Harry Potter’s Family Romance: A Freudian Psychoanalysis… Monday, Mar 7 2011 

According to Sigmund Freud, the concept of the Family Romance is a psychological state where a child imagines that their parents are actually adoptive parents and in turn fantasizes that their true parents are of a noble lineage or a higher social class.  Such ideas are brought on because the child feels slighted or unloved, due to competition for affection with another sibling, and often leads to the question: “Who am I?”.  The concept of the Family Romance is common amongst pre-pubescent and pre-teen children whom have other siblings living in the same household.  However, this concept can be adapted to a multitude of household circumstances such as living with a grandparent or other relative, so long another child is living under the same roof.

An adaptation of the concept of the Family Romance can be applied to Harry Potter and his life while living with the Dursleys.  Prior to the discovery of his unique abilities as a wizard and the true identities of his parents, Harry is forced to live in a household where he is never actually treated with an ounce of affection.  He is forced to live in a closet beneath the stairs, given only hand-me-down cloths, hidden away from others in the neighborhood, and fed poorly.  He was continually ignored while his monstrous cousin Dudley was showered with gifts, love, and affection.  To say the least, Harry felt slighted and worthless.  He was only left to dream about what his real family was like and how different his life would have been with them.  Harry possessed no sense of self.

Following the discovery of his unique background, Harry idealized the vision he held of his parents, imagining them as the perfect individuals, each possessing the best qualities that were instilled in himself.  This idea is confirmed in the Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry sees his parents in the Mirror of Erised.  The mirror shows the user the deepest desires of their heart exactly as the user wants them to be portrayed.  In the case of the Mirror, Harry see’s that his mother’s eyes look exactly as his do and that he possesses many of his father’s features as well.  When he views them together, they appear happy and thrilled at Harry’s presence.  Again, later in the series, it becomes clear that Harry believes that his parents are much nobler than they truly are.  Harry refused to believe Professor Snape’s charge that James Potter was a horrible, arrogant individual.  It wasn’t until Harry stumbled into Snape’s worse memory that Harry discovers the truth behind Snape’s charges.

Source:

1)      Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers 5, ed. James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 1959), 74-78.

2)      http://www.enotes.com/psychoanalysis-encyclopedia/family-romance

Anything but Extraordinarily Ordinary… Sunday, Mar 6 2011 

In the journal article “Harry Potter and the Extraordinariness of the Ordinary,” Roni Natov discusses the relationship between Children’s Literature (specifically the Harry Potter series) and reality.  The beginning of the Harry Potter series targets pre-teen children whom are beginning the coming-of-age process and are becoming conscious of themselves, others, and the world around them.  In targeting this audience, Rowling appeals to the reader’s tremulous emotions by focusing on the things that children of this age group are starting to grapple with internally:  Social Injustice, Morals, Beliefs, and Truth to Self.  These themes become evident from the beginning of the series when you see Harry’s mistreatment at the hand of the Dursley, with whom Harry is forced to live and again throughout the series with each of the trials in which Harry is challenged.  Harry and his friends have to deal with choosing to do the right thing no matter the cost to themselves.  One example of this is in the Chamber of Secrets when Harry, Ron and Hermione are making the polyjuice potion.  Hermione chose to steal supplies from Snape’s personal stores while Harry and Ron “drugged” Crabbe and Goyle, stole their clothes and infiltrated the Slythern Commonroom. In this case, Harry, Ron and Hermione decided that these dangerous actions were necessary and right, because they were trying to learn about the heir who had opened the Chamber of Secrets and loosed the creature on the mudbloods in the school.

In addition to the mention of the coming-of-age process as a relationship between the Literature and reality, Natov also draws attention to wonder of ordinary life.  In the real world, everyone has books, pictures/paintings, candy, etc.  These items are considered quite ordinary and even mundane.  The same sort of ordinary, mundane items also exist in the wizarding world, except that, compared to reality, these items are actually quite extraordinary.  In the wizarding world, pictures come to life, books can scream, bite, and even literally suck you into the pages, and candy includes peculiar flavors and can also come to life.  But because these things are considered so ordinary in the wizarding world, Ron becomes amused at Harry’s fascination with these items, just as Harry becomes amused with Ron’s fascination with pictures that remain stationary.  Such a division in human reality versus fantasy helps separate reality from fantasy in Children’s Literature.

The themes that Natov points out in her article were reinforced by the young children speakers that came to our class.  When discussing things related to the coming-of-age process, they were able to point out things, such as Draco’s treatment of people outside of his own social circle, as wrong or unjust, but they were not sure entirely why.   The sense of justice and morals are just beginning to develop at their age, and since they are not fully able to articulate what they are experiencing, they can use faces of characters or situations in the books as a means for expression.  The Harry Potter series gives children something to relate to.  Also, each of the guests pointed out features of the wizarding world that they found extraordinary, but that they wanted to experience such as the moving staircases, the mythical creatures, and the candy.  Although they dreamed of being able to partake in this world, such as riding on the back of a giant spider, they were able to realize that these things were not real and only part of the fantasy genre.