Guest Blog

Guest Blog: Harry Potter Series The Revolutionary

Thursday, May 18, 2023

LUMOS!

Welcome to this guest series on Harry Potter written by my colleague Dr. Priscilla Hobbs. In this series, Dr. Hobbs explores each of the twelve archetypes identified in the PMAI®. She illuminates the ways in which these archetypal energies find narrative form in Potter-verse characters. Keep a watchful eye out for a perspective that offers a balance between archetypal analysis and strong cultural critique. We hope you enjoy this collaboration. Please get in touch with any questions or feedback. Let’s conjure a magical conversation.

The Revolutionary

By Priscilla Hobbs, Ph.D.

One underlying message woven throughout the Harry Potter series is to not live by the decisions of previous generations if they either no longer make sense or do harm to others. As Harry and his friends discover, members of the older generations are reticent to change. As such, they frequently find themselves in situations where they are either challenging the status quo or having to validate change. While it is easy to read generational divide into these situations, what sets the Harry Potter series apart from coming-of-age stories is that the Wizarding World is in fact facing an existential change, a paradigm shift in which the status quo can no longer function. As these changes occur, the Wizarding fundamentalists get more vocal, their doubt and fear of change manifesting in the rebirth of Voldemort.

Facets of the Revolutionary archetype manifest in the different core characters of the series. Albus Dumbledore recognizes Harry’s Revolutionary in Harry’s curiosity and willingness to bend the rules to his favor. Dumbledore nurtures Harry, seeing the value in imparting his own Revolutionary spirit. In many ways, Dumbledore permits Harry to try on different interpretations of the school rules, knowing that overcoming the figurative mark Voldemort left on Harry when he was cursed would be Harry’s first major life challenge.

Ron Weasley, Harry’s best friend, easily falls into the same Revolutionary cadence as Harry, in part because of their friendship, but just as much because Harry nurtures his own Revolutionary spirit. As the youngest son of a large family, whose older brothers have already achieved all the possible accomplishments, Ron must forge his own path if he wants to develop his own identity. He is easily seduced by the idea of challenging the school rules that have defined his brothers.

The two of them eventually are balanced by Hermione Granger, who has no immediate desire to be a rule-breaker. In fact, she chastises both Harry and Ron on more than one occasion during their first year for breaking the rules. Her Revolutionary archetype is unlocked when she realizes that breaking the school rules is exactly the way to avoid the same kind of social traps that allow powerful forces like Voldemort to become toxic guiding influences.

As is woven throughout the series, here too do Harry and Voldemort represent two faces of the same archetype. Both are central representatives of their groups: Harry of the Hogwarts students and Voldemort of the Death Eaters; both groups are eager to create change within what they see as a restrictive Wizarding society. Voldemort, however, is a negative Revolutionary. He’s seeking to change the Wizarding World to suit his own ego, to recreate the Wizarding World in his image. In the previous generation, another wizard aimed to do the same. Gellert Grindlewold felt that the Statute of Secrecy that kept the Wizarding World shielded from the Muggle world was oppressive, and he wanted to create a world where the superior magical folk would have power over the Muggles. His followers, like Voldemort’s Death Eaters, inspired a revolutionary war and, like Voldemort, weren’t successful. But lack of success isn’t the same as “squashing the rebellion”; rather, it demonstrated the extent to which the Revolutionary spirit rode the cultural undercurrent, waiting for the right time and leader to manifest. This suggests that the Battle of Hogwarts that Harry and his friends effectively won is one step toward sweeping change.

It should be noted that the step that follows social justice work is restorative justice, where the healing of the social change really happens. Within the Campbellian model, in which many hero’s myths are written, the story ends before restorative justice can happen. Thus, the role of the peacemaker is downplayed. The boon that heals the community is the end of the journey, disregarding the healing and rebuilding that the community actually needs. The Harry Potter series ends with an Epilogue set several years in the future. Harry and his friends are now adults and are sending their children off to Hogwarts. The ritual of the journey is still the same—they get on the same train to go to the same school. The restoration has not yielded significant change. Fan fiction, including the sanctioned script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, speculate that the future is still intertwined with the past. Perhaps it’s not until members of the next generation can assume their own power that restorative justice can truly happen. Those myths are just as needed as the hero’s journey, and perhaps it’s time to write them.

Dr. Priscilla Hobbs is a senior associate dean at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the author of Harry Potter and the Myth of Millennials: Identity, Reception, and Politics. Her work takes an interdisciplinary view of Harry Potter, as a series and as a phenomenon, to uncover how the appeal of Harry became a lifestyle, a moral compass, and a guiding light in an era fraught with turbulence and disharmony. She argues that this prepared an entire generation for the chaotic present marked by the 2016 election and 2020 pandemic by shaping the political attitudes of its readers, many of whom were developing their political identities alongside Harry. Her analysis focuses on both the novels themselves and the ways in which fans connect globally through the Internet to discuss the books, commiserate about the events swirling around them, and answer calls to action through Harry Potter inspired activism. In short, the book examines how Harry Potter became a generation’s defining mythology of love, unity, and transformation. Her recent TEDx talk focuses on transformation and the American Dream.

 

 

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