships, you're friends before you really even know who you all are. And you're eleven.

    That being said, there are two elements I find troubling about the trios relationships, at least so far in the series. One is that too often their fights and breakups and getting-back-togethers start to feel contrived for the sake of plot. A few spats here and there are normal; bad days, stress, ghosts and poltergeists living in your building, these things can strain a friendship here and there. But after a while all those stresses should (ideally) begin to forge a stronger and stronger bond so that not only is it harder to break, but the communication skills are developed to handle differences better. And yes, early teenage years are not the pinnacle of maturity, I know, but these friendships are based on intuition and affection - those are fierce at that age. That's the age that not nobody can say nothing about your best friend so they just better shut their mouth if they know what's best for them 'cause ain't no way you're lettin' that go down, nuh-uh. It's later we learn to "stay out of it" or "give people space", back then we would die for people we loved not so much because we intuited Christ's teaching but because it's dramatic. And drama these kids have in spades.

    The second issue is: where are their other friends?! I know Harry's emotionally stunted (or should be, Dumbledore seems unable to make up his mind whether Harry deserves special consideration for his circumstances or is far beyond his years in wisdom, maturity, and love. Get it together, geezer) but has Ron really managed to avoid any friendships for over a decade? And does Hermione have no one in the Muggle world she ever connected with pre-Hogwarts? Or maybe that's intentional and a lot of the strife comes from too much intensity and emotional inbreeding. If so, it would be nice to see that dealt with. I know there are peripheral "friends" - Neville, Fred & George, Ginny (sorry, Hagrid doesn't count) - but the bestest-of-best-friends-ever run the danger of becoming an elitist clique. I don't think they are, not entirely; but it's hard not to compare them to children in other fantasy books who befriend pretty much anything not evil like it's their job. The Pevensies, Menolly (who has a lot in common with Harry), Pidge and Brigit, Taran (okay, he's a bit older but essentially the same emotional age) - all are marked with a bit more openness that is the trait of effective friendships. "Look at the world, isn't it big? Let's make friends with it like we are."

    -The Neglected Husband

  3. Androgynous hipster!Harry! I love her (or appropriate pronoun)! Though, Neglected H., what you're seeing as a breast might be actually a tiny pocket?

    I have many unformed thoughts on friendship in HP, but they will need to wait until I have some extra free time.

    1. It's not so much the line, as it is the bump... (click on "source", the picture's much clearer there ;))
      -The Neglected Husband