“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Community and Friendship in Harry Potter

“In the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust.” (GoF 723)
Community, or friendship, is another important theme in Harry Potter. Throughout his long struggle against Lord Voldemort, Harry relies heavily on his friends. “People who had cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him” (HBP 645). As he enters the Dark Forest on that final walk to his death, he uses the resurrection stone to see his parents James and Lily, his godfather Sirius, and Remus Lupin. “Their presence was his courage,” writes Rowling. Harry ultimately sacrifices himself to protect his friends, but he, in turn, is constantly strengthened by their love for him and sacrifices for him, and by the memories he treasures of the ones he loves. Harry depends on them, and their hope is ultimately in him. This “vicariousness” or “interdependence,” is the nature of true community, and of love. Love brings people together through relationship.

Voldemort, on the other hand, isolates himself, resisting all relationship with others. Remember Dumbledore’s words: “you will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one” (HBP 277). Instead, Voldemort scorns his own followers, humiliating Bellatrix and her family in front of the other Death Eaters (DH ch. 1) and ruthlessly ruining the Malfoys’ reputation. Their value to him lies only in the benefits he derives from their service, and most of the Death Eaters obey him out of fear rather than loyalty, which Voldemort does not understand.* There is no love in the corrupted “community” of Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Nor is Voldemort at all comfortable with being dependent on anyone or anything other than himself (even including the Philosopher’s Stone, notes Dumbledore). He scorns Harry for his “weak” dependence on others and taunts him because of the sacrifices they have made for him (DH ch. 36), and when his attempt to kill Harry in the Dark Forest mysteriously knocks him over backwards, he announces coldly “I do not require assistance.”

*On the other hand, there is a genuine loyalty among Harry and his friends, and in particular loyalty to Dumbledore.

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