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.


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