Guest Post: On Oedipal Relationships in the Hogwarts Saga (Deborah Stokol)

horcrux-HarryOn Oedipal Relationships in Harry Potter
Deborah Stokol

Like many, Harry has an incredibly deep and important link to his mother. In his case, that link goes further than for most, though, in the sense that not only did she sacrifice her life to save his, and not only did that loving sacrifice give him the protection necessary to ensure his survival against and defeat of Voldemort, but the fact that he never met her forced him to imagine her as a perfect, idealized version of herself.

He also does not remember his father (a bold, intelligent, popular guy who, however, may not have been particularly nice or charitable on the microcosmic level, as we see from his treatment of the young Snape, unsavory as the latter may have been), but he, Harry, looks very much like him and wishes to be like the man who sired him, a man many remember as charismatic, athletic, and courageous (joining the Order of the Phoenix is not for the faint of heart).

Perhaps it stands to reason, then, that he should wish to repeat some of the aesthetic patterns his father began so as to reenact – yet improve – history. He did not get to know his parents, but he could be like them – in their more positive behavioral guises and in the life he could make in their stead that would complete, in a legacy-oriented fashion, their shortened one.

JamesIn having a crush on Ginny, he not only seeks the traditional in-context icon of the “sporty girl who has lots of brothers and is related to his best friend,” he seeks a girl who strongly resembles his mother, physically and in terms of personality. The two have bright, red hair and fierce, gutsy, irrepressible personalities. They’re sharp, uncompromising, and confident (Ginny finds that confidence through the series and eventually loses her shyness around Harry), despite their limited means and impoverished backgrounds (no mean feat, considering the seemingly classist wizarding world).

When the two finally get together, thus, it’s as if they mirror the previous generation, and Harry gets to be with his mother while making a future both for himself – and for mom (whose future Voldemort, and in a way Harry, violently cut short). In fact, by loving a woman who embodies so many of the obvious qualities of his mother, he could, in some way, bring her back to life, thereby erasing or mitigating any subconscious feelings of guilt he may have for his (unwilling but no less real) part in his mother’s demise. To anybody who knew his parents, the coupling would probably seem eerie, though it springs within a world that ceases education at 17 and thinks little of small communities, inbreeding, and marriage at a very young age (so maybe not).

ron 4In turn, Ron seems to marry his mother in Hermione. A strong-willed, highly gifted, powerful witch with a protective instinct and “get it done” attitude, Hermione seems in some ways like an older version of Molly Weasley (especially in her maternalistic treatment of Ron). Given their similarity and his love-hate relationship with his mother, it makes sense he would fall in love with the girl he a) spends the most time with and b) with whom he has a relationship most similar to the one he has with his mother.

What doesn’t make as much sense is the reason Hermione falls for Ron.

Yes, he’s warm and fuzzy and occasionally has a good idea. He’s also pretty loyal and seems to be a generally “chill sort of guy,” but he’s not the brightest bulb in the room, and J.K. Rowling has gone on record saying she regrets the pairing. I admit I rather like the couple; it’s refreshingly incongruous (yet true to the nature of first loves). But I understand Rowling’s sentiment. She has also gone on to say she thinks Hermione should have gotten together with Harry, a union she seems to have casually set up early on, in a way true to life (we flirt with so many through middle- and high school! Most often, it means little in the long run, except in the lessons it teaches us or, OK, the scars it inflicts on us…).

f193013286What I want to know is: why does Hermione have to be with either of them?

What about Viktor Krum? What about college? We hear of wizards from European countries, but do we find them in other, less Eurocentric locations? Does she have to be with someone her age? Does she even have to be with a wizard at all? She comes from Muggles, after all.

But what if she weren’t to come from Muggles, would that negate any possible relationship with one? It’s a jingoistic world, this. She’s a pretty smart person – the “cleverest witch of her age,” as Lupin describes her. So what’s with the limited options? Are we to take that as some sort of synecdoche for real life? I refuse to accept that possibility.

Back to the original point, though – Maybe for Ginny, Harry is some sort of a stand-in for Weasley Sr. Harry and the Weasley Paterfamilias certainly get along. Harry does save his life, and that has to count for something. But I think that’s stretching it.

wonderlandWe never find out whether Hermione’s looking for her dad in Ron. All we know is that both her parents are dentists (which makes me wonder, why didn’t her dad address the buck teeth issue? Being all handy with her magic, she did away with them, but wouldn’t one of the perks of her association with her father’s profession have been for him to have taken care of that?). A dentist typically makes for an educated personage, and I have to say that doesn’t really seem too much like Ron, but maybe I’m not giving him enough credit.

Ginny and Hermione, on the other hand? Lily and Molly, at least in many, many ways. And what would Bruno Bettelheim have to say about that?

Deborah Stokol is a high school teacher, freelance writer, and musician with a love of fantasy literature generally and Harry Potter specifically.

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