Coming to Terms with Parental Loss in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Both Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Anne of Green are orphan protagonists. To summarize, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a children’s novel written by J.K. Rowling. In the novel, Harry learns that Sirius Black has escaped from the prison of Azkaban and is planning to kill him. Meanwhile, Hagrid is distraught when his hippogriff, Buckbeak, is sentenced. On the other hand, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery has been considered a classic children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. The novel revolves around a young girl named Anne when Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert adopt a child. Both novels are representations of ‘trauma fiction’ which represents an event or experience which submerges the individual and resists language or representation through the relation between trauma and fiction. This essay will compare how the trauma of parental loss is present in Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Also, this essay will discuss the process of coming to terms with parental loss in both novels. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has been a well-known and worldwide phenomenal success.

There are seven novels in the series, and this essay will focus specifically on Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban. The essay will look at how parental loss trauma-affected Harry through the language and literary devices used by Rowling. It will also examine how Harry overcomes his trauma and can cope with it. In Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is haunted by Voldemort’s face. The initial dreams of his parent’s death take on a new form due to the strange creatures called the dementors. Dementors are creatures invisible to Muggle eyes, but visible to the witches and wizards. They drain all happiness from a person – those dementors are used as a representation of depression and can even remove the soul through the Dementor’s kiss. Harry’s first encounter with dementors was on the train on his way to Hogwarts with Hermione and Ron. The encounter between one another proves both a terrifying and confusing experience for him while reliving the night that his parents died. Which became reoccurring flashbacks. Additionally, he is also unconsciously aware that this is what he goes through: “An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest. The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest; it was inside his very heart… Harry’s eyes rolled up into his head. He couldn’t see. He was drowning in cold. There was a rushing in his ears as though of water. He was being dragged downwards, the roaring growing louder…And then, from far away, he heard screaming, terrible, terrified, pleading screams. He wanted to help whoever it was, he tried to move his arms, but couldn’t… a thick white fog was swirling around him, inside him” (88).

This experience haunts Harry and revisits him several times; until he learns to recover from it. Cathy Carruth suggests that “The flashback, it seems, provides a form of recall that survives at the cost of willed memory or of the very continuity of conscious thought” (Katz). As Carruth suggests, Harry’s flashback survives within his mind in a form that he cannot consciously recall or interpret. He believes the flashback to be real, as when it is over, he asks as to who was screaming: “What happened, where is that – that thing? Who screamed?” (Rowling 88). This shows that the dementors are the source of trauma. The creatures that are called dementors guard the wizard prison, Azkaban. These characters shown to the readers are depicted in an evil light. The readers first encounter the Harry, a thirteen-year-old wizard, is on a train going off to school for his third year, “Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure…Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry’s eyes darted downwards, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak, and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water” (83). Lupin tells Harry “Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life” (187). When the dementors are near, Harry hears the voices of his dead parents screaming while being murdered. The dementors are the ultimate correctional officers. Prisoners held in Azkaban are unable to keep a single and cheerful thought in their heads. Most prisoners go mad in weeks. Only Sirius Black has escaped prison. He was falsely accused of causing the death of Harry’s parents. He is a wizard who can turn into a dog (Animagus), and he escapes prison by turning himself into a dog. At the end of the book, Sirius Black asked how he managed to keep his mind while he was in prison, how he managed to stay sane enough to escape. He answers: “I do not know how I did it. I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. Become a dog… but I was weak… no hope of driving them away from me (371). This passage is significant and moving as Sirius is innocent, which is not a happy thought, but it keeps him sane. According to Katz, the readers can understand this description of page three hundred seventy-one is an accurate symbolic accounting of the psychological structure created in the children who experience intergenerationally transmitted trauma. Like Sirius Black, Harry holds onto the innocence of Sirius which is the knowledge of being once removed from what has happened, in order to physically survive the scarred attachments to his parents.

Harry copes with the trauma by the help of Lupin. Harry conjures up the Patronus to defeat the Dementors. “The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon—hope, happiness, the desire to survive—but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the dementors can’t hurt it”(237).What tortures Harry is his overwhelming guilt and sorrow at his mother’s death. At the sight of these grey-hooded figures [Dementors], Harry hears his mother’s cries to Voldemort: “No, take me, kill me instead”. Haunted by her pain and the feeling of guilt that she died to save him, Harry is drawn into intense ambivalence. Rowling explains that “even though it was so painful for Harry to hear the “last moments” of his parents inside his head”, these were the only times that he’d heard their voices since he was very young” (Lockwood). Hearing his parent’s voices is bittersweet as the only time that he has been able to hear their voices were when they were screaming. This would be through traumatic memory, further causing him distress. Furthermore, after learning the true story of Sirius Black and learning to conjure up the Patronus charm, he can get over the trauma. “The fictionalized events are suggestive of the means of working through trauma; examining the traumatic occurrences and working through them, and providing order, meaning and significance, in order to move on” (Lockwood).

In conclusion, “The Harry Potter series is a deeply moral story which is a thorough and complex example of dealing with trauma, from the first moment through and rebuilding. The magical world in which Harry’s journey is set to diminish his intricate story, as it shows that even in a place of advantage, there can be immense difficulties.In Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, the readers learn that Anne Shirley is a young girl who loses both of her parents, Bertha and Walter Shirley when she is three months old. After she lost her parents, she became an orphan who kept moving from one family to another. Anne losing her parents, created early childhood trauma which is similar to Harry Potter as he, too, grew up without his mother and father. Anne began having early childhood trauma because she felt pain from the neglect and abandonment from her parents and multiple foster parents.

According to Slater, “Anne’s mother and father die before Anne is coordinated enough to begin her transition into image awareness. As a result, her parental loss at this immature age has particularly violent consequences” (Slater). Anne feels incomplete because her mother is gone. Anne’s trauma of fear and acceptance comes when Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert accidentally adopt her. Anne goes through the will –they or- won’t they adopt her suspense. The readers learn from Marilla a little bit of Anne’s past when she says to Mathew: When I lived with Mrs. Thomas, she had a bookcase… with glass doors. One of the doors was broken. Mr. Thomas smashed it one night when he was intoxicated. But the other was whole, and I used to pretend that my reflection in it was another little girl who lived in it. I called her Katie Maurice, and we were very intimate… [I would] tell her everything. Katie was the comfort and consolation of my life (Green Gables 52–53).

From Anne, we learn that she never had a stable family until Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert accidentally adopt her. Before Anne met Mathew and Marilla, she used to call herself Cordelia and Katie to escape her real identity. Marilla puts an end to this when Anne leaves the abusive environments she has been in and enters Avonlea. “This was the beginning process of leaving behind the distortions. Anne’s happiness is dependent upon her acceptance into Avonlea, it is only through her capitulation to the established law of the community that she will achieve the affection denied to her since the death of her parents” (Slater). Through the help and acceptance from Marilla, Miss Stacy, Mrs. Allen, Miss Barry and Mrs. Lynde. These women become maternal figures to Anne. Each satisfies maternal types: the stern mother, the intellectual mother, the kind mother, the challenging mother, and the maternal mother. Additionally, Diana Berry is another maternal figure to Anne and helps her overcome the trauma she has been through. When Anne asks Diana “will you swear to be my friend forever and ever” (75)? she has a fear of rejected and neglected, which hints at the early childhood trauma she has been through in the past. Several moments after they meet, Anne asks Diana never to leave her. This shows that Anne has no consistent care and affection from her previous caregivers and as a result, requires an excess of fear and nervousness in her relationships. Part of Anne’s trauma, according to Slater, is resurrected in Mary Vance’s agonies is the repressed trauma of Anne’s years with Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond, returned with greater emphasis. Anne’s parents die of illness; Anne is starved and overworked. Mary’s parents commit suicide (“Ma had hung herself, and my pa had cut his throat”), and she has beaten severely. Anne’s early trauma appears to be successfully fixed, as Anne thrives upon the successful establishment of relationships ranging from familial, romantic and communal relationships.

Towards the end of the novel, the readers learn that Anne’s performance at school excelled to make Mathew and Marilla proud. Mathew and Marilla’s praise allows Anne to acquire high grade and Mrs. Lynde’s kindly approval, that leads to her prayers of thankfulness. Attaining high grades and praise from Anne and allowed Anne to heal from the early childhood trauma that she has been through from her parents and her previous caregivers before Marilla and Mathew adopted her. Slater argues in her article that the readers might read what appears to be Anne’s successful suture of childhood wounds is repression as U. C. Knoepflmacher argues, occasionally “trauma’s best antidote” (182)? Anne performs a type of repression within the text, as she does not refer to those first eleven years after the ninth chapter of Green Gables. However, this trauma, unresolved, do return to some extent in later texts, restored through angry orphans and mistreated, unhappy women who seem to articulate, through their histories, what Anne cannot speak unprompted. The extent to which Anne’s experiences before her arrival at Green Gables are traumatic. Although, the speed with which Anne relates her sad history and proceeds to leave it firmly behind her makes easy dismissal of that history.

In conclusion, this essay discussed the process of coming to terms with parental loss in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Anne of Green Gables. The repressed memories of their past have haunted the protagonist. With the help of external factors, they can overcome their past traumatic experiences from recurring in their head.


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