Orphans in the Literature of J.K. Rowling

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  • Topic: Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Pages : 12 (4170 words )
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  • Published : May 4, 2010
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Etta Priest
15 December 2009
Major Literary Figures

Orphans in Rowling's Harry Potter Series

An orphan is a child permanently bereaved of his or her parents through death. UNICEF reports that there are between one hundred and forty-three million and two hundred and ten million orphans worldwide and, furthermore, that five thousand seven-hundred and sixty minors become parentless daily. With the gargantuan quantity of bereft children, it is no surprise that literary protagonists are frequently orphaned. From Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, victims of parent loss have been molded into key characters. One of the most recent, and most famous, orphans in literature is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. However, in her seven book series, Rowling chose to bereave the antagonist of his parents as well, displaying an interesting line between the choices that are made that lead to good and evil.

A common African proverb states that it takes a community to raise a child. The English term community originates from the Latin word communitatus, which can be divided into three essential features. "Com-" is a Latin prefix that indicates togetherness. Public duties are associated with the root, "munis." The suffix, "-tatus" refers to something little or residential. Localities in which people reside under one government with common interests are commonly known as communities. While the beings within these groups will posses differentiating qualities, a homogenous element that bonds the people together must exist. In the Harry Potter novels, the wizarding world is set apart from the common humans, muggles, through the ability to perform magic and the passion to understand its potential. Within the network of wizards, individual communities exist based on geographical locations, natural abilities, and a desire for improvement. Rowling emphasizes the necessity of community in order to mature repetitively. Within the school, Hogwarts, Potter experiences the bonds of brotherhood. Furthermore, he encounters relationships with fatherlike figures, as well as connections with the general public of the wizarding society. These associations are generally beneficial, especially for an orphan in adolescence; however, certain connections prove to be crooked and have ultimately negative results. She displays these negative results through Lord Voldemort and his failure to create connections with others, other than the mark he left on the one he tried to kill: “ Displayed since infancy, Harry's personal sign is inscribed by the evil sorcerer Voldemort in a murderous rampage that leaves Harry's parents dead and the baby an orphan. Harry's mark permits a public sign of recognition not only of his virtuous (distinguished, abandoned) identity, but also of the burden imposed by being special” (Robertson 201).

From the moment Rowling published Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, it has been clear that Harry lived in miserable conditions. Being forced to live in a cupboard, eat minimal amounts of nasty food, and put up with a spoiled brat all became normal to the boy who lost his parents at the age of one. Rowling begins almost each of her series with a strong reminder of Harry's misery and how he is still suffering from the loss of his mother and father. Contrary to the development of Harry throughout his experiences at Hogwarts, Voldemort is portrayed an evil spirit, too weak to possess his own body. By the second book readers learn his true name is Tom Marvolo Riddle, humanizing him minimally. Knowing that he once had a name suggests that he did not always have intentions of being a dark lord. Lord Voldemort's birth origins are not unraveled until the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It is interesting that Rowling paves a way to understand that this man was a child once who has made his own decisions towards the end of the series, while the...
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