Pride in Harry Potter

maureen

From the first movie pride has been an underlying theme in the Harry Potter story. It’s an undercurrent in the personalities of many of the characters. The stories have bit by bit eliminated fate, accomplishments, talent, position, heritage, or associations as means for judging personal worth.

Throughout the series Harry’s mentors have been taken away and now he’s reached a point of self-reliance. The prophecy that names Harry as Voldemort’s nemesis puts him in a unique position in the wizarding world. Harry fears for the safety of those who associate with him so he distances himself from others. Harry’s sense of being uniquely fated for his task makes him feel separate. Because of his connection with Voldemort, Harry is vulnerable to the self-absorbed egocentrism that defines Voldemort himself. Harry fights hard to pull out of himself and engage with other people, to appreciate other’s contributions and talents so that he’s not so into himself.

Hermione Granger seldom admits when she is wrong. While her advice and conclusions are often right on the money, her intellectual arrogance tends to annoy even her friends. Because her parents are Muggles Hermione may feel she has more to prove. She manifests an attitude we see in many bright and talented people: an assumption that her giftedness makes her contributions more important than those of others.

Ron feels the weight of other’s expectations. He’s got successful big brothers and wonders if he can measure up to his parent’s expectations. He struggles with the negative way his family is perceived. He’s been Harry’s sidekick ever since they met. He feels intellectually inferior to Hermoine. He struggled with jealousy throughout the series. Ron’s pride has taken a lot of hits over the last six years and he’s weary of feeling insignificant.

Early in the series we met Professor Lockhart who constantly seeks the admiration and accolades of others. He uses his ability to perform memory charms to cause people who actually performed acts of heroism to forget them so that he can claim credit. Lockhart becomes a decorated and honored wizard on the heroism of others. He devalues his own real worth and lives a lie in order to feed his ego with undeserved praise.

Snape also longs for significance but prefers to be hated and feared rather than loved and admired. Snape’s anger stems from his wounded pride. He takes every opportunity to assert his authority and avenge any and all offenses, real or perceived.

For characters like Dolores Umbridge, Minister Fudge, and Percy Weasley position defines worth. They are consummate bureaucrats who take pride in making and enforcing rules. Their heavy-handed policies reflect their low esteem for those they govern. Their particular brand of pride involves the belief that they know what is best for everyone else. They climb the ladder in order to achieve power over others.

Unlike Voldemort who revels in amorality, Umbridge, Fudge, and Percy believe themselves to be responsible and moral. Umbridge declares “For the greater good. I want to do what must be done.” These characters are willing to deny reality if it challenges their presuppositions and interferes with their plans. In a misguided attempt to maintain authority and avoid controversy they ignore or withhold information. In their pride they appoint themselves the only qualified judges of right and wrong, of truth and error.

For the Malfoys pride equals “pureblood.” They justify their association with Voldemort and the Death Eaters with their belief that their ancestry makes them superior. The Malfoys are convinced that their importance comes from who their parents were rather than from their own accomplishments or personal character. Their bigotry is represented at Hogwarts school by the Slytheryn house. While members of the other houses are presented as individuals, for the most part members of Slytheryn all seem the same. Their pride is wrapped up in the group to which they belong.

In scenes from the past Harry witnesses his father bullying Snape, who is unpopular and socially challenged. Harry’s father James’ best friends dismiss that arrogance as just part of who he is. Harry idolizes his father and becomes depressed to think that James was a bully. James is also full of joy, enthusiasm and courage but it is difficult for Harry to accept this flaw especially knowing that his mother Lily was also bothered by this aspect of James’ nature. Lupin tells Harry “Not only was she a singularly gifted witch, she was also an uncommonly kind woman. She had a way of seeing the beauty in others, even, and perhaps most especially, when that person couldn’t see it in themselves.”

For many of the characters misplaced pride happens because of misplaced values. This series elevates beauty and worth over pride when characters like Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom play the hero, and George and Fred Weasley offer more than comic relief. I’m so looking forward to the final episodes.


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