“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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

“The fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength”: Humanity in Harry Potter

Although most of the ideas described here have been explained elsewhere, the theme of humanity is worth mentioning briefly. Both love and death, which are such enormous ideas in Harry Potter, are portrayed as essential to humanity. When a hot-headed Harry, having been recently possessed by Voldemort, insists that he just doesn’t care anymore, Dumbledore tells him, “the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength...suffering like this proves you are still a man! This pain is part of being human!...You do care. You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it” (OotP 823). “To hurt is as human as to breath,” says Dumbledore elsewhere (The Tales of Beedle the Bard, p. 56). To be vulnerable, to ache, to desire – this is essential to being human. The pain here is that of love – Harry suffers because he loves and is willing to make sacrifices for others, and it is this that makes him fully human, unlike Voldemort, who “does not love.”

Similarly, death is an essential part of being human. This is a key idea, which I have explained in depth elsewhere. It is, of course, something that Voldemort, in his quest for immortality, never learns. In tearing his soul apart to make horcruxes he destroys his humanity. In his folly, he looks down on being human is if it were a weakness. “I am not a man,” says Tom Riddle, “I am much, much more than a man” (GoF 15). Ironically, though, “in seeking to become superhuman,” writes Dumbledore, Voldemort “renders himself inhuman” (The Tales of Beedle the Bard 59).

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