Comments on

Potter's Heel

Original entry posted: Thu Jul 19 15:40:14 2007

Troy Goodfellow @ Fri Jul 20 18:26:05 2007 EST

I agree with your evaluation of Potter the character. He's really only an average wizard, and his one great talent is quidditch. He's a jock/BMOC.

But I think Rowling knows this to some extent. Harry isn't gifted with anything besides his legacy as the one who did not die. But this is enough to earn him fame, a fame that he has trouble living up to.

But Rowling tells the story of how he does live up to it. His friends sometimes resent him, but never forget him. He is as often considerate of their feelings as he is inconsiderate. His own fame is used against him (the Goblet of Fire contest entry, Umbridge making an example of him) and he finds he has to rely on other people, not unique and special talents.

Harry isn't Frodo and Ron isn't Samwise. But there is a real bond of friendship there.

Thomas @ Fri Jul 20 19:10:53 2007 EST

Troy, long time no see.

I think we'll have to see what happens in Book Seven to figure out if he's really growing into his own legend or not. Harry's bickering with his friends is actually one of the aspects that rings most true from the books' depiction of middle/high school life. That friendship may be a bond, but I suspect that it's actually heading toward a cliched resolution ("We beat Voldemort through the power of our friendship! Yay, friends!") more than anything else.

I forgot to mention this, of course, but Harry does have something going for himself besides his reputation and skill on the ballfield. He is, after all, stinking rich. I've always wondered at the reasons for that particular inclusion into the Potter legacy.

pseudonymous @ Thu Jul 19 11:28:49 2007 EST

I don't know how books six and seven affect your criticism, but, from what I've read, there's more than a little something to your critique. It reminds me of the argument raised in this Slate piece.

Exactly, people. Read Mieville. Two words: Uther Doul. That is all.

Thomas @ Thu Jul 19 12:12:17 2007 EST

Mieville actually writes in a Random House interview about Un Lun Dun:
"Ever since I was a little kid, the arrival of prophecies and fate in a book deflated me--if someone was Written In The Stars, then it more or less (with a very few exceptions) meant that I knew how it was going to turn out . . . and how was that fun? It gave away the ending, and it undermined my interest in the characters, because they appeared to me like marionettes tugged along by this Fate thing. Precisely my respect and love for these characters made me strongly desire that their actions not be forewritten, but worked out by them. Linked to that was the whole question of the Chosen One, the hero who is a hero just by virtue of the fact that it is Fate that they will be a hero--this struck me as unsatisfactory and undeserved. Not to mention, where did that leave their friends? As also-rans, that's where--as sidekicks. The sidekick is a stock figure in fiction, and even when I was very young, I was really troubled by the notion of a character who is existentially defined by their subordination to another. It's a pretty terrible disrespectful way of conceiving of someone--they're not a friend, they're a subordinate. They exist in American fiction too, of course (who is Robin without Batman?), but there is a particularly vivid nostalgic English representation, like army officers pining for their loyal manservants. So Dan Dare has his Digby, Bulldog Drummond has his Tenny, and so on. And you can see it in modern versions. One problem I had with the first couple of Harry Potter books was the Wishing Hat's laudatory description of Hufflepuff as "loyal and true"--here are an entire group of people whose positive quality is that they are subordinate to--loyal and true to--other people. This is a dream representation of a butler class. I always thought sidekicks deserved to make the running for once. I was kind of a sidekick myself, you see."
(bold emphasis mine)


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