One of the books on my summer reading list this year was C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves. It is an excellent read, as Lewis always is, but as I read I started making connections with the Hogwarts saga. I found that Harry follows a clear progression of each of Lewis’ four loves, and that Rowling’s characterizations of Harry’s loves match Lewis’ descriptions very closely. Considering that one of the overarching themes of the Potter series is the power of love over evil, I believe that Rowling would see all of four of these as powerful forces in the life of her protagonist. Below is a brief description of how I see Rowling and Lewis overlap. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Affection – “storge” – Rowling makes it clear in the beginning of the first book that Harry has never really had friends, so he starts his Hogwarts adventure with Affection, which is a general respect for most people with whom he comes into contact. He shows this love before he has made any friends, and it is out of his Affection that Friendship eventually blooms. He maintains this Affection for almost all of the students at Hogwarts, with the obvious exception of Malfoy and Co. While Harry may never be very close with those outside Gryffindor and the D.A., he maintains cordial enough relations with them. We may not notice Affection when everything is going well, but when the Affection is upset (people believe he is heir of Slytherin, he is chosen for the Triwizard Tournament, people think he is crazy), there is a general sense that something is off in the tone of the book until it is restored. Lewis makes it clear that Affection is an important part of human relationships, and Rowling stresses this in Deathly Hallows when Harry is saved from Dementors by Ernie Macmillan and Seamus Finnigan (along with Harry’s Friend Luna) who drive away Dementors. At some level we could call Ernie and Seamus “friends” of Harry, but Lewis actually establishes quite stringent requirements for Friendship and I think that to use the same term for Ernie Macmillan’s relationship to Harry and Ron’s relationship to Harry doesn’t quite do justice to the latter.
Friendship – “philia” – Lewis spends a great deal of time expounding on Friendship. Similarly, Rowling devotes much of the series to Harry’s Friend-love with Ron and Hermione, so much so that examples are almost too numerous to name. To paraphrase Sorcerer’s Stone, there is something about fighting a fully grown mountain troll that made Harry, Ron, and Hermione friends for life. Lewis stresses the importance of common interests, dreams, and fears among friends, which Harry and his Friends certainly share. He also notes that deep friendships are often mistrusted by those in authority (Snape, Umbridge, Filch, even McGonagall on some level). Friendship may be misinterpreted as Romance by those outside, mistrusted by those in authority, and never attained by those who would rather manipulate than cooperate, but Harry, Ron, and Hermione show the importance and power of Friend-love in the fight against evil and darkness.
Romance – “eros” - Harry eventually finds himself in the grip of Romantic Love (Eros). As Lewis describes it, I think this can only fit with his relationship with Ginny, since Cho seems like too much of a schoolboy’s crush. In our conversation about this subject, John suggested that Harry actually has three girlfriends which correspond to the three alchemical stages by hair color – Cho (black), Luna (white/blonde), and Ginny (red). He asserts that Harry’s relationship with women turns dramatically with Luna and that because of her he gains a new respect and admiration for them. This is a point which I am still contemplating, and I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Regardless, the Romance that Harry feels with Ginny is much deeper and much more thoroughly developed, and springs out of Friendship, as Lewis suggests that Eros often will.
Charity –“agape” – Having experienced all three of the other loves Harry is finally ready to show what Lewis calls “Charity”. Charity is purely Gift-love because there is nothing self-serving in it. Lewis says that the other loves are all important, wonderful, and beautiful when experienced in healthy relationships, but they are not quite the same as divine Christlike love. He argues that Charity is the one love that is most like Christ’s love, and Harry clearly demonstrates this when he willingly sacrifices himself in the Battle of Hogwarts for his friends. After all, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:13. The love which Lewis declares is most Christ-like is also the culmination of Harry’s progression through each of the four loves throughout the series.
These were the connections that I made, and for those of you who have read them both I would love to hear your thoughts, especially if there is anything I missed or if you believe I simply read too deeply into it (always a danger!).
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