Fantasy Friday – Is Harry Potter A Character Readers Love?

Of course opinions about literary characters vary from reader to reader, but some general consensus eventually forms. More than one person has said that Harry Potter is a likable person but not someone to love.

I’ve thought about this some and have to agree. But in the same way that opinions vary, so do the reasons for the opinions. My friend and fellow speculative fiction writer, Sally Apokedak, concluded that she didn’t love Harry as a character because he was an angry young man.

That wasn’t on my radar screen at all. In fact, I thought Harry was quite docile in the opening book, even compliant. It is in book one that readers should have fallen in love with him, I think. But I didn’t.

He was in dreadful circumstances and he bore them well. When thrust into the limelight, he didn’t revel in it or try to capitalize on his fame.

Actually, he didn’t do much of anything. Instead, stuff happened to him. He didn’t craft a plan to go to Hogwarts to get out from under his home circumstances. Instead, the opportunity came to him, and he went along with those who told him what to do, whether that person was Hagrid or Mrs. Weasley or his teachers.

Here is the reason I don’t believe I loved Harry Potter as a hero of a series of brilliant novels — he was not the agent that made things happen. Consequently, I feared for him but didn’t get in his corner and cheer him on to success.

Granted, when presented with a definite choice, Harry came through with good decisions. He stood up for Nevile, the brunt of many students’ ridicule, he refused Draco Malfoy’s offered friendship, he chose Griffindor as his house instead of Slytherin, and throughout the series he did things like going back to warn Hermione of impending danger when the troll was in the school.

In the end of the series, he even forgives and rescues Draco and offers Voldemort a “chance at remorse” (Wikipedia).

Yes, Harry had moments when he was angry, generally times when he seemed painted into a corner. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the ministry rep, who later became the headmistress who replaced Dumbledore, didn’t allow the students to learn defense against the dark arts because she and others in wizardry leadership did not believe Voldemort had really returned. Harry knew they were wrong and that their actions laid the wizarding world open to danger. He was disgruntled until he had a plan of action.

Was he vengeful as some believe?

When his godfather was killed, he was angry and when Dumbldore was killed, he determined to destroy the hidden parts of Voldemort that kept him alive. These responses don’t seem untoward or out of the normal range of emotions for someone in those circumstances. I believed his reactions to be realistic and believable, and I wasn’t at all put off by them.

More amazing was how his desire to do whatever was required to bring an end to Voldemort crystalized. The compliant child became the determined savior willing to give up his own life to bring an end to the evil that threatened the rest of the wizarding world.

His actions were admirable. They were not lovable. For me to have gotten behind him in a more meaningful way early on, I think Harry would have had to be a different person. But then the books would have been completely different.

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5 Comments

  1. This is so interesting, because even when I wrote my post I could remember all the unselfish things he’d done. He shared the win in the tournament with Cedric. He risked his life many times to save others. He was so abused. I should have loved him so much.

    And yet, I didn’t.

    I am sure it’s not because he let things happen instead of making them happen that caused me to feel cold toward him. Wee Sir Gibby doesn’t make things happen. He is acted upon. And yet, his heart is so big and open, I fell in love with him right away. He does what he can do–take care of his father and set off up the hill after his father dies. But really he is just a boy at the mercy of others. Same with Oliver Twist and Sara Crewe. But they are such good children. So loving and trusting. Naive, even. And there is something very attractive about naive children.

    But maybe I would have liked him better if he’d acted. His situation was awful and yet all he did to fight back happened by accident. I might have liked him better if he’d let the snake loose instead of being angry but not responsible for the trouble he caused because he was unable to control his anger. I liked Hagrid, who gave Dudley a tail, after all. It was funny, it wasn’t long-term, and it was deserved. It was wrong, but understandable. Harry, on the other hand just seemed to be like a boy who was angry and impotent so much of the time.

    I really don’t know why I didn’t love him and I’m trying to figure it out so I can write my own characters better. Maybe it has to do with him not having a sense of humor. Rowling has a wonderful sense of humor, but did Harry have a sense of humor? I love George and Fred. They had senses of humor.

    Hmm. I’ll probably be mulling this one over for a long time.

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  2. A little farewell inspired by the events

    The world is too big and life is too short,
    You are no Harry and no Voldemort.
    Not even a sidekick — bystander at best,
    Watching the heroes to go on a quest.

    Exit the theater, close the book,
    Hear one more sound, take one more look.
    It felt so real, but magic is gone
    You are not Chosen, you are just one.

    Read it at http://unmaskd.com/2011/07/08/magic/

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  3. I loved Harry Potter. But then I also love Oliver Twist and Sara Crewe. I suppose they are old fashioned characters in that a truly modern character with such life-experiences would have rejected the good-guy route and turned to the dark side like one is supposed to.

    As for the series as a whole, there are characters I like even more than I like Harry, though I’m sure they are not the ones I am supposed to like. I suppose that for me liking the main character of a story best is like dreaming the impossible dream. Harry Potter or Doctor Who are too far above me to be my friends, but I can dream about being liked by Luna Lovegood or Rory Williams (sidekick character from Doctor Who.)

    (I’m doing a poll on favorite Harry Potter characters by the way, all are invited to participate. I can’t wait to see if Wormtail has more fans than Barty Crouch Jr.)

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  4. I loved Harry. And really, when you think about it, Harry becomes proactive far before book seven. While many events might happen to him, as you rightly point out, its also true that he always makes the important decisions. He might not choose to go to Hogwarts, but he does choose to go down the trapdoor to stop Quirrell. And in comparison, choosing which school to go to sort of pales in the shadow of the more profound decision.

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  5. Adam, I agree that Harry makes important decisions, right from the start. But he doesn’t have a plan, isn’t trying to accomplish something to solve some problem or acquire something he needs. It’s sort of like cheering for the mailman. He makes important decisions, too, and stuff may happen to him, but he’s only going through the route given him. It’s not as compelling, at least not to me, as a character who strikes out to solve problems.

    But I am glad to know of someone who loved Harry. That makes me happy for him. 😀

    Becky

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