You know you’re a fan of Harry Potter when your professor allows you to write about any book… and you choose the whole HP series.
Last year, I wrote an essay about life and death in Harry Potter. Today, I would like to share it with you all!
This is one of my favorite projects I have ever worked on in all of my years of education, hands down. I had so much fun while writing this, you wouldn’t even believe it! The research and preparation for this essay had me giddily smiling to myself in the library, because for once in my life, I was writing about something I love.
I had a wonderful time writing this essay, and I hope you enjoy reading it. However, please do not think anything less of me if you don’t like it! I wrote it over a year ago, and I’m sure I am a much better writer nowadays. 😂
Also, for your enjoyment, I have included some gifs to make things a bit more interesting! Don’t worry, there were no gifs in the original submission.
*But remember… if you copy any of my essay and use it in your own school work, that totally counts as plagiarism and the secret internet police will for sure hunt you down to avenge me.
UPDATE: August 2019
**Because I believe in citing sources, if you would like to see my sources, I am including some screenshots of the MLA below.
***And, as always, there are spoilers for the series! Major ones.
The Acceptance of Mortality Through Love and Loss
The Harry Potter series, written by J. K. Rowling and completed in 2007, includes heavy themes of familial issues, the deaths of loved ones, and the prospect of immortality. In each book, the titular character progressively struggles with the evil presence of dark magic at his magic school, Hogwarts. Because of his abusive upbringing with the Dursley family after the death of his parents, Harry’s idea of family begins as one of pain, instead of the love. As those Harry cares for begin to die due to the increasing evil in the wizarding world, he commences to understand what love and family genuinely mean, and concludes the best people in his life are truly worth dying for. Harry Potter learns to face his fear of the prospect of death because of his changing perception of family, love, and immortality.
Harry’s new positive family environment induces him to advance as a noble, steadfast person who chooses sacrifice over power. Growing up with the Dursleys, young Harry is treated as though he is invisible, and is not allowed to speak or ask of his parents. He does not know any sincerely kind people until he meets his friends Hagrid and the Weasley family, who introduce him to the friendly side of the wizarding world (Sorcerer’s). Part of what helps him choose right from wrong in this new world is his ability to stand firm in his beliefs. Living with the Dursley family teaches him to stand up for himself when they torment him; their family also exemplifies “the wrong sort” of people Harry chooses to avoid based on experience, such as Malfoy and his gang of bullies (Sorcerer’s 135). As Harry later discovers, whenever he is in great need of solemn advice his parents are often beside him to guide him through his troubles. When Harry found the Mirror of Erised, his parents and ancestors appear and provide a brief ambiance of love and family, two feelings he had no memories of experiencing. His parents appear to him through the spell Priori Incantatem and encourage him persist against Voldemort with pride in their voices. Finally, when Harry requires one last conversation with someone he trusts before he dies in the ultimate Potter installment, his late parents and friends appear to encourage through the Resurrection Stone. Harry shows a definitive, mature bravery when he confronts Voldemort defenseless after this scene, “knowing he will die” (Los). It is imperative to note Harry approaches and gives himself up to Voldemort alone and defenseless. This brings in a full-circle parallel with his father; the last thing James Potter did before his death was stand up to Voldemort, unarmed. Conclusively, this shows that Harry’s parents have influenced his beliefs, and he has recently become much like them, even though they were never a physical part of his life. The theme of parental and friend-based love in Harry Potter reveals a positive family influence, of blood relations or otherwise, can leave a long-lasting imprint.
The effects of love, or lack thereof, challenged Harry to rise above dark paths others established. As Harry grew up in the Dursley household without the love of his parents, he was surrounded by people who did not care about him or his obstacles in the magical world. However, despite his family’s terrible attitude, Harry managed to grow up a kind, respectable child. Early on his journey to Hogwarts, Harry met the kind Weasley family, whose tenderness and support helps Harry maintain his moral behavior and focus on his goals. Without love, Harry would not have been able to overcome his fears of loneliness, objection, or failure, because the love he receives from friends help him to carry on as himself (Whitned). Lord Voldemort grew up under similar circumstances. As a child, he was treated unfairly at his orphanage and was exposed to bullying and torment, but his childhood lacked any kind of parental love or sacrifice (Taylor, 10). Ultimately, it was Lily Potter’s sacrifice which defended Harry as a child, and this sacrifice is the reason why Harry is capable of love against odds. Because Harry is able to recall his mother’s cries before her death in Prisoner of Azkaban, “[his] capacity to remember…allows him to overcome the fear of annihilation” (Camden). This implies Harry’s ability to keep in mind the negative aspects of his life help him see his full potential. Without his adversities in his past, Harry would have nothing to overcome. The problems from his childhood make him a determined individual by showing him the differences between selfish and moral choices.
Death becomes a substantial possibility for Harry after his first encounter with evil, but he soon realizes close encounters with death will be a consistent for struggle quite some time. While his childhood was quite the opposite of enjoyable, Harry had never confronted death until his first year at Hogwarts. During this event, he and his friends are quite unprepared for what turns out to be the first face-to-face with Voldemort since his disappearance. The significance behind this encounter marks the realization that Harry will never be safe, even in his wizarding school. After this occurrence, every story reveals a more dangerous situation in which Harry needs assistance or encouragement in order to survive. As Harry grows older, he realizes one of the only ways around death is immortality.
Although the idea of immortality has been a common conversation among people inside and outside of fictional worlds, the full concept is first introduced to Harry in Sorcerer’s Stone. In this installment of the series, he learns drinking unicorn’s blood can allow the drinker to escape death at the price of living a cursed life. The thought of living a terrible life forever frightens him, and he pities anyone who would choose to exist in such a way (Sorcerer’s 322). Due to his lack of exposure to the regular, “Wizarding” world, the thought of immortality is unfathomable to him. He has not, to his recent memory, survived a life-or-death situation, and therefore has never wished death away from himself. However, after surviving numerous consequential events first-hand, including the rise of Voldemort and the death of his godfather, Harry is able to discern the terror and possibility of not surviving. In an analysis of the final installment of the series, writer Fraser Los comments Harry’s “coming of age is synonymous with his coming to terms with his immortality” (Los). Indeed, as Harry matures, he is further able to comprehend his importance to the wizarding world and the meaning behind his fate. It is also his deeper knowledge of light and dark magic which causes him to fathom the complexity of Dumbledore’s and Voldemort’s separate schemes on the quest to defy the rules of mortality. Ultimately, Harry’s path towards learning about immortality helps him make his final decision about whether or not he is strong enough to sacrifice himself for others.
The deaths among Harry’s family and friends heavily influence how he perceives what could be his potential demise. During Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry is taunted by his classmates because they believe he killed his friend Cedric and lied about the reappearance of Lord Voldemort, thanks to rumors coming from the Ministry of Magic. This is his first experience with the death of someone close to him, and he is not given the opportunity to grieve. Experiencing grief in one’s own time is commonly known as a necessary way to manage the loss of someone meaningful. When Harry does not grieve, this initiates an invisible amount of stress which he cannot escape until he relieves his distraught emotions. Harry deals with the aftermath of Cedric’s death alone, and begins to believe his success is nothing but the product of several lucky circumstances. Consequently, Harry’s anger over his errs causes him lash out in emotion, and it becomes evident he is now on a journey through the five stages of grief. According to Russel Freidman’s article “The Myth of the Stages of Dying, Death, and Grief”, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Harry reaches the denial stage when he spends several minutes waiting for Sirius to come back into view, though he was clearly dead. Afterwards, Harry bargains with Nearly Headless Nick, asking him if it is possible for Sirius to come as a ghost. As Harry progresses into the depression stage, he refuses to speak with his aunt and uncle about Sirius’ death, and only brings up the subject when they receive news that he has inherited Sirius’ family house. The most important of the stages of grief, however, is acceptance; in Deathly Hallows, as Harry sees those dear to him die left and right, he remembers his parents and family died fighting for a cause they doubtlessly believed in. This encouragement guides Harry to accept their deaths and embrace his mortality.
Harry’s guilt and grief over the deaths of those he was close to encourage him to understand his own humanity. Harry blames himself for the death of Cedric; if he had not suggested they win the tournament together for Hogwarts, Cedric would have lived. Later in Order of the Phoenix, as Harry tries to come to terms with the nonsense and lies the Ministry of Magic is putting him through, he makes the mistake of allowing himself to believe his godfather is in danger and lead his friends into a trap; his godfather’s death is the result of Harry’s mistakes as well. Harry’s guilt over these matters nearly defeat him, to the point where he “[does not] want to be human” anymore after refusing to discuss his feelings about the recent catastrophes which occurred at his hands (Order). When guilt and sorrow well inside a person over a long amount of time, it can induce an eruption of emotion. Harry’s dramatic scene demonstrates his breaking point and lowest state of self-assurance, which Rowling then exerts to show he only moves up in confidence from then on. During the years following, Harry goes through many losses, many of which he considers the products of his flaws. In the end, Harry recognizes that if Voldemort had previously made similar mistakes, he, as the hero of his own story, would need to become a better person in order to live with his errors and embrace his inevitable, fatal destiny (Adney and Hassel). In this moment, Harry determines that he must rise above his fears and anger to move on and challenge himself to be a more focused individual. Evidently, a major event such as death must occur in order for one to appreciate what a gift their life is to themselves and to others.
Conducive to overcoming his fear of death, Harry becomes aware it is up to him to learn from those who have previously been in his position as Master of Death. After seeing Snape’s final memories, Harry recognizes he must “walk calmly into [d]eath’s welcoming arms” in order to triumph over the sliver of Voldemort’s soul inside of him and save everyone he loves (Hallows 691). Although this revelation is terrifying, it is crucial in invoking a sense of duty and finality. Moments after, Harry is forced to make a decision about whether or not to live out his destiny and sacrifice himself for his people and the rest of the wizarding world. No matter how scared he is to give himself up to Voldemort, he knows it has been his fate even before he was born, and chooses to do just as his mother did for him. After his encounter with Voldemort and being struck by the killing curse once again, Harry meets Dumbledore in a dream-like limbo between life and death (Hallows 706). Here, Harry descries Dumbledore had tried but failed to become the ultimate Master of Death because he lacked the resources and courage Harry had when he gave himself up for his people (Whited 6). When this occurs, Harry is given the choice to go back into the living world and finish off the evil in it, which he welcomes as part of his purpose. As Los indicates, “it is only after he overcomes his fear… [and] accepts his mortality in terms of the loving connections around him, that his mature life begins” (Los). Even after his true encounter with death, Harry knows he must continue to make sacrifices for his people, but he would not have apprehended this without acknowledging the purpose of the deaths in his life.
Although Harry falters from time to time, his family and experiences with death are vital figures on his path to success. Harry’s parents and friends fought until their last days for a cause Harry had always agreed with, and as he develops into a young man, he realizes their acceptance in their own mortality is what lead them to fight even when they knew they would never come back alive. Without the deaths of those close to him, he never would have fully experienced the pain it takes to perceive one’s mortality. Death must transpire in order for one to grasp the idea that their own life is a gift, and as Harry comes to learn, it is what people do with their own lives which makes them great beyond what has broken them in the past.
Have you ever written an essay or project about your favorite series?
What kind of essay would you write using Harry Potter?
Let me know, and chat with me about it!
Happy reading, everyone! 🙂