Molly Weasley: Help or Hindrance?
Consider Molly Weasley. She is without a doubt an incredible woman. One only needs to look at her children to see that she is an outstanding mother. Moreover, she acts as the all-around surrogate mother. She sends Harry mince pies and sweaters and hugs him when he is upset.
Something in her role changed, however, during OotP. I believe it is because, in the fifth book, her maternal nature evolved to mollycoddling as Harry said and then, frankly, to interfering.
What is compelling about OotP is that there is an underlying warfare between the children and the adults. The DA versus the Ministry of Magic, if you will. Some readers felt distanced from Harry in OotP since he seemed brooding and immature. Less likable even.
I myself identified with him more so as he approached the inevitable battle that young people face as they struggle to grow up and find that the adults around them seem to keep holding them back. The main antagonist in the book is Umbridge, and much of her malice is shown in her determination to treat her students as though they are silly children.
Some important Umbridge quotes from her first conversation with her DADA class:
…I’m sure you are not qualified to decide what the whole point of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new program of study.…You have been introduced to spells that have been complex and inappropriate to your age group…You have been frightened into believing that you are likely to meet Dark attacks every other day…Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?
I began to notice certain similarities between Umbridges and Molly Weasley’s words. At dinner, in 12 Grimmauld Place, Mrs. Weasley kept insisting that Harry et al. are too young to learn details about the Order. It may be arguable that Molly did not want to reveal details to Harry because Dumbledore had instructed her not to, imagining that Voldemort could tap into Harry’s mind, but Molly’s feelings go above and beyond Dumbledore’s orders.
Even after she agrees that Harry may ask questions about the Order, she begs for Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny not to be allowed to hear the details. Both Lupin and Arthur disagree with her. Even later, Mrs. Weasley asks Ron not to join the DA, while Dumbledore says nothing on the issue, which gives further evidence that Molly’s desire to shield the children is not wholly tied to the Headmaster’s interests.
No doubt Mrs. Weasley’s words originated out of concern, and Umbridge’s words originated out of psychotic ambition. All the same, it is ignorant of adults in the series to act as though Lord Voldemort and his malevolence are not the affairs of children because CLEARLY they are. If anything, in the past five years they have been almost exclusively the affairs of children. Mistakes have been made from thinking otherwise.
Of course, as a mother, it is obvious and natural that Molly Weasley wants to protect children. But Harry et al. cannot take on the responsibilities of being adults if they are continuously treated as children. And unfortunately, in the dark times going on in the wizarding world, adult responsibility is thrust upon them. They are forced again and again to fight an adult’s battle and live an adult’s life.
It is no product of chance that Harry is mature far beyond his years. He is certainly more mature than Lavender Brown or Parvati Patil. He is even more mature than Ron. Hermione’s precociousness may be accredited to her unusual intellect. Harry’s maturity, however, is due to the fact that he had no major parental figures in his young life. He was never treated as a child by the Dursleys, thus he never acted like a child. This is most apparent in SS, where he clearly does not act like an eleven-year-old. Since that first year, Harry’s peers have continued to evolve at Hogwarts. Without the presence of their parents, and with the varying degrees of responsibility that they have been given, the margin of difference between them and Harry has slowly decreased.
Dumbledore earns praise (and criticism from some) for his unorthodox belief that everyone, despite breed, purity of blood, and even age, should be treated with equal respect. He does not, with one notable exception (more on this later) treat children any differently than adults. This is a mark of true wisdom and foresight, and a quality that is also admirable in Lupin and Sirius. Two prime examples from Dumbledore are:
At the end of SS, Harry says,
He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance…I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help.
At the end of GoF, after announcing that Lord Voldemort is Cedric’s murderer, Dumbledore says.
The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so, either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies…
In OotP, Dumbledore considers his greatest mistake to be not telling Harry about the prophecy because he imagined that Harry was too young. He calls this mistake ”an old man’s mistake” and a mistake originating out of love. These descriptions perfectly characterize the mistakes of parents. As demonstrated by Sirius and Harry, people, regardless of age, behave recklessly when treated as though they are young and thus incompetent and/or weak.
Molly Weasley, in this current state, is thus a hindrance. Granted, her intentions are good, but her role as a mother is overbearing. What differentiates her predominantly from the other adults who belittle young people, including Umbridge and Snape, is her general impotence. No one, including Fred, George, and the trio, takes her very seriously. This is not saying much. While she remains a strong moral influence, she stands in the way of Harry, Hermione, and most of all, Ron. In order for them to truly become the adults they need to be to face Voldemort, Mrs. Weasley must play a smaller role in their lives or come to terms with the fact that her children are indeed growing up.