The holidays have come and gone, which means a lot of quality time with family we may not see all that often. For many families, it’s a lovely time of year. But we have to acknowledge that, for some, family time isn’t such a good thing. I sometimes feel that our culture generally doesn’t acknowledge the work involved in the care and keeping of family.
And I think a lot of the misconception comes from the works we absorb when we’re younger. A lot of stories aimed at children either give a pleasant picture of family, the only problem usually a lack of appreciation, or are about finding family rather than dealing with one you already have. Serious family issues come up later in YA and adult works, usually with a dose of crudeness and cynicism. But if we started talking about these things earlier, in a constructive way, maybe it could help kids to understand and defend against stressful family situations earlier.
Family entertainment in general has made strides in recent years with depicting different types of families, such as mixed family and single parent situations. But there are certain works that do an exceptional job at dealing with the complexities of family in a clear, concise, and constructive way.
The Harry Potter series, I think, is definitely one of them.
Despite that Harry starts out the story an orphan, the series is actually very concerned with family for two reasons:
1. Love is the strongest force in Rowling’s Wizarding World, and love and family are closely connected.
2. Rowling develops her characters so thoroughly that she knows the family background of even the supporting characters. This family background often influences the characters’ decisions and values, either in support of or against the way they were brought up. The characters feel real because, just like us, they are effected by their families, but can still make decisions and grow to be better.
Now, I’m not saying family can’t be made of people you aren’t related to or grew up with. I mean Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, and the Weasleys all became Harry’s family, James became Sirius’s family when Sirius ran away from home, the Marauders became Remus’s family when they protected his secret and kept him company on the full moon. But, as stated above, the relationships a person has with the people they grew up with, who often are blood related, can effect much of their decisions and outlook, and thus, for better or for worse, we have to deal with and understand these people.
I’ve loved this series from a young age, but the more I revisit it, either through Pottermore, fan articles, rereads (or, when using the audiobooks on car trips, relistening), or the films, the more I see how Rowling’s depiction of family is both wholesomely simple, and yet surprisingly mature and complex. So, I have to wonder what we can learn from the family relationships of the Wizarding World in navigating our own relationships?*