| .: Harry's Hero Complex :.|
In the book ‘The Writers Journey’, Christopher Vogler writes what he believes to be the recipe that most action heroes follow. We are going to apply this concept to Harry Potter and his adventures during the first four books to answer the question; ‘is Harry a hero’?
1.The Ordinary World: Most stories take the hero out of the ordinary world and into a new environment. This idea has given birth to countless film and television texts. If we are to see the hero in a new and alien world, we need to firstly see the hero in a normal ordinary world.
In all the Harry Potter Books, we at first find Harry in his ‘normal’ Muggle Privet Drive settings in which Harry had spent most of his life. This world still has a sense of normality to Harry, as the magical world is still so unexplored and governed by things unknown, whereas the Muggle world presents a safety net, where magic is not a reality. The Dursley family, to the unknowing eyes, is normal, ‘no witchcraft around here at all’.
2. The Call to Adventure: The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure to undertake. Once the hero is presented with this, they can no longer remain indefinitely in the comforts of the ordinary world. The call to adventure establishes the stakes of the game and makes clear the hero’s goal.
PS: The first problem/issue that Harry is faced with is the discovery of a Magical world unknown to him for his whole life. He feels he belongs to this world, and so decided to take part, but the stakes were that he had to leave behind the Dursleys (not great loss there), and he must be sworn to secrecy in the Muggle world. Harry is then faced with the problems regarding the Philosophers Stone. He has the choice to either help protect the stone and keep Voldemort at bay, or let it be stolen and risk being murdered by him and letting the dark forces come to power again.
COS: Harry has to solve the attacks happening on students at Hogwarts. If he doesn’t, Hagrid or himself will be convicted of these abominable crimes and all will never be the same again.
POA: Harry is under the impression that Sirius Black has escaped from prison to kill him. Harry feels that he needs to solve the mystery of Black by attempting to solve the clues. He is then met with another challenge; to save Sirius by use of the time turner. The other options aren’t so welcoming to Harry.
GOF: The problem presented is the Tri-Wizard Tournament, which leads to the Barty Crouch mystery. As Harry is a key component in this mystery, he feels compelled to solve it in order to stop the degradation of reputation of his own and the people around him.
3. The Reluctant Hero (Refusal of the Call): This deals with fear. The hero balks at the threshold of the adventure, refusing the call or expressing reluctance. This is to do with confronting the unknown territory which is frightening. The hero has not yet fully committed to the journey and may still be thinking of turning back. Some to his/her influences- a change of circumstances, a further offence against the natural order of things, or encouragement from a mentor is required to get the hero past this turning point of fear.
PS: The first instalment of this series explores a new world, society and possibilities the mind simply can’t comprehend. Harry’s curiosity about this world and mainly the Philosopher’s Stone problem makes the reluctance in this novel almost inexistent. However, when Harry was faced with the mystery of finding out what Voldemort so desperately wanted, he briefly hesitated. This hesitation can be seen as a mild form of reluctance that was over shadowed by his curiosity.
COS: When Harry is accused of being the heir of Slytherin he retreats to his solitude and almost refuses to deal with the problem at hand. He denies that there could be any possibility of himself being the Heir, but when the attacks continued and Harry is again a suspect, he must deal with the mystery, and attempt to find out who is plotting all these attacks. This denial was a form of reluctance, thus so far following the recipe of a hero.
POA: On the train with Ron and Hermione, Harry discussed with them what Arthur Weasley told him regarding Sirius Black. The trio begin their process of denial, by finding no real link between Sirius and Harry. When Sirius breaks into the castle, and is believed to have been seeking out Harry, he has no real choice but to attempt to find out the link between Sirius and himself.
GOF: After Harry’s name pops out of the Goblet and his name is read, Harry stands in amazement and is almost reluctant to join the other contestants. When in the room to the side of the hall, he learns of the types of deadly tasks he will be performing and tries to opt out of them. When there is no real chance of that happening, he turns to Dumbledore for help, but he can offer none. Harry then has no choice but to enter into the journey of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
4. The Mentor: The relationship between the hero and the wise man or woman who assists the hero is a common theme in most stories and one of the richest in its symbolic value.
The function of a Mentor is to prepare the hero to face the unknown. They may give advice, guidance or magical equipment.
However the Mentor can only go so far with the hero. Eventually the hero must face the unknown alone.
Does anyone really need me to shout DUMBLEDORE?
PS: Harry begins a very close relationship with the Headmaster, but does so at a distance. Dumbledore’s nature of hidden meanings and metaphorical analogies helped Harry to discover what was hidden in Hogwarts.
COS: The first guidance that Harry receives is when he is called to Dumbledore’s office, and talks to him about the occurrences that were happening at school. The reassuring manner of Dumbledore is what gave Harry confidence to solve the mystery, and also guilt for not being completely honest with Dumbledore. When Harry is in the Chamber of Secrets, he receives two gifts from Dumbledore. The first being Fawkes of course, and the second being the sword of Gryffindor, which he used to defeat the Basilisk. This was guidance that he gave to Harry in order to help him in his quest of facing the unknown.
POA: As I have said before, the movies and books corroborate each other, and together they help form a bigger picture. In the movie, when all are sleeping in the Great Hall, Snape and Dumbledore approach what they believe to be the sleeping Harry. Dumbledore knows that Harry is awake (come on it’s the all knowing Dumbledore!), and continues to discuss relevant information to Snape, knowing that all the while Harry is listening. Although Dumbledore disguises his Mentorship, he does not fail in guiding his young apprentice Harry.
GOF: Dumbledore seems less active as a Mentor in this book, but appears more as a protector. This is perhaps because all focus is on Harry, and expertises of all kinds are being thrown his way. Maybe Dumbledore felt that his guidance might not have been necessary.
5. Crossing the First Threshold: This I when the hero fully commits to the adventure and crosses the first threshold. He agrees to face the consequences of dealing with the problem or challenge posed in the Call to Adventure.
PS: Harry crosses the first threshold by walking out of the remote cabin with Hagrid. He realises that he may never be welcome back at the Dursleys and takes that risk. In the second problem he crosses the threshold by attempting to investigate what Fluffy is hiding.
COS: Harry unknowingly hits the point of no return when the attacks start to occur. While at the duelling club, he speaks Parseltongue and is implicated from then on in. It is up to him to then clear his name.
POA: Harry makes the choice to either leave alone the mystery of Sirius Black or to solve it. Harry being Harry wants to solve it. He crosses the first threshold when he investigates why Sirius broke into Hogwarts to attack him.
GOF: Harry’s point of no return is when his name is spat out of the Goblet. He then on in has no choice but to complete the tournament, as his name being entered was a legally binding contract (Obviously magical law is extremely different to Muggle law, as forgeries make a contract invalid!)
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: Once across the first threshold, the hero naturally encounters new challenges and Tests, makes allies and enemies and begins to learn the rules of the special world.
PS: Once Harry enters into the magical world, he has Voldemort Worshippers against him, as he brought about their masters downfall. He then encounters Draco at the dress robes shop and again on the train. He refuses to become a friend of Draco’s, and immediately creates the enemy relationship with him and his cronies Crabbe and Goyle. At the sorting ceremony, he automatically has an enemy army: the Slytherins.
As he entered the magical world, Harry also made allies, the entire Wizarding community that were in fear of the Dark Lord when he was still in power. Harry on the train finds Ron and Hermione, his main friends. At school he is likeable to all houses except the Slytherins, and has all teachers on his side, all except one: Snape! His tests occur in and out of the classroom, physically emotionally and mentally.
COS: Harry doesn’t lose or gain many allies or enemies in this book. However, during the duelling club, and the snake feigns an attempted attack on Justin Finch-Fletchly, all believe Harry to be the attacking heir of Slytherin. He doesn’t lose friends, they merely lose confidence in Harry.
POA: Harry again doesn’t have any drastic complications regarding his friends or enemies. There is either the general display of friendly affection or the disdainful display of hatred. However, many emotionally stressful tests occur for Harry; a false realisation that Black is responsible for his parents death; a new connection to his parents through their friends and the acknowledgement that he is still a child and his opinion and beliefs are disregarded.
GOF: Harry makes enemies with Karkaroff and Madam Maxine, as they believe he cheated to obtain passage to the tournament. Enemies are revived when the Death Eaters show their masked faces in public again. Barty Crouch Jnr also makes himself an enemy of Harry. Harry also obtains a new type of friend, an almost girlfriend… Cho Chang! His ‘tests’ are the tasks in the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the mystery of Barty Crouch Jnr.
7. Approach to the inmost Cave: The hero comes at last to the edge of a dangerous place where the prior issues all come to a head.
PS: Harry, Ron and Hermione find the trapdoor again, and enter it. Through that door they encounter many trials and tests of mentality and intellectuality.
COS: Harry enters the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny.
POA: When Harry reaches the Shrieking Shack he finds Sirius Black and another journey begins.
GOF: After completing the Maze with Cedric they decide to take the cup together and be equal winners. They unknowingly take a portkey to a grave yard where Voldemort awaits them.
8. The Supreme Ordeal: Here the fortunes of the hero hit bottom in a direct confrontation with his greatest fear. He faces the possibility of death and is brought to the brink of death in a battle with a hostile force.
PS: When Harry is in the final chamber with the Mirror of Erised, he is faced with the unsuspected Professor Quirell. He is then faced with Voldemort, who wishes for nothing more than to simply kill Harry. A battle of the wits occurs, when Harry obtains the Stone with pure heart and intentions, and Voldemort knows that he has the Stone. He then defeats Voldemort once again with the same method: Love.
COS: Harry meets with the memory form of Voldemort; Tom Riddle. Riddle attempts to defeat Harry with the Basilisk, and fails after defeats the Basilisk with the sword of Gryffindor. He then defeats Riddle by destroying the source of his existence, the diary,
POA: Harry learns in the Shrieking Shack that what he had believed to be true was indeed false. Harry has to realise that instead Ron’s rat, the Animagus form of Peter Pettigrew was responsible for his parent’s death. After coming back into Hogwarts grounds, Harry is faced with death twice, both due to Professor Lupin as a Werewolf. Lupin is defeated with no major harm to himself. The next near death experience is when the dementors attack Harry and Sirius by the lake. This uncontrollable force almost kills them both, but they escape, only for Sirius to be locked up again. Harry then has to go into the past to save Sirius, which he does successfully.
GOF: While Harry is in the Graveyard, he is faced with a duel with Voldemort. Harry had the choice to die unprotected, or to defend himself. He wins the duel when the cores combine and his will is stronger. Harry escapes back to Hogwarts to be almost killed by Mad-Eye Moody, who is indeed Barty Crouch Jnr.
9. Reward (Seizing the Sword): This occurs after the near death experience for the hero and takes the form of a reward, sometimes, the reward may be an actually treasure or in most cases the knowledge and experience that leads to greater understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces.
PS: Harry’s reward is knowing that his life isn’t in immediate danger anymore for two defining factors; he beat Voldemort and Voldemort didn’t have the Stone.
COS: The aim of Harry’s mission into the Chamber of Secrets was to save Ginny. The ultimate reward was to save Ginny which his did, and a bonus was that Gilderoy Lockhart would no longer be his teacher (Yay!)
POA: Harry questions what the reward was for completing the daunting task of clearing Sirius’ name. Lupin answers his question by telling Harry that the reward was in fact knowing that Sirius was innocent and was now alive and safe.
GOF: The reward, however pitiful, was ensuring that Harry’s life was no longer in danger due to Barty Crouch Jnr and Voldemort, and also the 1000 galleons prize money, which didn’t seem like much of a reward to Harry after Cedric’s death.
10. The Road Back: This often related to the chase scene where the hero is not out of the woods yet.
This recipe when applied to Harry Potter does not appear to be consecutive, but we know that all these events do occur.
PS: This factor isn’t very evident in the storyline, but Harry isn’t quite safe until someone finds him down in the chamber, and his injuries are seen to by a medical practitioner.
COS: After Tom and the Basilisk are defeated, Harry still has the wound to deal with, and Fawkes’ healing tears fixed Harry up in a jiffy! That problem solved! Then Harry and Ginny must find a way out of the chamber. They hitch a ride with Fawkes who was very obliging, and again, their injuries must be seen too.
POA: Harry gives Sirius Buckbeak to escape Hogwarts with and is then faced with the problem of trying to get back up to the Hospital Wing without being seen. That could risk Harry’s whole plan being exposed and Sirius’ life.
GOF: When Moody takes Harry back up to the Castle, Harry is faced with the next dangerous problem, Moody’s apparent intent to kill Harry. However, Dumbledore, with guns blazing so to speak, saves Harry.
11. Resurrection: This is almost a re-run of the major ordeal but the odds here are even greater. The hero must enter the world of ‘death’ and come out of it alive- but only just. The hero is transformed by this experience and is able to return to the ordinary world with new knowledge and understanding.
We don’t really see this step in the Series at all. The only book we see it in is POA, where the time turner scene replays all the events of the nearly fatal events.
12. Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world but with some elixir, treasure or special lesson from the Special World.
In all books, Harry returns twice, firstly to his Magical world, with knowledge of great morals that JKR intertwines into her plot. Harry then return to the normality of the Muggle world with the knowledge that he will return to the Magical world again.
VERDICT: In my books Harry is a Hero, but then again it is all up to you to decide…
References: ‘The Writers Journey’ Christopher Vogler, mETAphor Issue 3 2003
Until Next Time My Potter Attics...
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