Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Archetypes of Harry Potter

So, now I've finished re-reading the first six books, and I must say, that even though I was re-reading the sixth book, I really didn't want it to come to an end. How much worse am I going to feel about coming to the end of book seven, knowing that's it? I'm almost glad in a way that I'll be at Conestoga this weekend and won't start reading the book until later because I want to drag it out. I just hope some jerk who has to play know-it-all doesn't ruin it for me by blurting out any big plot twists. I've got a kazoo in my bag, so I think I'm going to keep it handy in a pocket and just start playing Barry Manilow songs loudly if anyone near me starts talking about the book. How's that for a way to create a mobile no-spoiler zone? I'm resolutely avoiding the early reviews from the leaked copies.

And now for the post you've all been waiting for, my archetype analysis of the cast of the Harry Potter books. As a disclaimer, this is based strictly on books one through six and subject to change based on book seven. I may do another analysis when I do my holiday-season re-read of the whole series. By then, I may also be able to play with my new toy, the Myers-Briggs assessment!

As I've said before, I see Harry himself as a Lost Soul. Between the ages of one and eleven, he never knew love at all, and he feels like a freak and an outcast. When he finds his place in the wizarding world and gains friends and a sort of surrogate family, he becomes fiercely protective of that. His biggest fear is losing what he's gained, and a lot of what motivates his activities, especially in the earlier books, is his fear that if whatever is going on isn't stopped, the school will be closed down and he'll lose the home he's finally found. More Lost Soul clues: what he sees in the Mirror of Erised is his family, in almost every book there's something that happens to make him an outcast at school (reinforcing his Lost Soul nature), and when Hagrid finds the perfect gift to give him, it's an album of photos of his parents.

But the biggest clue of all to Harry's archetype is the fact that Voldemort/Tom Riddle is also a Lost Soul, and the strongest nemesis is the one who is the same type but on the dark side of things. Like Harry, Tom had a difficult childhood, but, as Dumbledore told Harry in book six, he responded in a different way. He wanted revenge against his family and he wanted to gain control not only over his own life, but also over everyone around him. Harry acted out his Lost Soul nature with a longing for love and community, while Tom Riddle acted out of bitterness and hatred. Perhaps there was an underlying psychological fear of further loss if he let himself care about anyone or anything, but then that seems to have become his weakness, while Harry's risk in opening himself up to the potential of further pain and loss by letting himself care is one of his greatest strengths.

I've also said before that I think Harry has evolved into a Warrior by the end of book six because he's now on a mission, and it's no longer about protecting his home and sense of place, with him going up against Voldemort simply because that's who's threatening his home. Now it really has become specific to defeating Voldemort and all he represents. But I'm amending my previous view on how/when the evolution took place. I think it started with Sirius's death and the revelation of the prophecy because up to that point, his main goal still was to protect his "family" and because he was such a persecuted outsider through much of book five. In a way, he was at his most Lost Soul then. But once he heard the prophecy, it became more of a mission. A possible clue is that book six is the one book where he's not really an outsider or an outcast. In the first book, he's shunned when he's caught out late with the dragon and loses the house so many points. In book two, he's suspected as the Heir of Slytherin. In book three, he's the one person who doesn't get to go to Hogsmeade. In book four, he's looked on as an interloper and grandstander when he gets into the tournament in spite of his age. It's at its worst in book five when he's discredited, called a liar, and seen as a dangerous crackpot.

Harry gets two of the best friends he could hope for in Ron, the Best Friend, and Hermione, the Librarian, as they're perfect matches to the Lost Soul. Both the Best Friend and the Librarian are distinguished by their constancy. These are very dedicated, loyal people who stick to the commitments they make, and the Lost Soul needs that kind of stability. Ron as the Best Friend provides the emotional support. He's the kind of friend who's always there, patient with the ups and downs and mood swings you see from a Lost Soul, and while he may not like being overlooked all the time, he's kind of used to it. He also stands up for his friend, giving and receiving bloody noses as needed, which is something entirely new to Harry, who's used to being bullied by his cousin and his friends. Hermione may accuse Ron of having the emotional range of a teaspoon, and he is pretty dense when it comes to romance, but he's actually pretty sensitive and astute when it comes to dealing with Harry's moods. He handled PTSD Harry in book five rather well, knowing when to give him space and when to get closer, putting up with all the temper and mood swings, and knowing when Harry needed to talk or not talk. About the only thing that can turn him against Harry (or anyone else he considers a friend) is feeling that his friendship isn't really being returned, that the friend is being disloyal to him or betraying him. We saw that when he thought Harry had gone behind his back to get in the tournament and in his biggest fight with Hermione, when she let slip that she didn't believe he could win at Quidditch without magical help (and then discovered she'd kissed Krum).

Meanwhile, Hermione balances out that emotional support with logic. Lost Souls do tend to be moody and paranoid -- with what they've gone through, sometimes it seems like the world really is out to get them -- and as the Librarian, she can cut through the moods with logic and reason. Someone like Harry needs someone to every now and then tell him to get over himself, stop moping, and deal with reality the way it is. She also has a strong sense of fairness and wants to make the world a better place, which is reassuring to someone like him who would like the world to be ideal yet sometimes fears it's not possible. She has a concrete plan for making it happen. Her quest for fairness makes him feel vindicated and supported when the world is being unfair to him.

But while these two provide the perfect blend of support for Harry, their different ways of dealing with the world are the cause of most of their conflicts. Ron sees the world in terms of feelings, and Hermione sees the world in terms of logic and reason. Look at their biggest fights -- when it looked like her cat had killed his rat, her logical approach said that's what happens with cats and rats, circle of life and all that, so why get all upset, and besides, he was always complaining about that rat, and it's not like there was any absolute proof that's what happened. There's also the fact that Librarians HATE to be wrong and will only admit being wrong in extreme circumstances, and the cat killing the rat after all of Ron's fears that would happen would have made her wrong. But he saw the whole situation as her not caring how upset and hurt he was that his pet was gone. He didn't care if it was normal and natural. He just wanted her to acknowledge his feelings. Same with the fight about Harry's new broom in the same book. She was looking at it logically, that Harry was in danger, and therefore an expensive new broom from out of nowhere was to be suspected. Ron saw it as her not understanding how Harry felt about having a good broom and how the loss of his previous broom had affected him. And then there was that big fight in book six. All she saw was a potential rule violation without even considering the possibility that Harry was psyching Ron out by giving him a non-magical confidence boost, and then all Ron could see was her utter lack of faith in him. When those two actually manage to communicate with each other and present a united front, though, they can be quite formidable because they balance each other so well. Look at the way they got Harry into starting the DA in book five. They're also both types who stick to commitments, something they respect about each other. After I figured out their types, some of their fights have become highly amusing to me, and I have to giggle when she accuses him of being insensitive. He may not notice much, but when he does notice or has it forcibly drilled into his skull, he's actually quite sensitive and empathetic because he's good at understanding what's really going on with the person and knowing what it is they need. On the other hand, she may be incredibly perceptive and notice everything, but she's not entirely sensitive because she has a bad habit of superimposing her own emotions or her sense of what the person ought to be feeling onto the situation and disregarding what they really feel. I also suspect that his "emotional range of a teaspoon" is something of a defense mechanism because he's incredibly emotionally vulnerable and very easily wounded, so if he let himself feel the full range of everything, he'd be a total mess. But because she thinks he's so short on emotional sensitivity, she hurts him quite badly and quite often without realizing she's drawn blood.

Ginny is the Spunky Kid, someone who's also good for Harry because she provides the kind of loyal, dependable friendship he gets from Ron, with the added bonus of the occasional kick in the pants. She won't let him wallow in his own misery and will drag him out of the pit of despair or fight at his side. She's also the one who's capable of bringing more people into the circle, as we saw in book five when she was one of the prime recruiters for the DA. I think it was a stroke of brilliance that, out of all her older brothers, the ones she takes after are Fred and George, so she's got some of their feisty spirit and disregard for rules she finds to be a hindrance.

Fred and George are Swashbucklers. They're in it for the fun and excitement. I loved how they turned out to be quite genius at magic, and they could have been top students with their skills, but they were more interested in having fun than in being good students, and now they're making a fortune at it.

Draco Malfoy is a Chief with a concern for power and social status. That's what seems to drive him, everyone knowing how important he is. Luna is a Free Spirit who marches to the beat of her own drummer (and her drummer is playing on coconuts using a chopstick and a ping-pong paddle) and doesn't really care what the rest of the world thinks about her. Neville is kind of a challenge because I don't have a strong sense of him. He may be a Lost Soul, too, since there's supposed to be some parallel between him and Harry, with the prophecy and with the similar backgrounds of having lost parents to the war with Voldemort.

The adults are a little more difficult since we only see them through Harry's eyes, and he's got a skewed perspective, as he's still at the age where he doesn't quite see adults as full human beings with their own hopes, fears and dreams. I think Dumbledore is a Professor, as he's fascinated with learning, and his approach to fighting Voldemort seems to be more like he's trying to solve a puzzle than like he's in a war. McGonagall is a Boss -- totally in charge, and don't you dare defy her authority.

Arthur Weasley seems to have a lot of Professor traits, with his fascination for new and unusual things, but he's also got a lot of Best Friend in him, and as a tertiary character, it's not quite as important for him to be so clear-cut. Molly Weasley is a total Nurturer. She'll mother anything that crosses her path, and that makes her an ideal surrogate Mum for a Lost Soul like Harry.

On the "Marauder" generation, Sirius strikes me as a Swashbuckler. He loves the risk and excitement, and the easiest way to goad him was to accuse him of playing it safe. He seemed to have a similar personality as a kid. We don't have a really good view of James Potter, but it sounds like he and Sirius were two of a kind in school. What we don't know is how much he grew out of that once things got serious and how much of that is colored by Sirius's view of him. He'd naturally want to remember his best friend as being a lot like himself (I think it's possible that if none of the bad stuff had happened and Harry had grown up in a loving home with his parents, he'd have turned out to be a Swashbuckler instead of a Lost Soul). Our other perspective of James is from Snape, and we don't know how accurate that was. I don't feel like we know enough about Lily to classify her because all we've seen are two fairly extreme situations, where she defended Snape in school and where she sacrificed herself for Harry. Those situations are extreme enough that any type may have acted the same way, but with different driving forces, and we haven't seen enough of her to sense her driving force.

Remus Lupin seems to be another Best Friend. In school, he was the steady sidekick to the more flashy James and Sirius, and he's admitted he didn't exactly stand up to them. As an adult, he's the one who's good at reaching out to people to make them feel better -- as a teacher to Harry when he was feeling left out, and he's the one who comforts Molly when she flips out and who reached out to the newly made werewolf in the hospital. He's the mediator and peacemaker in the Order of the Phoenix. What's really interesting about this is that the Best Friend is very much a beta male character type, and you don't see too many beta male werewolf characters. It stands to reason that to have an alpha male, there need to be some betas in the pack, but the betas generally don't get stories written about them. I guess this works because his being a werewolf isn't that important to the story. We've only seen him as a wolf once, and the werewolf thing is more about how it affects his human life, his prospects and his relationships. Incidentally, this is the one role I think is horribly miscast in the movies. For most of the characters, I only have to blur the image I had in my head from reading the books to accept the characters as they appear in the movies, but this one is just plain wrong to me, to the point it takes me a second or two to remember who that guy in the movies is supposed to be because I don't recognize him as Lupin, since he's so very different from what's in my head (I do like his voice, though).

Snape is something of a challenge because he's a real mystery, and we don't know what's really going on with him. This one is definitely subject to change based on the outcome of the new book, but I'm going to go with Lost Soul again, simply because of the parallels with Harry and with Voldemort, since Snape seems to be caught in the middle between what they represent. With Voldemort offstage for most of the books, Snape is the more immediate adversary, and then he needs to be mirrored with Harry. He's certainly been mistreated in the past, is full of guilt (maybe) for his prior bad choices, and he's nursing grudges, which are all Lost Soul traits. I think a lot of Harry's issues with Snape involve understanding him more than he wants to.

I'm off to Tulsa early in the morning, so no Friday post, and I imagine I'll be busy reading (and avoiding the Internet for spoilers) on Monday. I'll wait a while before discussing book 7, maybe all the way until I do my post-Christmas re-read that I'm already planning.

Oh, and I got assigned a panel on character archetypes for ArmadilloCon next month in Austin, so we'll see how that goes!

No comments: