Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Silence

Herself speaks.

I am once more listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks. There is nothing quite like the soothing intonation of Jim Dale's voice, the epithets and familiar phrasings of the works, the satisfactory "love and friendship always conquer evil" endings. Even as I wander in and out of earshot of the speaker while I clean the house, I know exactly what happens, and when, and can enjoy the stories, every time.

The plots of books do contain a few irritating quirks: the perpetual risk of Hogwarts being shut down; the fear of being expelled; the very black-and-white evil of those from Slytherin house (with the exception of Snape, who ultimately is revealed to be a flawed hero). These can usually be overlooked in view of the satisfactory nature of the books as a whole.

Today, however, a new annoyance struck me today for the first time: Harry sometimes has an astonishing lack of faith.

I listened to the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets while cleaning the kitchen this morning. In the first chapter, Harry has not heard from his friends for his first month at the Dursleys, and loneliness has crept in:

He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn't seem to be missing him at all.

Oh, Harry. You and Ron and Hermione have been through so much together already. Why do you think they would abandon you? Can you not have faith in them, and think about the logical reasons for their silence? I find myself impatient with your lack of trust, and cannot understand why you do not reason that there are other explanations besides they don't care about you, for your not hearing from them. You are annoying, Harry.

And yet: I think I may be judging Harry far too harshly.

The truth of the matter is that for so many years of his childhood, Harry did not have anyone reliable in his life: no adult upon whom he could depend, and -- given how his peers favored Dudley, out of fear or as allies -- no friend who stuck by him. No one to listen, to provide silent encouragement through their presence, to reassure him when things were strange or difficult. He was, so often, very much Alone.

It is no wonder, then, that Harry is so easily despondent.

To have faithful, helpful friends in Ron and Hermione must have been a miracle almost beyond miracles for Harry: he no doubt could hardly believe his good fortune to know that another person enjoyed his company, would count on him in times of trouble, and would be there for him even in the face of peril.

As he spends summers with the Dursleys, he once more questions his own worth and his place in the world (whether the magical, or the non-magical, world). It must be very easy for him to believe that previous signs of caring and concern from his friends were inconsequential and not of the same depth as his feelings towards them. And for him to convince himself that the bonds of friendship were one-sided, in his head alone. And for him to assume that he is, despite momentary feelings to the contrary, still very much Alone.

There is no one who can reassure Harry. He has to trust, to have faith. It will be hard for him to learn to do so; and it will be even harder, perhaps, to unlearn the habits of self-doubt and despair that he has internalized. He will need time. Fortunately, there are seven books' worth of time for him. He will succeed, we know.

I am going to listen to the audiobooks slightly differently from now on -- with perhaps a bit more sympathy for Harry's sometimes perplexing reactions. I think I understand a little better, now.

It will be OK, Harry. Have faith.

Image result for Harry ron hermione
The trio was found here

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