Saturday, August 04, 2007

Deathly Hallows, part II

I am thinking about mothers as represented in the Harry Potter series. There is a conversation going on in the comments to my previous Potter post that has me wondering if Rowling was conscious of weaving in a theme about mother's love. I said:
"Maybe I am hypersensitive to the whole orphan fantasy. I am learning so much about the trauma that adopted and foster children live with and the deeply challenging parts of parenting that it makes me a bit angry to see a majorly important writer present Harry's character coming to him so easily, without obvious effort invested in loving, dedicated parenting. I want desperately for my boys to grow up as fine as Harry, but it doesn't just happen without my daily struggle to be the best I can be and then some. Perhaps it's just another example of the literary orphan fantasy; it's exciting to be a child loose in the world with distant but loving parents.

Years ago I remember my priest saying why she disagreed with the Christians who ban HP from their kid's reading lists. She said the central idea of the story is this ultimately important truth: that sacrificial love is the greatest force in the universe. That is a very Christian teaching. I think the strongest magic in the books is the magic of Harry's mother's love protecting him. His father sacrificed life for him too, but Dumbledore doesn't seem to mention that as much. It's Lily's sacrificial love that makes Harry what he is. So I guess Snape and Voldemort also had miserable, lonely childhoods but didn't have the same mother's love to work the magic. It seems like that might be one of Rowling's themes.

I also am thinking about how Petunia loves Dudley and Narcissa loves Draco, but it is a twisted, selfish type of love compared to Lily's love and it doesn't help them become good strong men. I am beginning to see the whole series as an exploration of mother's love. That feels a bit threatening actually. Is there a formula and am I measuring up? LOL It's all about me, of course."
If we compare:
  1. Voldemort (mother died just after giving birth),
  2. Snape (lonely, miserable childhood, muggle father, mother not mentioned much?),
  3. Harry (mother Lily died when he was one),
  4. Dudley (mother Petunia constantly fussing over him, calls him obnoxiously cute pet names, sees Harry as a rival?)
  5. Draco (mother Narcissa fawns over Draco, sending him sweets and cakes at school, lies to Voldemort, her liege lord, in the final battle in order to find out from Harry if Draco is still alive)
  6. Mrs. Weasley: ideal mother image: cooking, fussing over their safety, knitting everyone sweaters, lots of kids, pulls Harry into the family, fights for Ginny in the last battle)
What would we conclude about Rowling's ideas of motherhood, orphans and mother love? Comments please!!


Anonymous said...

I always thought Hermione's mother must be pretty cool. For one, Hermione's a really good kid. For another, her mother handled the sudden entry to the wizarding world so well.

Andrea said...

i think you're onto something as mother love being part of the magic. vold., the other orphan, got no love ever. snape's mother was too busy fighting with his father to love him much, or she would have seen what was happening to him. and yet she must have loved him some, because love begets love, and he felt love for lily.

other mothers to think about...tonks, who left her baby with her mother to fight (and subsequently die) in the battle of hogwarts.

and how did tonks' mother turn out so good while her sisters (bellatrix and narcissa) did not?

sirius' mother, the "mudblood" hater

dumbledore's mother?

AMY T said...

While raising orphans is a subject near and dear to my heart, I still maintain that it's easy to over estimate the importance of mom-love. Ironic that I'd say this, cuz the tens of thousands of dollars of attorney fees only seemed worth it after my three girls finally got here and started to really thrive in a better environment. But there's still a big part of the equation that has nothing to do with me or my husband or the death of their mom. It's the combination of all those unique variables that lead to their three individual, incredibly different but strong and rich personalities. It's the part that I don't even want to control or influence. I agree the J.K. wove the theme of mother-love into the series. Cool discussion.

AMY T said...

And to prove how right you were in noticing J.K.'s mom-love theme, this is what she said about Voldemort: "but of course, everything would have changed if Merope had survived and raised him herself and loved him."

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Sam I noticed Hermione's mother in the movie for Chamber of Secrets. When they are at Diagon Alley buying textbooks in the beginning and they run into Lucius. Hermione's parents are in the background chatting up all the other wizard parents. I thought that was pretty cool of them to be able to bridge the gap, even knowing they don't "fit in" and may be scorned by some like the Malfoys.

Andrea - Yes, I thought about Tonks too. She had to chose whether to take the risks of joining the battle or stay away with the baby. Lupin had the same choice, of course. I guess they thought winning the battle was the most important thing they could do for their baby's future. Another example of sacrificial love. Tonk's mother's name is Andromeda, BTW, which is my pen name and where I get "Andi" from.

Amy - you are right, there is so much more that goes in to character development and our children's personalities than just our mother love. Thank God for that because it would be far too much responsibility to think it was all up to me! There is Grace, after all and many other loving influences. Andrea's comment about comparing Tonk's mother with her two nasty sisters is a case in point.

I really think Rowling was saying something about the blessing of strong, generous, sacrificial mother's love though, particularly in the contrast between Voldemort and Harry. You found the perfect quote!

Jayme said...

Wow, I must say, this is one of the best Harry Potter discussions I've read. I agree that the mothers play a huge roll in the book. All the mothers, not just Lily. One of my favorite parts of the book was when Mrs. Weasley took on Bellatrix. I just loved it.

Camille said...

I suppose it is the wish and prayer of every mother that our children will overcome our parenting mistakes and become men and women of character and grace.

The kids who have a mother's love to protect and encourage them have a better chance but ultimately the direction of their lives is their choice.

Sirius and Andromeda overcame their parenting as did Dudley it would seem.

My kids better appreciate my sacrifices and love. If they don't, I'll remind them.