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Aspects of love and anti-love, the repost - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Aspects of love and anti-love, the repost
I don't normally do this, but I referred to it in answer to the poll at rhoswen_rosier's journal, and it's just easier if it's up here.

Aspects of love and their counter-images

Self-sacrifice. The books open with the self-sacrifice of Lily and James Potter. Much has been made in trying to figure out Voldemort of the fact that he offered Lily a chance to live, but I don't think this is really material to his character. I think the point of the memory of Lily being told to stand aside is that she had a chance to be the one who lived, and didn't take it. She died rather than betray her son, and in doing so, gave him the power to defeat Voldemort (eventually). We later see Snape sacrificing his all-important grudge to help Harry in PS/SS, and of course, most spectacularly, we see Ron risking what could easily have been death on the giant chess board. We see both Ron and Hermione offer to die to protect Harry in PoA, and of course every time Harry goes to fight, he could very well die, and certainly would have in CoS, if it weren't for Fawkes's magic tears. This never stops him. James, in preventing the Prank, risks his school career and possibly being bitten by a werewolf. Sirius ends up sacrificing himself, of course, and it's pointed out through GoF that the man is eating rats just to keep an eye on Harry. Cedric doesn't choose to die in GoF, of course, but he's already committed the self-sacrifice of sharing the Triwizard cup with Harry when he could have had it for himself.
  • Counter-examples: The most obvious counter-vision to this is Peter, pleading that he would have been killed if he hadn't betrayed James and Lily. "Then you should have died!" Sirius bellows, "as we would have done for you." It's also Marietta and Percy, putting their interests ahead of the fight against Voldemort. Cowardice, set against self-sacrifice.

Sharing and giving. One thing that's missing in the movies are the annual gifts that Harry gets and catalogs for readers, and comments like "He opened his first ever birthday card." The Weasleys, poor though they are, lavish Harry with gifts as much as they lavish their own children, and more importantly, open their home, family, and hearts to him. Harry always feels in their debt, and, understanding that giving them money would be insulting, feels guilty because he feels that money is all he can give them. He's perpetually astounded by how much they give him (up to and including a link to his blood family, via the Marauders' Map from the twins). When he first meets Ron on the train, his act of sharing food while Ron shares knowledge is emblematic of this aspect of love in the Potterverse.
  • Counter-examples: Gluttony seems to be the counter to this--Dudley's tantrums over sharing his second bedroom, or even his broken toys. The Dursleys' general stinginess with Harry. Draco's constant harping about having "the best" of everything, and ridiculing of people who don't.

Compassion. When Hermione overhears Ron's insult, the easy thing for the boys to do is brush it off. At this point, she's just an annoying know-it-all. But Ron spends the rest of the day becoming increasingly uncomfortable, knowing he's hurt someone, and Harry also feels guilty enough to take on a mountain troll to save her. Later, Harry's compassion for Neville is striking, as is Ginny's (in the train compartment in OotP). The house elf issue is a kind of complex compassion that you almost never see--so many competing goods that it makes Harry's head spin. Hermione wants what's intellectually and morally right because she hurts for what they go through, but she doesn't listen to individual house elves. Ron isn't so good on the big picture, but he is the one who won't let her change their lives against their own will. And Harry couldn't care less about the issue, but cares a great deal about individual house elves of his personal acquaintance, both positively (Dobby) and negatively (Kreacher), and absolutely treats them as free agents. All three views are needed. They also care a great deal about Hagrid's travails. Lupin is able to play on Harry's compassion (though Harry doesn't admit it at the time) by asking if anyone deserves to have his soul sucked out. And of course, Harry is forced into some degree of compassion for Snape in the Pensieve.
  • Counter-examples: Lucius's treatment of Dobby is abysmal, and Sirius's treatment of Kreacher isn't much better. I don't necessarily think it would have made a difference to Kreacher if Sirius had been kinder, but I think it might have made a difference to Sirius himself. We also see Draco constantly laughing at other people's pain, trying to get teachers sacked, and mocking Harry about the Dementors. Dudley mocks him about Cedric, as well as generally being a bully. The Marauders at fifteen obviously don't have much compassion for Snape, and Snape at thirty-eight doesn't have much for Harry. This is the most difficult of the virtues, because it's a heavy burden to feel someone else's feelings, and all of the main good characters fail in it at some point. The evil characters don't even try--that's one of the clearer delineations between the two sides. Harry may feel sorry for Tom Riddle as seen in his diary, but Tom's interest in Harry is strictly in killing him.


Cooperation and equality. Harry's trio works together, with each of them contributing something. Harry always seeks out Ron and Hermione when he wants to solve a problem, or even for a post-mortem on his first kiss. The Order is under Dumbledore's orders, but it's by mutual consent, and when they argue, they do so as equals. Werewolves, Muggle-borns, blood traitors, and Pure-bloods, all working together and viewing one another as people. When Harry contacts Sirius or goes to Lupin, his parent figures, they speak to him as though he's an intelligent human being who is just missing a piece of knowledge.
  • Counter-examples: By contrast, Draco's trio is made up of Draco and his lackeys. We see him when he believes he's talking to Crabbe and Goyle, and he treats them as much as lackeys there as he does in Harry's (known) presence. He certainly doesn't run to them for advice or a different perspective--he expects his own to be parroted back. When we see him with his father, Lucius treats him like an idiot (just as the Dursleys treat Dudley), and the whole thing is quite hierarchical. Voldemort isn't interested in magical cooperation; he's interested in people doing his bidding without delay and exactly as ordered, and for his own benefit. Lucius and Bella bicker in the Department of Mysteries, and come to a truce, not an agreement. Karkaroff is out to control Krum, not mentor him, and the whole setup at Durmstrang seems geared toward that. And of course, there's the major issue that they don't like anyone who is an "outsider"--they are wildly xenophobic.


There are other apparent contrasts--kindness vs. cruelty seems to be a big one; mercy vs. vengeance; openness vs. fanaticism--but I'm kind of running out of time and making my fingers hurt here, so anyone else who wants to comment, feel free. ;)
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Comments
volandum From: volandum Date: October 29th, 2004 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry - I can't even spell it myself.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 29th, 2004 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, and I preserved the typo that I reminded myself to fix. Fixing now. Thanks.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: October 29th, 2004 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great essay. The only quibble I have is with your example of Snape in the self-sacrifice category. Clearly Snape is a sacrificing person - he is risking his life to spy for the Order. But I don't think he sacrificed his grudge to save Harry. For one thing, his grudge against Harry has, if anything, gotten stronger over the years. And for another, Snape was operating under a life-debt to James, and I don't know if you can describe what a witch or wizard does to repay a life-debt in terms of sacrifce.

We don't know exactly what a wizard's life-debt entails, but Dumbledore's words about Pettigrew's life-debt to Harry suggest that the bond created is powerfully magical and somehow compulsory. After all, if a life-debt could be easily ignored, what difference would it make to Voldemort whether he had a servant in Harry's debt?
vytresna From: vytresna Date: October 30th, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, with Pettigrew it's a rather poor life-debt. Same goes for Snape, and he seems able to ignore it for the most part. With Kreacher, it remains to be seen, but it doesn't look good from where I stand. If I haven't told you.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: October 30th, 2004 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but hasn't Snape already paid the life-debt? So he shouldn't owe anything else to James Potter's son, I'd think. And it's clear that you can pay a life-debt and still be nasty to the one to whom you owe it.

I'm not sure where Kreacher comes into any of this.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: October 30th, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked the essay - very well thought out!
mad_maudlin From: mad_maudlin Date: October 31st, 2004 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. I like it, except for this little bit:

It's also Marietta and Percy, putting their interests ahead of the fight against Voldemort. Cowardice, set against self-sacrifice.


I don't think Percy sided with the Ministry out of cowardice, but out of pride--he felt he had achieved something great, and when his family tried to show him otherwise, he shut them out rather than let himself be taken down a notch. Percy's a jerk, but he's not a coward--it takes balls to stand up to your parents, even if you're in the wrong.

And, while I don't have evidence to back me up, I don't think Marietta's really a coward, either--otherwise she wouldn't have joined the DA to begin with. Rather, I think she couldn't stand the pressure of keeping the secret, and so she rationalized tattling as a form of self-redemption--"I did a bad thing but it'll all be okay if I confess." I don't know what sort of vice you'd call that, but it's a very Ravenclaw thing to do.
markeyisapunk From: markeyisapunk Date: October 31st, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
hmm. I can't argue the case of marietta--I don't rememeber whetehr teh text was clear about her motives. I certainly got teh impression that much reluctance was based on fear of getting in trouble--that many students thought the DA was a good idea, but were reluctant to commit to something they could be punished for joining.

in percy's case, it's pretty clear to me that self-interest is a motivating factor. I don't doubt that pride plays a role, but if you reread the letter he sends to ron in ootp, he cautions ron about associating with harry on the basis that doing so will jeopardize ron's chances for advancement. it's a ugly letter [among other reasons] because it reveals that percy is more concerned with status than with ties to family and friends.
mad_maudlin From: mad_maudlin Date: October 31st, 2004 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I think the letter shows that Percy still cares for his family, in his weird little Percy way. He contacted Ron because he was worried about him--he didn't want Ron to get mixed up in something dangerous or harmful. He phrases it like it's all about presenting a good image, but that's because Percy has no social skills; I think, if you read between the lines, it really says, "Ron, be careful, I don't want you to get hurt just because you're surrounded by crazy people."

Anyone can be a coward, but I think Percy commits a particularly Gryffindor sort of evil: he blindly and single-mindedly pursues his personal idea of right in spite of all opposition, without ever doubting his own righteousness. Whether is this is evil or heroic is all a matter of the "right" one pursues.
psychic_serpent From: psychic_serpent Date: November 1st, 2004 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I don't think it could be more WRONG to classify Percy as evil, selfish, etc. If anything I think he falls firmly into the self-sacrifice category because in OotP it is very, very clear to me that he is undercover for Dumbledore and sacrificing his relationship with his family to accomplish his mission of spying on Fudge for the Order. The foreshadowing and hints are all there; you just have to be able to see it.

Marietta is, I think, being depicted as someone who is following the rules for their own sake, much as Neville was depicted in the first book. Oddly enough, this is not portrayed as a positive thing here. (Neville was rewarded and Gryffindor won the house cup.) This is another reason why some radicals are against the books: they think the books are depicting people who keep rules as bad and break them as good. They seem to be missing the point that sometimes bad rules need to be broken for a good reason. ;)

I don't think Marietta is being selfish anymore than Neville was being selfish. (He said he was afraid that they'd cause Gryffindor to lose more house points.) He seemed to feel that some rules exist for a reason and was trying to get the Trio to keep the rules on principle. I think Marietta's mum probably taught her the same. She was clearly conflicted--go with her friends or go with her mum?--and went, in the end, with her mum, resulting in Hermione's spell being activated. That was likely due to love for her mum, actually, so Marietta does not belong here any more than Percy does. (But it's ESPECIALLY wrong for Percy to be here.)
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