I found the wording of this months topic fighting fears
provocative. Although duels occur several times in the books, much of the
fighting of fears is more subtle, and occurs off the battlefield.
Gryffindors are known for their bravery, and this shows dramatically in
the duel scenes in OotP. Yet my favorite characters are tested even more in their lives outside of this setting (except perhaps for Neville), and
not all of them are successful.
Ron, for example, confronts his fears in CoS, when Harry leads him into
the Forbidden Forest. He follows the spiders even though he is afraid.
Motivated by loyalty to Harry and a strong sense of duty to the school, he
finds Aragog. Yes, he was violently sick after the encounter, but Ron
still maintained enough wits to not only jump into the car but rescue
Fang as well (pg. 280, US hardcover). We could not ask for
A deeper test for Ron comes in OotP. He grows dramatically by being on the
Quidditch team. Instead of resigning, he hangs in there, embarrassing
himself in front of the entire school. One of my biggest frustrations with
OotP is that we readers missed Rons triumphant moment, when he thought to
himself: you can do this! (pg. 704). More important than winning the
Quidditch Cup was Rons triumph over his fear.
Hermione is not so successful. She is tested all year in PoA with her fear
of failing academically. She cries when she meets her boggart, Professor
McGonagall telling her she failed everything, and is unable to repel it.
We have assumed she would be Prefect and assume she will one day be Head
Girl; we are inspired but unsurprised by her courage and quick thinking in
her only real-life duel. But true growth for Hermione will be if she
stops caring about any outward signs of academic success. Risking
expulsion for the DA is a start, but Im not sure she will entirely
conquer this fear by Book 7.
I understand Sirius struggle very well. After living away from my
childhood home, it has brought up many fears to return. The fears are
subtle and deep. Although Sirius did not stay at Grimmauld Place
gracefully, he did stay (for the most part). Sirius may not have
conquered his fears, but he stayed engaged in the process, even when it
was contrary to his action-oriented nature.
Dumbledore himself admits defeat. His fear that Harry will be unhappy
dictated his actions, with sad results. While I get the sense he is being
too hard on himself, it is still surprising to witness Dumbledore fail in
Has Harry "fought his fears?" In the classical way, through confronting
and dueling with Voldemort, yes, and showed more bravery than I could in a
similar situation. But what of Harrys boggart, and his deepest fear
fear itself? Harry has much more trouble waiting for the first task in
GoF than with the task itself. At the Department of Mysteries, he handles
himself well, but has a very difficult time waiting for news at the
beginning of the book. When Harry cannot confront his fears in a direct
way, he is much less successful. The fear consumes him, and he becomes
hot-headed, angry, and somewhat reckless. Unless someone is dosing
Harrys pumpkin juice with some scurvy-grass, lovage, and sneezewort (see
pg. 383, OotP), Harry needs to be able to sit with his fear of fear,
without letting it consume him and cause his temper to rise out of
This is why I am so happy that he has found Luna Lovegood. Regardless of whether their friendship turns into something more romantic, I think Luna has the unique ability to teach Harry to channel his fear of fear. It is not in duel that Harry can defeat Voldemort. It is by exploring the unseen, and the mysterious deeper workings of love, life, and magic, that Harry will be ultimately triumphant.