Harry Potter – A Safe Haven

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By 2017-07-26

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By Isurinie Mallawarachchi

When you are known among your friends as a bookworm, and especially if you are more than 25 years old, they want you to suggest books that no-one has heard of, written by authors who live in far corners of the world. Given this scenario, I see rolled eyes and smirks whenever I say 'Harry Potter'. In my defence – well, I do not have to defend myself for being 25 and reading 'Harry Potter'. However, to showcase the readers of 'Glorious Margins' the impact that this literary series which was written for young adults has made, I look at the way 'Harry Potter' gives hope and strength to those who are depressed and have had the taste of the rock bottom of life.

The widely known connection that 'Harry Potter' has with depression is the depiction of dementors, which is said to have reflected the author's battle with clinical depression. The readers are introduced to dementors in the characters' third year at Hogwarts, and they are described perfectly by Ron, who says "I felt weird... like I'd never be cheerful again." The emotions that he experienced in the presence of a dementor is exactly what someone with depression would explain; it exists inside one's mind and convinces them that they will never be able to be cheerful again.

Interestingly, we are also taught that the dementors are the guards of Azkaban Prison. The prisoners who commit grave crimes are punished with a dementor's kiss where it sucks the soul out of the person who is being 'kissed'. From Remus Lupin's words, "You can exist without your soul, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory and no anything...You'll just exist. As an empty shell...." The worst punishment at Azkaban is not getting sentenced to death, but getting one's soul sucked out of their body. Given the parallels between depression and dementors, what Rowling tries to say here is apparent. Being succumbed to utter sadness is the worst experience one could have.

While conveying the gravity of depression that is overlooked by many, Rowling also focuses the ways through which one could battle the dementors, through conjuring a Patronus with a strong happy memory of the conjurer. This image of battling cold, unhappiness with a warm, happy thought is remarkable. Every time life hits us with sad realities that we do not want to deal with, a Patronus – in a rather metaphorical sense could guide our way. It is through happiness one could fight sadness, and the images Rowling brings in to convey this simple truth are quite astonishing.

When one is an outcast who lives in the margins of society; feelings of isolation and self-loathing can be quite common.

Dissatisfaction about oneself is commonly associated with depression. Those who battle depression often feel guilty about themselves. Remus Lupin, though he was depicted primarily as a mentor for Harry, is a perfect example for someone who carried those sentiments with him.

In the instance where Tonks spoke of the possibility of them being a couple, he introduces himself as "too poor", "too old" and "too dangerous" clearly conveying his lack of self-confidence. Ironically, it was Lupin who initially rescued Harry from a dementor and later on, taught him the way to cast a Patronus charm. One could conjure up everything they wanted at the tip of their wand, but they still could be dealing with negativity that comes along with their sense of self and social prejudices. Lupin is a character that developed in a devastating manner, however, for many of us who do not feel like we do not belong anywhere, Remus Lupin is a place where we can belong.

Speaking of the depiction of Harry Potter's character in this context, I would say that his backstory is quite noteworthy. Having lost his parents at a very young age in an utterly tragic manner, and as someone who was bullied and humiliated by the only family he had, Harry indeed has more depth than being 'the Chosen One' for which he was celebrated. He sees nightmares and visions of his parents' death and if you read closely, he even has mood swings. In this respect, I think of the scar in his forehead as a symbol that conveys that his tragic losses marred him for life.

Harry's nemesis in the series is Voldemort who tears his soul to pieces in his quest to attain immortality. If we link this nature of Voldemort to the description of dementors' task as explored earlier, we could say that Voldemort carries the same qualities of a person who has been kissed by a dementor. Voldemort too, lost his parents at a young age and had a childhood similar to Harry's.

Although Harry chose the path of bravery and compassion, Voldemort sought power in extremely destructive ways. Furthermore, he becomes the prime example in Harry Potter, of someone who has lost the battle to the sense of hopelessness and negativity.

The absence of love and Negativity being the identifiers of Voldemort and him being defeated by Harry who sought 'happiness even in the darkest of times' is what gives me, and any reader of this series hope. Though an element of them is entangled with sorrow, Patronus charms that battle dementors and outcasts like Remus Lupin strengthen me. It not exactly the good winning over the bad as portrayed in any young adults' novel. The two groups that fight against each other in 'Harry Potter' are happiness and sadness – in some cases depression. Despite the protagonist's, and a number of characters' traumatic past, they do not let sadness take over. Hence why, Harry Potter has been a safe haven for me when I want to escape the sad realities of life. It has always been reminder that "we must try not to sink beneath our anguish, but battle on."

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