Harry Potter’s Grief in the Books versus the Films

Grief is a central theme throughout the Harry Potter series, resonating deeply with readers and viewers alike. However, the portrayal and representation of grief differs significantly between the books and films, offering unique perspectives on the emotional journey of the titular character. In the books, readers are able to delve into the depths of grief with raw honesty and emotional complexity. From the beginning of Harry’s story, his life is wrought with grief, which is depicted as a visceral experience that consumes him, leaving Harry grappling with overwhelming pain and anguish. 

A scene in the novel which so drastically depicts this poignant theme is the moment shared between Harry and Dumbledore after the death of his godfather, Sirius Black. Harry, wracked with guilt and sadness, looks for solace from Albus Dumbledore, who says, “Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man! This pain is part of being human -” (OOTP 824). Harry screams his response: “THEN – I – DON’T – WANT – TO – BE – HUMAN!” before throwing a “delicate silver instrument” across the room (OOTP 824). Harry, still in a fit of fury, continues, “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE -” (OOTP 824). Harry’s rage masks his grief, but both emotions are so palpable that readers can feel the weight of them. The weight is hammered in further when Dumbledore calmly replies, “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it” (OOTP 824). 

In addition to these intense moments of grief, the books also capture Harry’s internal struggle with his emotions in quieter scenes. One such scene finds Harry wandering around Hogwarts, torn between seeking solace in the company of his friends and retreating into solitude to process his grief. In this moment of uncertainty, he encounters Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor House ghost, and asks “‘People can come back, right? As ghosts […] Sirius won’t care if it’s unusual, he’ll come back, I know he will!’ And so strong was his belief that Harry actually turned his head to check the door, sure, for a split second, that he was going to see Sirius, pearly white and transparent but beaming, walking through it toward him” (OOTP 861). Harry’s belief that Sirius would return as a ghost, despite Nearly Headless Nick’s denial about the possibility, shows his desperate desire for his loved ones to still be present in some form. 

Omitting Harry Potter’s tangible grief from the films does a profound disservice to both the characters and the viewers, especially those who have experienced various levels of grief themselves. Harry’s grief serves as a cornerstone of his character development. Moments like this raw breakdown in Dumbledore’s office offer crucial insights into his inner turmoil. With these scenes left out, the complexity of Harry’s character is diminished, and viewers, especially those who have grappled with grief, are deprived of the opportunity to witness their experiences reflected in Harry’s journey. 

Moreover, neglecting to delve into Harry’s grief undermines the series’s overarching themes of loss and resilience. The films missed an opportunity to authentically portray the human experience of navigating profound sorrow, instead filling the later films with invented moments of action and violence. As a television series is filmed and edited, how many fans would prefer to see these book moments included over scenes fabricated for TV audience enjoyment?

Maria Matsakis

As a Gryffindor, a Potterhead, and a fan of MuggleNet, I am so excited to be a part of the team! Thank you to the viewers who make this website a joy to be a part of. Here's to a new age of wizards and witches- until the very end!