Essay: A Chip Off the Old Block

In the Harry Potter books, Harry’s relationships with characters who embody the Mother archetype are vital to his journey. His relationships with archetypal Fathers are also key, especially in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the book ruled by the Father archetype, though James Potter plays only a cameo role.


Hagrid stands out amongst the many characters who mother Harry because he is a male character playing a traditionally female role: an archetypal Mother. (Go to Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 4:Mother, May I? or the previous two blog posts.) There is also a female character who doesn’t Mother Harry but seems much more determined to be a Father to him: Minerva McGonagall.
Professor McGonagall conspicuously lacks many archetypal Mother attributes. She doesn’t knit or weave, like Molly Weasley, Hagrid, Hermione or the mythical Penelope. She doesn’t nurture nor coddle, like Molly and Hagrid again, nor attempt to repress Harry, like Aunt Petunia or Dolores Umbridge. And she’s definitely not linked romantically to one of Harry’s Father-figures, the way Cho Chang is linked to Cedric Diggory.
In the fifth book, Professor McGonagall is determined to help Harry become an Auror as a direct challenge to Dolores Umbridge, and their argument over Harry’s career comes off very much like a father and a mother engaging in a tug-of-war over a son’s future path.
McGonagall gives Harry his “battle rank” in his most prominent metaphorical war: Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Her no-nonsense demeanor and concern with Harry’s “battle” training and future prospects are not the exclusive domain of fathers in the modern world, where these roles are shared with mothers, but these attributes seldom come up in connection to archetypal Mothers in myth and folklore—they’re linked to father-figures.
She even plays the role of a stereotypical pacing-expectant-father-in-the-maternity-ward-waiting-room when she spends a day on Privet Drive awaiting Hagrid’s arrival with baby Harry, who is metaphorically reborn as a pseudo-Muggle. Again, many fathers today are in the same room as their partners during a birth, but McGonagall in the early part of Philosopher’s Stone is a classic expectant father right out of Mad Men.

Michelangelo’s Pietà

Though JK Rowling has spoken of Hagrid being “fatherly” to Harry when he’s carrying his body out of the forest in Deathly Hallows, this image comes across very much as a pietà moment, the title given to many of the depictions in art of the Virgin Mary holding the body of the crucified Christ, and she’s often shown weeping over him, as Hagrid weeps over Harry.
If JK Rowling does actually think of Hagrid as a father figure for Harry, and McGonagall as a mother figure, then, whether consciously or unconsciously, she is subverting the idea of what a father is and what a mother is by having almost all of Hagrid’s character traits and actions fall neatly into the archetype of the Mother, rather than the archetypal Father, and the same goes for her subverting archetypes with McGonagall, who, if she was to be a Mother-figure for Harry is a decidedly Fatherly one. In other words, just because it is possible to identify archetypes in the books that have long been identified as male or female, readers shouldn’t assume that Rowling is being unrelentingly binary about gender, because this is far from the only time that she subverts archetypes.




 Yet another Father to Harry is “the other Chosen One”, Neville Longbottom. Early on, Neville appears as a companion to Hermione, an archetypal Mother. They engage in a somewhat domestic activity: searching for a lost “child”—Trevor the toad. Soon after this, Harry crosses the lake at Hogwarts with his new pseudo-family: Ron, in the role of the Wise Old Man who is inculcating Harry in wizarding culture, and Hermione and Neville, a symbolic Mother and a symbolic Father. This is an echo of McGonagall, an archetypal Father, being with baby Harry on Privet Drive with the Wise Old Man, Dumbledore, and Hagrid, an archetypal Mother. Crossing the lake is another rebirth for Harry, like Hagrid bringing him to the Dursleys. Each time he crosses water with an archetypal Mother and is joined by a Father and a Wise Old Man.
Neville might seem like another child to Hermione, who mothers everyone indiscriminately at this point in her life, but the dynamic between Hermione and Harry or Hermione and Ron is different than the dynamic between her and Neville. She is more solicitous of Neville and often partners with him, especially in Potions, which is a kind of symbolic domesticity.
During the flying lesson Neville cannot control his broom, possibly pointing to prodigious powers that he just can’t rein in yet. Even though he grew up in the wizarding world, and kids like Draco were flying before coming to Hogwarts, Neville’s grandmother kept him away from brooms. Neville’s actions during the flying lesson land Harry on the house team, making him a virtual Father to Harry-the-Seeker, along with Professor McGonagall.


Neville can see Thestrals, like Luna Lovegood, who is an archetypal Crone (Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 6: A Murder of Crones). The reason that Harry can see Thestrals after his fourth year is that Cedric Diggory, another Father-figure, was murdered before his eyes, a re-enactment of James Potter’s murder. Together, Harry, Neville and Luna’s archetypes again represent youth, parenthood and old age, another complete trio of life-stages, while the other three who go with them to the Ministry at the end of the fifth book but who cannot see Thestrals, Ginny, Hermione and Ron, also represent youth (Ginny, the archetypal Maiden), parenthood (Hermione, the archetypal Mother), and old age (Ron, the Wise Old Man).
Harry is with the archetypal Mother, Father and Wise Old Man again when he “meets” Fluffy, the three-headed Cerberus-like dog that is the first obstacle to the Philosopher’s Stone. Characters aligning with these archetypes consistently accompany him at crossings into new worlds. The Maiden, represented by Ginny, saw Harry off on his journey and the Crone, embodied by Luna, later accompanies him when he begins to confront death, but his virtual “parents”—the archetypal Mother and Father—and a virtual “grandfather”, if you will—the Wise Old Man—accompany him at these other times.
At the end of the first book Neville is an authority figure—which is to say, a Father-figure—when he tries to prevent Harry, Ron and Hermione from leaving Gryffindor Tower to stop Snape from getting to the Philosopher’s Stone (or so they think). Hermione, the archetypal Mother, incapacitates Neville with a full-body-bind. Dumbledore later rewards Neville for standing up to his friends, reinforcing that Neville was not in the wrong, and so those responsible for Gryffindor winning the House Cup are Harry and an archetypal Mother, Father and Wise-Old-Man.
In the fifth book Rowling reveals that Neville has used his father’s wand for the all of the previous years that he’s been in school. The scene in Order of the Phoenix that takes place in the long-term residents’ ward in St. Mungo’s reinforces that Neville is, despite his youth, in a situation often experienced by older men: his parents are mentally incapacitated and so he visits them in an institutional setting. He’s being raised by his grandmother, so in a way he’s now his own father, who she also raised. This may be why Neville often seems more like an older man rather than a teenager.
In the Department of Mysteries Neville carries Hermione after she’s injured–the Father carrying the Mother. He also takes on his own father’s role when Bellatrix Lestrange tortures him in the Department of Mysteries. Time and again, Neville is a virtual Father to Harry, plays Hermione’s partner, or he repeats things that his own father did, becoming him, in effect, despite his grandmother’s best efforts.


Cedric Diggory is another chronologically young archetypal Father. At first, we only know that he, like James, is an excellent Quidditch player and a sharer of power. Early in Goblet of Fire, Cedric and Harry take a Portkey to the Quidditch World Cup, a wizarding competition that later includes masked Death Eaters. This is inverted in the book’s climax, when Harry and Cedric take a Portkey from a wizarding competition to another place with Death Eaters.
The picture of Cedric in Goblet of Fire is even more idealistic than in the third book and is not unlike the way Harry still imagines James Potter: Cedric is a leader, a prefect, while James became Head Boy. Cedric is an enviable Quidditch player, admired by all, yet also humble and self-effacing, which is also how Harry imagines James. In the fifth and sixth books we learn that James was not all that, but Harry is still in the dark about his father bullying Snape during the fourth book. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry denies to Snape that his father was arrogant and dangerous and there’s nothing that contradicts this in the fourth book, when James only appears as a ghostly image emerging from Voldemort’s wand.
Cedric is the idealized Father, James before Harry learns he had feet of clay. Through Harry’s eyes he’s handsome, he’s skilled, he’s virtuous—and then he’s a victim, killed in the same flash of green light that accompanied James’s death, which Harry “remembers” in his dreams, and, in the previous book, when he came too close to Dementors.
Cedric being an archetypal Father adds an Oedipal spin to Harry’s relationship with Cho Chang, an archetypal Mother, and while Cedric doesn’t die specifically because of trying to avoid a prophecy coming true, like the father of Oedipus—which is closer to what Voldemort attempts to do—Cedric does make a decision that contributes to his own death, which Harry also accidentally contributes to when he insists that Harry take the Triwizard Cup with him and Harry agrees. However, Cedric definitely comes off better than the father of Oedipus, since what Cedric did was to try to share power, rather than abandoning a baby to avoid the baby eventually killing him.


Barty Crouch, Jr., in the role of Mad-Eye Moody, is another Father-figure to Harry, but like Quirrell and Mr. Lovegood, who are failed Wise Old Men, and Dolores Umbridge and Petunia Dursley, who are not good or helpful versions of the Mother archetype, he is also not a helpful version of the archetypal Father but one who is planning to deliver Harry to his arch-enemy, Voldemort. Crouch hasn’t always been an archetypal Father. He is a Youth to his own father, Barty Crouch, Sr., who helps his son to escape from Azkaban by using Polyjuice Potion, so his wife and son can switch places. After he does, he keeps his son prisoner for years, controlling him with the Imperius Curse. When Crouch, Jr. then keeps Moody prisoner in his own trunk, he is actually stepping into his father’s shoes, becoming the warden of Moody’s prison. When he’s pretending to be Moody, he repeatedly tries to Father Harry, lulling him into a false sense of security, including trying to help Harry see the best way to deal with the dragon in the first Tournament task: flying on his broomstick.
This activity is almost always linked to Harry’s Father figures: James is lauded as a superior Quidditch player; McGonagall gives Harry the position of Seeker on the house team, making him the youngest player in a century; and Neville losing his Remembrall to Draco Malfoy prompts Harry to hop on a broom before he’s told that he can, which is how McGonagall sees what a natural flyer he is, and in particular, she gets to witness Harry catching Neville’s Remembrall, a distinctly Snitch-like object. Crouch, Jr. continues this pattern, and though he fails in his attempt to get Neville—another archetypal Father—to clue Harry in to the wonders of gillyweed, he’s intimately involved in manipulating what happens to all of the Champions in the maze, though he fails to anticipate Harry and Cedric, another Father-figure, taking the Tournament Cup together.
Arthur Weasley is an obvious Father-figure, and Harry is treated like family by him and the Weasleys, especially when Nagini bites Arthur. When this occurs, Harry is witnessing yet another Father-figure being attacked, but this time he manages to save Arthur. What he couldn’t do for James or for Cedric he can do for Arthur, though he feels guilty because he’s convinced, temporarily, that he’s to blame. This maintains the pattern of Harry feeling responsible for his Father-figures being attacked.


In Order of the Phoenix, Harry also sees his only female Father-figure, McGonagall, cursed by Aurors when they’re attempting to apprehend one of Harry’s Mother-figures, Hagrid, who runs from the Aurors while carrying his dog Fang as if he’s a baby, yet another echo of the attack in Godric’s Hollow, when Harry’s parents were killed and his mother tried to flee with baby Harry.
At the end of Goblet of Fire, the Mother, Father and Wise Old Man again accompany Harry in the graveyard in Little Hangleton, in incorporeal form, just as they do in the final book, when he is walking to his death in the forest. In Goblet of Fire, the Wise Old Man is the murdered Muggle Frank Bryce, whose death Harry witnessed at the beginning of the book; the Mother is obvious—Lily; and the Father is doubled by James and Cedric, who emerges from Voldemort’s wand first, as the most recent victim, while James emerges last.
The Father is the ruling archetype for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and the character best embodying this archetype in this book is Cedric Diggory. Harry steps into Cedric’s shoes many times during this book, not just at the end. He’s declared a Hogwarts Champion, which is also Cedric’s title. He is, in effect, a shadow-Champion to Cedric throughout the book, until their roles are reversed in the climax and Harry becomes the sole Hogwarts Champion, while Cedric becomes a literal shadow.
Harry tells Cedric about the dragons in the First Task and, in turn, Cedric gives Harry a way, through the prefects’ bath, to work on the clue of the egg. Since Harry wouldn’t otherwise have a reason to go in that bathroom, this is very clearly another moment when he is walking in Cedric’s shoes.


In the unofficial task of the Yule Ball—or, as JK Rowling calls it, “The Unexpected Task”, and it is the second out of four, not three tasks in the Tournament, just as Harry makes four and not three Champions—Harry vies with Cedric to go to the Ball with the archetypal Mother Cho Chang, but Cedric asks her first. Harry also attempts to rescue Cho from the lake, but Cedric rescues her instead.
Finally, Harry and Cedric see each other as equals and take the Tournament Cup together, which is fatal for Cedric. Unlike the previous books, this time when Harry steps into the shoes of the character who best embodies the ruling archetype of the book, it’s something he almost immediately regrets. Not only does being the “other” Hogwarts champion, a “shadow” champion, bring him unwanted attention, ridicule and even cause a rift with his best friend for a while, it doesn’t lead to a “win” for him, as in the previous books, despite the fact that Harry is the nominal winner of the Tournament. Instead it leads to Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s resurrection.


The archetypal Fathers Harry encounters inspire him at turns to admire, to emulate, to scorn, and to protect. He learns a great deal from Wise Old Men but never identifies with them to the extent that he does with his Father-figures, foreshadowing his eventual evolution into a Father himself. JK Rowling shows this in the epilogue of the seventh book, when Harry tries to reassure his youngest son that the bravest man he ever knew was a Slytherin, the act of a Father who never knew what it was to have a Father himself, but who learns how to be one—and how not to be one—from the many archetypal Fathers he meets during his heroic journey.


Adapted from the script for Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 5: Our Father, Copyright 2017-2018 by Quantum Harry Productions and B.L. Purdom. See other posts on this blog for direct links to all episodes of Quantum Harry.




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