Transformed Vision: Harry’s Odyssey in Sight

Much of my book, The Deathly Hallows Lectures, is about the eye and mirror symbolism of Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter series finale. We have the eyeball in the mirror, the eyeballs in the Locket Horcrux, the triangular eye of the Deathly Hallows symbol, Lily’s green eyes in Snape’s agony and death, and Mad-Eye’s surviving eye-dentity and its burial. I argue that figuring out the meaning of the eyes is the way to turn what Ms. Rowling describes as “the key” to the books, the parting words of Albus Dumbledure to Harry at King’s Cross, the lines she says she “waited seventeen years to write.”

While thinking today about Harry’s transformed or corrected vision, a reader wrote me to ask about the Thestrals and why Harry, who was at his parents’ execution, could not see Thestrals before he saw Cedric die. I answered politely (Harry almost certainly did not see his father die and it is probable he did not grasp that the green flash that killed his mother meant her death, if he saw it at all) but the question grew on me. Harry’s experience of death enables him to see what previously had been invisible to him. Cedric’s death changes his capacity to discern reality.

One point, one question.

The series is largely about Harry’s purification in his role as ‘the spirit’ or noetic faculty of soul in a mind-body-spirit trio (cf., Alyosha Karamazov, Frodo Baggins, James T. Kirk, Luke Skywalker, and the other soul triptych ‘eye of the heart’ team leaders), a journey largely about his ability to understand or “to see” used literally and figuratively what is really going on around him. Jumps in his capacity to see, consequently, are important story markers.

The Thestrals and Harry’s capacity to see them post Lord Thingy’s return are one such marker. My question is, “how many more of these was-blind-now-see story moments are there?” Dobby’s death and the remorse Harry feels Easter morning digging Dobby’s grave at Shell Cottage changes his ability to turn his inner sight, the Horcrux-mind link with Voldemort, on and off, and the removal of said Horcrux perfects his vision at least momentarily in the palace he thinks of as King’s Cross.

Any more? This is worth a book by book look. Let me know what you find, if anything, or if you think this is daft.


  1. You don’t have to approve this comment but the link to Zossima is broken. Try this one instead…

    Or just put http:// before the www. That should fix it.

    Just thought I’d let you know.


  2. When I read this, I thought also of Aberforth, toward the end of Deathly Hallows when he was trying to convince Harry to abandon the mission. The reflections on his eyeglasses were “opaque” and the words chosen to describe him were “blind” (like Aragog); but Harry’s decision to go on had been already made, and he would not be dissuaded.

    John, there are a lot of these instances throughout the series–not daft at all. There was a lot of mirror/reflection symbolism in the OOTP movie. Voldemort’s commanding words, “Look at me,” echo those of Severus Snape’s, but for different reasons. To whom is Harry’s likeness? Voldemort? Christ-like? Lily’s eyes…”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8.

    “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…you cannot serve God and mammon” Matthew 6:22-24 (NIV) – located in the text right after “for where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.”

  3. Thanks, Shane! That was a quick fix.

    And thanks, Chrystyan. I discuss Aberforth’s eyes at some length in *Lectures* and the single eye/light evil eyes/darkness symbolism from the Sermon on the Mount as the type for Harry’s experience of the one eye in the mirror and Voldemort’s two eyes in the Locket Horcrux are there, too.

    Does Voldemort say “Look at me!” only in the movie or is it in the books as well?

    Curious John

  4. Here are my thoughts on the first four books. John already mentioned the Thestrals of Order of the Phoenix and I’ll have to think about Half-Blood Prince some more.

    Philosopher’s Stone: The most powerful vision image is the Mirror of Erised. Harry figures out what the mirror shows when he realizes he and Ron see different things. With Dumbledore’s help, Harry wisely decides that the mirror is, for now, not something he should spend time looking at. Harry’s ability to use the mirror correctly is the key to his saving the Stone at the end of that book. But the mirror also reappears at the end of the series, at King’s Cross, when Harry realizes that Dumbledore saw a lot more than a pair of warm socks when he looked in the Mirror. What Harry learns about remorse and redemption from that insight, of course, helps him go on to defeat Voldmort.

    Chamber of Secrets: When I think of eyes here, I think not so much of Harry’s but of the Basilik’s, for whom, they are a deadly weapon of evil. But Harry, in a way, blinded himself in the Chamber battle as much as Fawkes blinded the snake. He squeezes his eyes shut just before Fawkes flies from his should to blind the Basilik. He shoves the Sorting Hat over his head and eyes as part of his desperate plea for help, and the Sword of Gryffindor appears to assist him. This scene is also revisited again at the end of the series, although with Nelville instead of Harry. Voldemort “forced the hat onto Neville’s head, so that it slipped below his eyes.” Neville repeats what Harry had done in pulling the sword from the hat, and fulfilled his part of the prophecy by destroying the final Horcrux, assuring Voldemort’s death.

    Prisoner of Askaban: Attempts to formally train the Inner Eye via tea leaves and crystal ball gazing in divination class prove futile for the whole Trio. Like Trelawney’s rare genuine prophecies, these changes in “seeing ability” are not something one can summon on command. But Harry’s “blind but now I see” moment comes when he recognizes that the Patronus-summoning figure across the lake was not his father back from the dead, but himself. That’s what gives him the power to summon his own version of Prongs. But in his talk with Dumbledore, Harry’s focus is not on the strength he had found, but on his own weakness, “It was stupid, thinking it was him. I mean, I knew he was dead.” Dumbledore’s answer, “You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?” not only echos their conversation over the Mirror of Erised in the first book, but carries through to Dumbledore’s own struggle with conflict over reviving his dead family, which we will learn of in Deathly Hallows.

    Goblet of Fire: A small bit, but Harry sees only shadowy figures in Moody’s Foe-Glass in his office, until the end, when the figures of Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore appear clearly, right before the real ones show up at the door. This is when we learn that “Moody” is really a bad guy in the form of a Polyjuiced Barty Crouch. It’s interesting that Moody/Crouch’s description of the Foe-Glas includes “I’m not really in trouble until I see the whites of their eyes.” The fact that the mirror recognized Snape as Crouch’s foe should have been a hint that Snape was really Dumbledore’s man all along, but, of course Harry typically misses that.

  5. Great stuff, lmf3b… I discuss the mirror symbolism in *Lectures* which is essential in grasping “the key” of Dumbledore’s farewell answer to Harry at the palace called King’s Cross and which is so important in understanding the Romantic vision of Coleridge and British Idealism (Oxford Platonism). Coleridge wrote that “the basis of all knowledge is the coincidence of subject and object” and, of course, the only natural image for the joining of subject and object is the mirror.

    The Foe Glass I’d forgotten entirely, the inside your head aspect of the Sorting Hat (sans external vision), especially in contrast with the New Age “inner eye” explorations of Trelawney escaped me, and Dumbledore’s desire to see the dead he knows are there — all great finds. I look forward to reading what Phoenix and Prince reveal in your next review!

  6. Like lmf3b, the Mirror of Erised does seem to me to offer an opportunity for Harry to see something of himself he had not seen before. Although I have not had the pleasure of reading your new book (Christmas Wish List!), I have been thinking about the Mirrror as a “window to the soul” or a place where one can look into one’s own eyes.

    Harry makes a dramatic case to break all the rules in pursuit of the stone in PS. Rereading this speech to Hermione and Ron now that the series has concluded improves its power. It’s an initial willingness to sacrifice self to save Hogwarts and the wizarding world. When he finds himself in front of the Mirror again he sees not what had been the original desire of his heart, his lost family, but himself. His own eye winks at him as the Mirror delivers the stone to his own pocket. By the purity of his heart he is given the ability to “see” what he needs to foil Voldemort’s plans.

    This scene then has its mirrored twin at he edge of the forest in DH. Having decided for the good of all that he must sacrifice himself, Harry pulls the snitch from his pouch. He sees now finally the meaning of “I open at the close”. I have imagined for a long time now an image of this seeker’s prize as an eye. As it opens, it must surely look like an eyelid opening on an eyeball. It winks at Harry and reveals to him another stone, this one with the ability to see him through to his meeting with Voldemort in the former home of the many-eyed descendents of Aragog.

    Can’t wait to read the new book John, and I have thoroughly enjoyed all the recent conversation on the blog. Cheeers!

  7. Wow. The Resurrection Stone’s “I Open at the Close” as “Eye Open at the Close”! As Harry chooses to die to ego self and persona, his eye opens as he says “I am about to die.” He then is able to see the cloud of witnesses about him, those we love that Dumbledore said never leave us.

    Wonderful eye/I pick-up here, sevenkeys, a distinction I discuss in *Lectures* but not in this context. Harry’s Seeing Eye, the title of Chapter 5 in *Lectures* is his transpersonal self/I or the logos mind Lewis says is “continuous with” the unity of existence or rational creative principle, the cosmic Logos. Rowling, after Coleridge and the British Idealists and Romantics, is arguing for a unity of knowing subject and known object/reality in Christ as Word.

  8. Eye Open at the Close? Sublime! When you consider the subject of your Chapter 5 with the observation about Dumbledore you make above, it brings home for me for the first time exactly what Rowling was getting at with the quotations from Aeschylus and William Penn that she included at the beginning of DH.

  9. I love all these connections to the eye/I, especially after reading “The Deathly Hallows Lectures”. And thanks, John, for the nice inscription.

    lmf3b, I love all your insights into the eye and mirror instances in the first four books. What I thought of when reading through that was the connection of eyes in Order of the Phoenix.

    It’s during the time of Harry’s Occlumency lessons when Snape explains that they have to make and hold eye contact. (Harry has already practiced holding eye contact with the hippogriff in POA.)

    Argh, this is frustrating. I know what I want to say, but just now when I tried to write it, I couldn’t make sense of it. So I’ll try to give you the overview and maybe someone else can sort it.

    Order of the Phoenix is all about Harry’s dark moments. He has the chance to open the door to understand Snape, but like other things in OP, Harry misses the opportunity. When he spends so much time with Snape in Occlumency lessons, staring into Snape’s eyes, with Snape staring into his, neither of them is willing or able to “see” the truth about the other. The only moment of some insight is Harry’s rude intrusion into Snape’s guarded Pensieve memories. It’s then that he understands that Snape was bullied (put together with Snape’s sad childhood memories), but even then, Harry concentrates on the image he now has of his father and of Sirius, rather than trying to understand Snape. Of course, Snape didn’t invite Harry in when he yelled at him and threw him out.

    But I always wondered what would have happened if Harry had been more curious about finding out who Snape was as a child. He doesn’t “see” any of that until DH when Snape has given Harry his memories and saying “Look at me”, the “green eyes found the black” and it’s too late to have a conversation that Harry and Snape might have had three years before. It’s when Harry sees all the memories in “The Prince’s Tale” that he finally has his eyes opened, understanding more about Snape and Lily. That eye-opening experience allows him to finally forgive Snape, and it was ridding himself of hatred that allows Harry to take his self-sacrificial walk into the Forest.

    So OP was about Harry’s failure to see, or even to want to see, while DH is about his willingness to see and to finally understand when he does.


  10. Great point, sevenkeys! Note the mirror, omnipresence, and immortality references in the Penn opening:

    “Death is but a crossing of the world, as friends do the sea; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.”

    The logos mind or noetic faculty of soul that is transpersonal is that non-local place “which is omnipresent” and “immortal” and “ever present” because eternal and the fount of created time, atemporal itself. This is the “divine glass” or mirror of St. Paul (1Cor 13:12; Gk esoptron); St. James (1:23) uses the same word to describe a believer who hears the word but does not act on it as a person who looks in a mirror and only sees his “natural face” or appearance and persona rather than greater reality.

    Think Alice in the Looking Glass, the mirror in MacDonald’s *Phantastes* (the book that baptized Lewis’ imagination), as well as Rowling’s borrowed “divine glass” and reflect and speculate — both words for mirror gazing — on Harry’s experience at the palace-not-a-place called King’s Cross, his near omniscience there, corrected vision, and final exchange with Dumby. The real is in your head insomuch as the most-real is the principle that is the unity of existence and stuff and substance of transpersonal mind.

  11. Pat, you snuck in that comment while I was responding to sevenkeys about Penn… But great thinking, as usual. The hippogriff eye-holding and Occlumency lessons with the Potions Master in Phoenix are important finds for the eye/I theme in the series.

    About Severus, I guess we have to talk about the virtue, value, and consequences of Occlumency. It means literally closed-mindedness, right? And Severus is the master, consequent to his grief, while Harry, pre-Shell Cottage Easter-morning Dobby burial, is incapable of it, which Dumbledore suggests is just as well because his pure heart protects him from Voldemort possession. If, as I suggest in *Lectures,* Severus’ “look at me” and stare into Lily’s green eyes post memory dump are an echo of Dante’s post Lethe dipping stare into the emerald eyes of Beatrice to see the Griffin with sacramental vision and enter Paradise (chapter 4 of *Lectures*), this look differs from his previous looking at Harry in his having willingly given up his ego/persona in his identity with his memories.

    The hippogriff as a symbol of Christ is a transparency for Logos identification in requiring eyeball meeting before taking flight for a grander perspective.

  12. Laserlawyer says

    I’m reminded of the emphasis that Jesus put on vision in John 3:3, in which he is quoted as saying to Nicdemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can SEE the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

  13. The whole idea of Occlumency and Legilimency have always fascinated me. Yes, Occlumency is closing the mind and Harry is not good at it, while Severus is an expert. What Harry is good at is Legilimency, though unintended at first. When it happens, whether it gives him the chance to see into someone else’s mind, to see their experiences, or even their point of view–seeing through their eyes.

    It’s the Legilimency times with Harry and Snape that I find the most interesting, and with Voldemort. I also find it interesting that none of the adults–Dumbledore, Snape, Lupin, Sirius–see the potential that Harry has for learning both Legilimency and Occlumency. It’s not until the end where Harry discovers that seeing through Voldemort’s eyes can give him the information he needs. It seems that in trying to protect Harry from Voldemort’s incursion into Harry’s mind, they all fail to trust Harry’s pruity of heart. How might it have been different if Harry had been taught Occlumency and Legilimency side by side, so he could really understand how it works.


  14. Arabella Figg says

    Those who suffered from limited vision, and caused suffering because of it, couldn’t see past their own resentments, obsessions, arrogance and vanity. I think of Sirius, Snape, Fudge, Lockhart, Aberforth and Scrimgeour, among others (not even mentioning the Black Hats). The most “pure” characters had the most “open” or ready-to-be-open eyes (Dumbledore, Harry, Hagrid, Luna and Dobby). The state of our emotional vision is critical in determining how we live and impact others. This is probably a trivial observation, but I thought I’d throw it in.

    And Mad-Eye Foody just caught it and carried it off…

  15. Well, this conversation is fascinating and I do not have John’s book yet, but now I know I have to have it.
    I am looking in my symbolism book and it says….

    Eye: the eye is like the sun and light; it is the source of light and the light itself is symbolic of the intelligence and of the spirit. Then the seeing of the light is seen as a spiritual act and symbolizes understanding. Also, Christ is the light of the world!!!! “The divine eye” by the Egyptians. If the eye is in the middle of the forehead, like Hary’s scar, it can be seen as having superhuman, extraordinary powers. Also, can be destructive. It can symbolize the demonic. Having more than two eyes was always a negative in symbology. And lastly, the eye can be the maternal bosom and the pupil is the child, thus the solar god becomes a child again, seeking renovation at it’s mothers bosom.(Egyptian)

    The mirror…..
    A symbol of the imagination, or of the consciousness, in it’s capacity to reflect the formal reality of the visible world. RElated to self thought or contemplation. Water and Narcissus are also related to the mirror symbolism. A miror is a surface that reproduces images and in a way contains and absorbs them. It is a feminine moon symbol. At times it acts as a door through which the soul may free itself. Like the echo, it stands for twins and the sea of flames. Mirrors can symbolize memories, truth.

    A Dictionary of Symbols by Cirlot
    Barnes and Noble version

  16. Arabella, I like what you wrote:

    The most “pure” characters had the most “open” or ready-to-be-open eyes (Dumbledore, Harry, Hagrid, Luna and Dobby). The state of our emotional vision is critical in determining how we live and impact others. This is probably a trivial observation, but I thought I’d throw it in.

    Not trivial at all, I think. Aren’t both Luna and Dobby described, in various ways, as having large or oddly shaped eyes?

    And such symbolism starts very, very early. I’ve been re-reading PS/SS for the first time since DH, and I was struck right in the first chapter by the way Uncle Vernon is described as sitting with his back to the windows of his office. Clearly a man who sees only what he wants to see…he’s not someone with that “ready-to-be-open” stance you describe so well.

  17. Beth,
    I’m so glad you brought up the Dursleys. Jo used the phrase “watery, blue eyes” to describe Dudley and Vernon (SS, p.21). This made me think of the ocean depths…murky with limited visibility! Plus, an object has to be in-your-face before it is seen, thus creating a nearly defenseless situation.

    Yep, sounds like the Dursleys; incapable of seeing the danger of denying Harry’s heritage. They could have been a haven of calm seas had they not set their sights on ignoring the dangerous undercurrents around them.

  18. Arabella Figg says

    Here’s another very early “eye” experience: In PS, Harry locks eyes with the zoo snake. Result? Harry interacts with a snake, unknowingly speaks Parseltongue, we are introduced to the idea of an “intelligent” snake, and the snake escapes. Perhaps some foreshadowing of plot points?

    Beth, great point about Vernon in his office. It clearly shows how closed his worldview is.

    One can’t strictly define the Dursleys as Black Hats, but they’re defintely dirty, dark-Gray Hats. They clearly demonstrate the tragedy of very limited emotional vision.

    Because of Petunia’s poisoning resentment and jealousy, and Vernon’s love of the materialistic and hatred of the nonlinear, they not only abused Harry and deprived him of his birthright–a loving home that celebrated his parents–but, as Dumbledore pointed out, deeply damage Dudley. Only when Dudley*sees* the Dementors (the nonmaterialistic unexplainable) and, under their effect, his own ugly heart, are his eyes cleared to see. And it is only he (the child raised to hate and demean) who is able to step out of the “sick family dance” and show a grateful, peacemaking heart. John discusses this in DHL.

    Truly, you all must not miss this book!

    Thudders is hogging the kibbles again…

  19. Hmm. What do you all make of the first mention of Snape’s eyes? Aside from him looking straight into Harry’s eyes at the opening feast, I mean. During the chapter in PS/SS called “The Potions Master,” where we get that all-important first potions lesson, Snape’s eyes are described this way:

    “His eyes were black like Hagrid’s, but they had none of Hagrid’s warmth. They were cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels.”

    Harry’s mistaken impression? Snape’s natural first day of school persona (gotta be tough on the kids, so they won’t act up…)? JKR’s masterful misdirection? Are we supposed to feel total antipathy, or a touch of pity? Tunnels make me think of underground and hidden depths…

    And why the comparison to Hagrid, I wonder?

  20. Fascinating comments! I wish I had something more tangible to add, but I think that “occlumency” actually means “clouding the mind,” not closing it. This doesn’t invalidate any of the great thoughts, but may add another layer! A lot of things cloud our minds and heart-vision, so that we think we can see, but don’t realise we’re missing things (and misunderstanding them) because of other things that come between us and them. Everyone was a bit occluded in their minds when it came to Snape, perhaps?


  21. Occlumency definition … Nzie I found these definitions of ‘occlude’ at the following link and there is no suggestion of clouding:

    1. To cause to become closed; obstruct: occlude an artery.
    2. To prevent the passage of: occlude light; occlude the flow of blood.
    3. Chemistry To absorb or adsorb and retain (a substance).
    4. Meteorology To force (air) upward from the earth’s surface, as when a cold front overtakes and undercuts a warm front.
    5. Dentistry To bring together (the upper and lower teeth) in proper alignment for chewing.
    v.intr. Dentistry
    To close so that the cusps fit together. Used of the teeth of the upper and lower jaws.

    Does anyone think Harry ‘inherited’ his Legilimency abilities from Voldemort, given the other characteristics they both share?

  22. Ah, I know what happened– I combined jewelry term “occlusion” (which refers to cloudiness in a gemstone) with the meteorological term “occluded front” (which is very cloudy). Thanks, SeaJay.

    As far as getting legilimency from Voldemort, I don’t know. It seems like it’s a combination of ability and a spell (since Snape says “legilimens” when he does it). I didn’t really think of Harry as having any particular legilimency, unless you’re referring to his “scar-o-scope” which isn’t exactly the same– to me, it’s more like transplanting an eye from one person to another, but that eye still sees what the original owner of the eye does, not what’s right in front of it. Perhaps I am missing some element of legilimency.

    I always wonder how much of Dumbledore’s knowledge comes from very subtle legilimency (assuming that one can practice it without the other knowing, since one can, apparently, practice occlumency without the other person knowing) versus his “inner eye” of just being extraordinarily perceptive of humans and human nature. Dumbledore’s ‘second sight’ is much more effective than Trelawney’s.


  23. @ Beth:
    “His eyes were black like Hagrid’s, but they had none of Hagrid’s warmth. They were cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels.”

    Good observation about the hidden depths, I like that.

    have you thought about the metaphor of the “light at the end of the tunnel”, yet?

    and what about “tunnel vision”? If Snape’s eyes look like tunnels to Harry, who is the one with the “narrowness of viewpoint” (Merriam Webster Online for “tunnel vision”)? Is it Snape, who cannot show Harry the connection they have through their love to Lily until the very end (his own death?)

    Or might it apply to Harry, who does not permit himself to see the “real” Snape until the end of the story? Which could be seen as the enlightenment after the darkness, the “light at the end of the tunnel”, by the way.

    It applies to both, I guess.

    The light at the end of the tunnel also makes me think of accounts near-death experiences. People who have survived these talk of a shining light after a great darkness, as well, don’t they?
    although I don’t know what to make of this here …

    Snape’s eyes might be compared to Hagrid’s here because of the follwing:
    Hagrid stands in total contrary to Snape whose true feelings remain hidden until the end. Hagrid always shows what he feels; there are many accounts of him weeping and crying or, on the other hand, showing a great happiness, throughout the whole series. Just think of the tear-blotched letter, telling Hermione of Buckbeak’s execution in PA, of his drunk singin in HP (Odo the Hero) and so on. And already in the first chapter he begins to cry about the death of James and Lily, emotional from the beginning.

    Keep in mind that Hagrid looks quite different on the outside (wild beard, and so on) and that the Dursleys are frightened by him “on the first sight”.

    Thinking of all the mirror, twin, reflection … comments of this thread, could Hagrid not be the counter-image of Snape here? Two men close to Dumbledore, as different on the outside as two men can be, but with a similar motivation for their actions, in the end? love? which, according to Dumbledore, is the greatest form of magic ther is?

    Maybe JKR is already hinting in these few lines that there is much more to Snape than appears “at first sight”. The following series gives us readers much more “insight” into his true personality …

    Hope that’s all not to confusing … I’m new at this! 🙂

  24. PHaey, new or not, you’re good at this. 🙂 I like the idea of the purposeful contrast of Snape and Hagrid, both as Dumbledore men, but in very different places…one able to be so open about his place and his feelings, the other (in part by necessity and also by courageous choice) having to remain in disguise or hidden. And I like the “light at the end of the tunnel” idea. The more I think about the tunnel reference, the more I think JKR meant it as a hint that we need to look past the surface with Snape. Yes, we’re seeing things completely through Harry’s eyes at that moment, and I’m sure Harry is only thinking of how cold and dark Snape’s expression is. But where else do we seen tunnels in the series? How about Gringotts, where tunnels actually lead to treasures?

  25. Arabella Figg says

    Don’t forget the tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow leading to the Shrieking Shack, which was refuge for Remus and revelation/reunion for Harry and other characters in POA. You could say the route under Fluffy is a tunnel in PS, a tunnel that proves Harry’s purity. And the “tunnel” from the girls’ bathroom to the CoS, leading to destroying a Horcrux.

    To be fair to Harry, though, I don’t think he couldn’t “permit” himself to see the real Snape. There are only two instances in the books where Harry gets anything positive from Severus: In CoS, Snape tells Dumbledore the Trio may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Chamber message is revealed. Also, during their Occlumency lessons in OotP, Snape unbends, and he and Harry have real conversation, showing what their relationship could have been.

    But for the majorityof the books, Harry has no reason to trust Snape other than Dumbledore’s word–and that is suspect to him. Also Snape continues to bully and mistreat him. Harry’s just a kid, after all, one who has good reason to mistrust grownups, especially abusive ones.

    Good thinking on the tunnels, I’ll have to think on this more.

    Kitties, like Yoda, might “tell” us: “do or not do; there is no think”…

  26. Tunnels? Hmmmm…….

    What about this: Harry had to “tunnel” through the Durselys’ bushes…a form of barrier to keep intruders away from the windows while simultaneously attempting to impress the neighbors with their meticulously-kept appearance, which also projects a facade of normal-ness to the general public looking on. Harry’s purpose for lying *under* the front windows at 4 Privet Drive was to seek Muggle information via the evening news to be *enlightened* re: LV’s activities.

  27. I think the ‘tunnel vision’ line is both a characterization of the Potion Master’s focus and a description of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a Legilimens’ stare.

    Bushes? Trips under the Whomping Willow? We’re reaching hard here.

    For a more interesting vision quest, how about a discussion of ‘corrected vision’? Who wears the thickest glasses? Sybil Trelawney, right? The witch with second-sight has poor eyes to begin with and no scar-Horcrux to contend with. Dumbledore… Anyone else with prescriptive eyewear?

    Anyone wonder why Hermione can go to the Hospital Wing and have her teeth fixed in radical fashion but near and far sightedness are uncorrectable with magic? My guess is that this is the case only because funky teeth are not a telling metaphor as poor sight may be.

  28. Reading back, I think the Hagrid-Snape eye comparison an excellent observation. The comment on the possibility of Dumbledore-men doppelgangers is an excellent suggestion. Have I mentioned that I really enjoy the HogPro contributors often enough? Well, I do. I really, really do!

    The most corrected vision?! Harry.

    In whatever state King’s Cross Station is, there Harry has no need for glasses and yet Dumbledore is wearing his! (I think that after D’s confession and repentance expressed to Harry, he may have done the penance for his glasses to be removed so they will be absent at the next meeting in King’s Cross station or wherever Harry’s future train ride on may allow them to meet in “the next great adventure”). Close reading finds them unmentioned after Harry’s initial description of Dumbledore at this King’s Cross meeting, but many mentions of their apparent eye contacts: D’s tears, closed eyes, forcing himself to meet Harry’s eyes, looking over Harry’s head, looking directly into Harry’s eyes, D crying in earnest, “in answer to Harry’s questioning look”, D “looking down into his lap” and “dabbing his eyes”, Harry looked up at the old man, and “they looked for a long moment into each other’s faces”, and, finally, “Dumbledore beamed at him.”

    On Harry’s return to consciousness in the forest, he feels the ground and “the hinge of his glasses, which had been knocked sideways by the fall, cutting into his temple.” Interestingly, when he risks opening “his eyes by a millimeter” Harry sees Lord Voldemort “seemed to be getting to his feet.”
    Harry’s glasses are not on and yet he sees LV at some distance!

    Narcissa “pulled back an eyelid”… and pronounces Harry dead. Then,”through his eyelids, Harry saw bursts of red and silver light shoot into the air in celebration.”

    When Lord V does the “crucio” curse to Harry three times. and the third “His glasses flew off…”. Then V instructs Hagrid to carry him – “And the glasses – put on the glasses – he must be recognizable -” …”Someone slammed Harry’s glasses back onto his face with deliberate force”…; this is the LAST MENTION of Harry’s glasses in the text, including the Epilogue.

    But here are plenty of references to Harry’s sight! “Harry could tell, by the lightening of the darkness through his closed eyelids. that the trees were beginning to thin. Hagrid’s loud bellow “nearly forced Harry’s eyes open” … “he dared not open his eyes”.

    “Now Harry opened his eyes a fraction..” . “Harry shut his eyes tight again.” He could see “even through his closed lids, the reddish glow that meant light streamed upon him from the entrance hall.” He “squinted again for a single second and saw…” then…”he saw Voldemort standing…”
    “there was a bang and flash of bright light”… “another bang, a flash of light…” Harry “opened his eyes an infinitesimal amount” and “saw the figure hit the ground” …”still watching through his lashes. Harry saw …
    Neville aflame, rooted to the spot.” Harry “must act.”

    After the sight references henceforward through the battle, we get to the Headmaster’s office:
    “But Harry had eyes only for the man who stood in the largest portrait directly behind the headmaster’s chair.” (Snape had placed that portrait while he was headmaster. This is not an insignificant point, though easily overloooked in the reading! A visible picture of all that Harry had told Voldemort about Snape in the battle about Snape being Dumbledore’s man! An icon?!) “Tears were sliding down from behind the half-moon spectacles into the long silver beard…”. “Exhausted and bleary-eyed though he was, (Harry) must make one last effort, seeking one last piece of advice.”

    In the Epilogue, Ron “(catches) Harry’s eye” about Draco, and … “Draco caught sight of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny staring at him, nodded curtly, and turned away again.” Then… “Harry crouched down so that Albus’s face was slightly above his own. Alone of Harry’s three children, Albus had inherited Lily’s eyes.” …

    Harry’s last recorded visual experience? Ginny.

    ” ‘He’ll be alright,’ murmured Ginny.
    As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absentmindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead. ‘I know he will.’
    The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.”

    “As Harry looked at her”……….
    Here, I go out upon my Dante limb and, using Dorothy L. Sayers/Barbara Reynolds translation, note Dante’s final vision of Beatrice:

    Without a word I lifted up my gaze,
    And there I saw her in her glory crowned,
    Reflecting from herself the eternal rays.
    “O thou in whom my hopes securely dwell,
    And who, to bring my soul to Paradise,
    Didst leave the imprint of they steps in Hell,
    Of all that I have looked on with these eyes
    Thy goodness and thy power have fitted me
    The holiness and grace to recognize.
    Thou hast led me, a slave, to liberty,
    By every path, and using every means
    Which to fulfil this task were granted thee.
    Keep turned towards me thy munificence
    So that my soul which thou hast remedied
    May please thee when it quits the bonds of sense.”

    Harry’s Beatrice is Ginny!
    But she is also his “Virgin” Mary for in her assurance he finds “all was well”!

    Dante’s Bernard says:

    …’tis well for thee
    That prayer should first be offered for thy grace,
    Grace from Our Lady who can ever be
    Thy help in need; …

    “That thou [Virgin], by grace, may grant to him such might
    That higher yet in vision he may rise
    Towards the final source of bliss and light.”

    For now my [Dante’s] sight, clear and yet clearer grown,
    Pierced through the ray of that exalted light,
    Wherein, as in itself, the truth is known.
    Henceforth my vision mounted to a height
    Where speech is vanquished and must lag behind,
    And memory surrenders in such a plight.

    High phantasy lost power and here broke off;
    Yet, as a wheel moves smoothly, free from jars,
    My will and my desire were turned by love,

    The Love that moves the sun and the other stars.

    “All was well.”


    One must say, the eyes have it!

  29. For Sayers on ‘The Seeing Eye,’ go here.

    Thank you, Inked, for that survey of Harry’s eyes at story’s end and for the Dante vision from *Paradise.* If nothing else, you’ve made me go back to Dante (if I think the part you quoted might have been Barbara Reynolds’ translation that she finished for Sayers after Sayers’ death), and it is a valuable friend who encourages that.

  30. Arabella Figg says

    John, you wrote: “I think the ‘tunnel vision’ line is…a characterization of the Potion Master’s focus…” I agree, the tunnel thing was interesting but not fruitful. Due to his inward-focused tunnel vision, Snape saw in Harry only what he wanted to see.

    “For a more interesting vision quest, how about a discussion of ‘corrected vision’? Anyone else with prescriptive eyewear?” Prof. McGonagall wears square-shaped glasses (her Animagus tabby cat has square markings around the eyes–PS, p. 9 Scholastic). Perhaps this ties in with her non-diagonal rational nature as discussed in the Luna thread. And James also wore them–he wasn’t clear-eyed, compassionate or careful character–it makes you wonder if his lenses were often smudged.

    “Anyone wonder why Hermione can go to the Hospital Wing and have her teeth fixed in radical fashion but near and far sightedness are uncorrectable with magic?” Yes! I often wondered why magical healers could grow arm bones(!) with a mere potion, but couldn’t heal poor vision.

    So the logical conclusions is that eyes/vision/glasses are “a telling metaphor” and clear (pun intended) motif in the series, as you “unveil” in DHL.

    Tom Piddle has just whapped my glasses off the desk again…

  31. Arabella Figg says

    The shapes of the glasses–half-moon (half-circle), round (circle) and square intrigue me. Any thoughts?

  32. What about all of the mirror references in COS when Harry and others had to look into a reflected surface to ditch the basilisks stare. Also, many others like Tom’s shiny trophy in the trophy room? There are too many to name really in that book and she said that that book held many clues. Also, do not forget water that surrounds the castle, it too is a mirror surface. I think of Perseus when he had to use reflections in his shield given to him by the gods to defeat Medusa in those myths.

  33. Also reading Matthew Chapter 5 :

    You are the light of the world-like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.

    I like the light references, and it reminds me of the castle and other things as well.

  34. Sorry if I got anyone chasing rabbit trails down tunnels (sorry…couldn’t resist, and it seems to fit in with looking-glass Alice as well)! I continue to be fascinated by the minutiae of specific word choices by JKR and that’s not always fruitful. I always trust the wonderful contributors here to correct and re-direct any of my non-fruitful meanderings. Sure is to fun to think about these things though.

    Just finished an online class session and my tired brain can’t process much more tonight, but inked, what a beautiful post on Harry’s visioning and Dante.

    Intrigued by the different shapes of the eye-glasses. Subconsciously, I think I always assumed Dumbledore’s were described as “half-moon” shaped because the moon is white and he is, after all, named Albus. His eccentricities (in different ways that Luna’s, but similiarly) also seem to indicate some sort of lunar influence. I always liked that Harry’s were round: it just seemed fitting, given the somewhat circular nature of his annual journey and my ultimate hopes for his healing and wholeness.

    However, I never even noticed the square shape of Minerva’s glasses!

  35. John- I apologize if this is a posting faux pas, but I’m really having trouble finding out this information and I can’t find a better place to ask. Will “How Harry Cast His Spell” be available in audiobook/CD form? If so, will it be narrated by the same gentleman as “Finding God in Harry Potter”? He was excellent. Thank you so much – I really enjoy your work and how it’s made one of my family’s favorite series even better!

  36. Alas, there will be no audiobook/CD version of *How Harry Cast His Spell.* If you want Tyndale to produce one, please go their website and make your request!

  37. Thank you for your quick response, Professor. I will go over to the Tyndale website right now and do just that!

  38. I failed to cite the proper locations for my Dante references!

    The Beatrician last sight is Paradise Canto XXXI, lines 70 – 90.

    The intro to the Prayer to the Virgin is Paradise Canto XXXII. lines 146-149.

    The prayer to the Virgin is Paradise Canto XXXIII, lines 25 -27, and the effects are lines 52 – 58, culminating in the vision of God the Trinity with the humanity of the Word, and the conclusion, lines 142 – 145.

    This is the Penguin Classics edition. Per Barbara Reynolds’ “Forward” these lines are her translation entirely as DLS had only completed the first twenty cantos before her death on 17 December 1957. Also the Introduction, Notes and Commentaries to Paradise are Ms. Reynolds entirely as well, Ms. Sayers not having begun those prior to her death.

    For those who have not read DANTE’s COMEDY, this is the translation with which to begin. It is in tersa rima so far as possible in English and the technical support apparatus is phenomenal. The Commentaries, Appendicies, Notes, and Glossaries are excellent.

    Whenever I read another translation of Dante, I keep this translation close to hand for consultation regarding these matters. Hell was first published in 1949, Purgatory in 1955, and Paradise in 1962. They have continuously been reprinted since. They are individual books, by the way.

    My other favorite translation is that of John Ciardi (1954, 1957, and 1961, respectively and now available in one volume).

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