The Harry Potter Theory

The essays included here are my musings and theories on the Harry Potter series. Some of them are bad, some of them are terrible, and some are actually okay. I post them on this blog because I am not confident enough to send them to the Lexicon, but someday maybe...

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I have been a Harry Potter fan for six years. At first I resisted the entreaties of my friends, dismissing the series as another mistake made by pop culture. Finally I gave in. Within five days I had obtained and read the first three books, and was trying to find out when the fourth would be coming out. I have never strayed since.

01 December, 2004

Neville's Wand

In Order of the Phoenix, (p. 794 US), Neville Longbottom mentions that his wand, i.e. the wand broken from the same kick that broke his nose, once belonged to his father. It has been an established fact since Philosopher’s Stone that a wizard may not have as successful results with another’s wand as with his own (p. 84). Hence it would be logical to assume that, to a certain extent, Neville is a much more powerful wizard than he has previously been presented as.

In this same book it is clearly demonstrated that when he is determined, he is fully capable of performing difficult spells. After all, did he not show remarkable improvement after the Death Eaters escaped from Azkaban? It is mentioned that for the shield Charm, only Hermione is able to master the spell faster (p. 553).

Even in Prisoner of Azkaban he shows remarkable potential in an instance in which he is shown support by others. The instance I am speaking of is, of course, during the first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, in which he must take on a boggart in the form of Professor Snape. When Neville has self-confidence, he is fully capable of performing what ordinarily poses a great deal of difficulty. He is able to brew potions successfully when Professor Snape is not watching his ever move, an array of cruel taunts at the ready. No doubt he could even perform transfiguration if he believed he could.

Which leads to another point. Neville has never been shown support for his magic endeavors, excluding the attempts made by various family members when he was younger to force him to show he was a wizard, and their joy at his eventual demonstration. It is said that he is nearly a squib, and in Chamber of Secrets he fears that he may be a victim of the heir of Slytherin. However, in Order of the Phoenix, Neville says that his gran puts him down, saying he is not as talented as his father (p. 707), reminding us of the reality that he is shown little support by family.

Again we are faced with the overshadow of Neville’s father. Not only is Neville being held back by his father’s wand, he is being compared to his father, resulting in the derogator description of him by his gran, and others.

Because of this, Neville has lacked the confidence to demonstrate his full capabilities from the very first day of his first year at Hogwarts. He will never be able to be able to attain his full potential until he is able to remove himself from the shadow of his father.

It is possible that this removal has already begun, as the wand of Neville’s father has been broken and Neville will be able to replace it with one more suited to him. It is also reasonable to assume his gran will show a greater appreciation for him, and his abilities, due to the events which took place in the Department of Mysteries. Hence we may see further improvement in Neville in the books to come.

However, there is a great deal of symbolism in Neville possessing his father’s wand. Might it not be an allegory for the social shadow of a parent upon a child, as well as the expectations of a parent?

No one may ever deny that, regardless of the awareness of it, there is pressure upon a child to follow in the footsteps of his or her parents, whether that pressure is placed by the parents themselves, or by others within the social environment of the child. Naturally, there is also a reciprocal to this, in which pressure is placed upon the child to not follow the parents, i.e. some parents wish to correct their mistakes through there children, and often such cases are the exceptions to the afore mentioned, but the point is that children respond to what they perceive as intentions towards what they can and should do.

Hence, if a child is under the impression that those around him expect him to follow in the footsteps of one of his parents, he will react, often with rebellious acts, though he may also choose to fulfill the expectations, feeling there is no other option. These expectations are not always positive. A simple example of this the expectation of Harry by his aunt Marge to turn into a petty criminal or bum like she believes his father was, which causes Harry to become quite angry.

On the other end of the spectrum, it is also possible to cause a child to believe he is not capable of the achievements of one of his parents, resulting in low self-esteem and self-confidence. Such is the case with Neville.

Returning to what all of this reveals about Neville, it is now at least partially understandable why, in Professor Trelawney’s first prediction, Harry and Neville are presented as equals. Each had been a candidate for bringing about the final downfall of Voldemort, or being murdered by him. Fate, if you will, is not one for placing a person in a situation in which it would be impossible for that person to succeed. Extremely unlikely is very common, but fate has always in literature appeared to be a force that likes to give the underdog as least a one in a billion chance. And if there are to be more than one possible underdog, it would be unreasonable of fate to not give each an equal opportunity.

Hence, it is only logical to assume that in ideal conditions, Neville is just as talented as Harry. We have proof of this in that every instance in which Neville has demonstrated his potential or existing abilities has been in relation to Defense Against the Dark Arts, excepting his talents with Herbology, which match those of Harry’s at athletics. This may prove to be significant at some point in the future books.

Thus, we may conclude that one simple statement reveals a great deal about a character, and holds an astonishing level of symbolism, which of course may not have been intended by the author. But it none the less is true. As for the hypotheses derived from this statement, we may assume, based upon past examples of similar circumstances created by this author in particular, that they will prove to have at last some truth value. J. K. Rowling never mentions something so significant by accident.

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