The Heart of a Lion
by HC Paes
One of the most intriguing aspects of Harry’s personality is that he doesn’t seem to fit in the background of bullying and humiliation he has suffered during his childhood. Some even get to accuse JK of literary inconsistency in the construction of Harry. True, bullied children scarcely grow to be warm-hearted, kind youngsters or adults. What is more, why hasn’t Harry become a snobbish brat after all the attention he’s gotten at Hogwarts? How could the author have forgotten all common sense about the formation of a personality?
Although I must address those aspects separately for the sake of understanding, a short answer sheds light on the general question of Harry’s personality: he hasn’t got one.
Not yet, at any rate, at least in the light of psychiatry. Personality isn’t fully developed until the late teens. So, any eleven-year-old is, in many respects, still a tabula rasa. Anything can happen until they are eighteen.
Let’s take Harry’s probable inner feelings at the age of eleven. He spends much time resenting the injustice of which he is a target on a daily basis. If this continues for the years to come, he will revolt against the world, and will be another disturbed subject in the muggle society. Actually, this type of attitude from the Dursleys is the harbinger of many a process of psychosis. But then this destruction of self-confidence is abruptly, mercifully, interrupted by the arrival of the Hogwarts letter and the following events.
In the school, Harry finds a totally different realm. He is not only admired, but he finds his first friends, who are loyal and who sincerely want to be in league with him regardless of his fame. He finds in himself feelings of gratitude and responds to the input likewise, forming the strong bonds that lead up to Ron’s moving speech where he tells Sirius Black that to kill Harry, he will have to kill all three of them.
To me, it’s simply very easy to understand that the events of his life in Privet Drive do have left an imprint on him. He is certainly not warm-hearted — not in the sense of Hagrid –, and he still harbors dark feelings towards his relatives. I would say that the process was broken just in time: by discovering a world where people do not hate him, he managed to stop the hatred festering in his own soul.
However, some tend to interpret things differently and ask why he hasn’t become inebriated by the immediate fame thrust upon him the moment he stepped into the magical world. Their assumption is that if he was so thoroughly humiliated by the previous decade, he would be craving attention and would be easily seduced by it. In other words, why isn’t Harry a self-centered character like Lockhart?
The answer to this is Hagrid. Before taking him to Diagon Alley for the first time, he tells the boy about the murder of his parents and the reason for his fame. Later Harry realizes something crucial: that fame has a price, and his cost him a family. He concluded, naturally, that had he been given the choice, he would have preferred to remain anonymous.
It’s the same old story: only those who seek fame at all costs or who receive it without effort become blindfolded by it. JK knows that only too well, having been a penniless mother. Harry, on the contrary, has come to be suspicious of celebrities like Lockhart. In the course of his troubled life, he has stuck firmly to everything that seemed to him not to be a fad, and only responds positively to genuine sentiments (even if they are negative–he certainly prefers Snape’s outright dislike to Pettigrew’s treachery). He doesn’t like his fame at all, even more because it makes it difficult to discern authenticity from the people who interact with him. It does not come as a surprise that he has few friends.
Harry is a magnificent example of a good personality wrought through pain. He was humiliated and rescued, elevated to the pinnacles of admiration by the highest loss. That’s why he is in Gryffindor. His story is that of a true hero.