Harry: True Hero or Truly Helpless?

by Kelebarian

Harry Potter, the one with the power to vanquish Voldemort and the only hope of saving the wizarding world from eternal torment: hero or helpless? Has every victory he’s experienced in the five books been because he’s had outside help, or because there’’s something truly powerful inside him? Take a seat and relax as I explore the real wizard inside Harry James Potter.

The argument is strong for both sides. Harry himself seems doomed to the idea that he has been on the receiving end of help on numerous occasions. His friends, however, think him the very embodiment of a Gryffindor: courageous, loyal, powerful, and honest. Who’’s right? Is Harry merely showing a lack of confidence in himself, or does his moment of self-doubt hold merit? Let’s explore the individual events, and take a look at them from both sides (though you will come to find which one I favor rather quickly).

The Philosopher’’s Stone (Cunning)

In analyzing Harry’’s part in Book One, you have to take into account everything that happened, not just the final trial. Harry was brought up in a world where he was taught to be humble, servile, and realize that he was worth nothing more than the clothes on his back (which were in rather poor shape, if you ask me). It’’s apparent where Harry’’s lack of confidence in himself developed. Should we listen, then, to what Harry has to say about his own worth? Harry proved himself beyond all doubt in Book One. In OotP, Dumbledore made that quite clear. Throughout the story, he had help from all sides: Hagrid’’s slip-ups, Hermione’’s brain full of books, Snape’’s protective measures, and so on. It seemed that Harry had nothing to do with discovering the secret behind the Stone. But when I went back and re-read the book, I realized something- Harry’’s a lot smarter than we give him credit for. Harry, an eleven-year-old boy, was smart enough to make the connection between a dragon egg in a pub and Lord Voldemort’’s servant? I was eleven when I first read the book, and those two thoughts were the farthest from my mind. He also realized that Snape was late in arriving at the troll scene, and was limping, and figured that Snape had been to see our friend Fluffy, which he had. Harry may act as though he’’s mediocre in the academic department, but he’’s no idiot. When we reach the end of the book, Harry has to face Lord Voldemort. I don’’t know about you, but when I was eleven, if a man with an evil wizard on the back of his head started attacking me I would have screamed and ran, not called him a liar. Watching from the sidelines, it’’s easy to say that bravery like that isn’’t that big of a deal, but I believe it is, and I believe Harry deserves a rather large pat on the back for it. As for his mother’’s protection, it didn’’t take away from the courage Harry displayed. Do we tell cancer patients that survive that they weren’’t courageous simply because the medicine kept them alive? I don’’t think so.

The Chamber of Secrets (Courage)

Harry Potter at age twelve hears voices in his head, talks to snakes, is blamed for the petrification of his friends, is possibly the heir of Slytherin, and is possibly the one who’’s trying to kill everyone and doesn’’t even know it. You think he’’d crack under the strain, but he didn’’t. Harry’’s help on this one included Hermione’’s researching and Hagrid’’s hints, but even throughout the story Harry displayed better-than-average courage. Keeping your head when gigantic spiders are trying to devour you and your best friend takes some guts and a cool intellect. When Harry reaches the Chamber, he’s got a big (literally) task ahead of him. Harry and Ron may have been done for when Lockhart turned on them, but maybe not. I’’m sure the two were perfectly aware of the fact that Ron’s wand didn’’t work, and that’’s why they didn’’t try to stop good ol’’ Gilderoy from blasting away their memories. However, I don’’t know if you can consider Lockhart boggling his own brains a help to Harry. After that came the basilisk. I’’m sure that most fully-grown wizards would have fainted at the sight of a monstrous legendary snake, but not Harry. You can argue that Harry would have died had it not been for Fawkes, but Fawkes was just an instrument. The phoenix wouldn’’t have come to Harry’’s aid had he not been loyal to Dumbledore, so in fact he helped himself. The sorting hat worked in this way as well. If Harry hadn’’t been so brave, so honest, and such a Gryffindor at heart, that sword would never have come out of it. The young wizard had enough sinew to take on a giant man-eating snake with a sword and come out on top. Let’’s not forget that his sword stroke to the basilisk’’s head was all of his own doing. And finally, the most character-revealing moment of all- Harry’s dying actions. Harry knew he was dying of the basilisk’s poison, but he didn’t give up. He used the last of his energy to destroy the diary and stop Voldemort from returning to power once again. Then he told Ginny to get out quickly and leave him behind. Now, if that doesn’’t speak volumes about Harry’’s character, I don’’t know what does.

The Prisoner of Azkaban (Power)

Is Harry weak for being so affected by the dementors? If you answered yes to this, I don’’t think you’’ve been paying much attention to what Lupin said. Harry’’s power starts to become evident in this book. We’’ve come to realize that he’s much more of a wizard than meets the eye, with his cunning and bravery, but in PoA we see that there’’s something else buried inside: power. It’’s a power that’’s been hiding within him, a latent force that’’s going to come in handy at the end of the series. Jo impresses upon us how near-impossible it is for a boy of Harry’’s age to perform the Patronus charm. Making it even harder for him to conjure a Patronus are the complete lack of happy things going on in his life. He’’d just discovered that his parents were betrayed by their best friend, he’’s just had to relive his mother’s dying moments, and keep his head with the knowledge that a madman is out to get him. But even with all this, Harry does it. He conjures a true Patronus. Since the final trial of the series takes up most of the book, let’s skip ahead to that part. Harry takes on Sirius Black, madman and murderer, and is ready to kill him. But something stays his hand: his heart. Harry might be angry beyond all belief, but he’’s no murderer. He finds it in his heart to listen to Sirius and Lupin’’s story and to believe them after a whole year of thinking otherwise. Then when Pettigrew is revealed, and Sirius and Lupin are about to avenge his parents’’ deaths, he takes pity on the man and asks that they take him to the dementors. He says his father wouldn’’t want them to be murderers for his sake. Again, Harry’’s virtue comes rushing through to save the day. You may argue that this was a dumb move, because it ultimately results in the return of Voldemort, but it might have done more good than we know. Then comes Harry’’s power. We know for a fact that it’s hard enough for Harry to fight off one dementor, but soon he’s facing a hundred of them. I don’’t know how to impress upon you the power it would take for a twelve-year-old boy to conjure a Patronus powerful enough to drive away a hundred dementors. That power is definitely in there. Whether or not he displays it every day doesn’’t matter, because now we know what he’’s really made of. I don’’t think there’’s any doubt that Harry pulled that one off on his own.

The Goblet of Fire (Loyalty)

Book four finds Harry shoved into a situation that couldn’’t be any worse. Wormtail is gone with the promise that he will bring Voldemort back to power, and someone at Hogwarts wants Harry dead. Harry displays unwavering loyalty and honesty in this book. The first time it comes through is when Harry tells Cedric about the dragons. He shows real quality of character when he doesn’’t let Cedric face the unknown by himself. He shows his skill when he performs a summoning charm from such a great distance, and then out-flies a dragon. Task two brings out his loyalty once again. However, Ron downplays his momentary display of courage and loyalty by telling him it was stupid to think that Dumbledore would never have let them die in the lake. But, that doesn’’t change the fact that Harry stayed down there because he was afraid for his friends. Task three brought about the worst trial Harry would face yet: Voldemort returned. Harry had to watch Cedric die, something that had to have been incredibly traumatic for the young wizard. He then had to face a stab in the arm, a broken leg, and a duel with the Dark Lord. Again, any normal boy would have been scared out of his wits, but Harry was defiant and cool. When the priori incantatem took effect, he displayed greater power than Voldemort. Wait- what? He did? Yes, folks, he did. The beads sliding between the wands were a battle of wills, and Harry won. Harry displays that latent power yet again, coming out on top when the other contender was none other than Voldemort. Harry at last shows great loyalty by taking Cedric’’s body back to Hogwarts when it was a risk to his own life. He could have grabbed the cup and got out of there before he got killed, but he didn’’t. He kept his promise to Cedric. He kept his loyalty intact. As for the subject of whether or not he had help, there is no doubt that he did. Hagrid showed him the dragons, Dobby got him the gillyweed, and the priori incantatem allowed a chance for escape. However, none of these things can take away from the amazing display of character, courage, and loyalty that came from Harry in the face of grave danger.

The Order of the Phoenix (Love)

Harry finally cracks under the stress, and frankly, I don’’t blame him. Book Five is when Harry turns into a young man. His emotions are matured beyond all belief, and can you believe that wit he shows in the first chapter? Go back and take a gander at “Dudley Demented,” when Harry starts taunting his cousin. Harry’’s dark side comes out, and we realize he’’s made of more than we think. I can’’t tell you how pivotal that scene is to Harry’’s character development. He’’s come from being a shy little boy who’’s humble and does what he’’s told to taunting his cousin with the cool, caustic wit of an adult. You’’d better watch out, because Harry’’s power and coming-of-age are at hand. This book has so many dark themes- and I love the maturity of it- that Harry’’s got a lot on his plate. But was every victory handed to him? I don’t think so. Harry’’s got Voldemort on the mind- literally. Having a Dark Lord inside your head and manipulating your thoughts can’t be a walk in the park. Add Umbridge on the side, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The final few chapters of the book hold the key to the series, the key to all things Harry. It’’s love. He rushes to the aid of Sirius when it’’s nearly impossible and entirely unadvisable. He comes face to face with Death Eaters once again and keeps his head straight. And then he loses the closest thing to a parent he’s ever known. When he rushes after Bellatrix, his anger takes over, but his love doesn’’t allow the curse he throws at her to work properly. Voldemort makes an appearance, and this time Harry’’s completely defenseless. His wand is at his side, and he’s unprepared for the Avada Kedavra coming his way. This is the one place where I can officially confirm that Harry would have died. Dumbledore’’s help is the only thing that saved him here. But Harry had earned Dumbledore’’s love, and that is something that will protect you in the darkest of times. Then, when Voldemort possesses Harry, even Albus can’’t come to his aid. He’’s really on his own this time. There’’s nothing at all to save him but his own heart. He endured the greatest pain imaginable and still, it was love that saved him. Harry’’s capacity for love is his greatest power. It is what saved him from death. It is his greatest weapon. It requires no outside help.

So whatever should befall Harry at the end of the series, you’’ve heard my side. Face it, folks, Harry’’s a hero.

(All opinions, comments, feedback, etc. can be sent to corimazz at Comcast dot net)