Friday, January 16, 2004

Introduction to Lineage

Today, I am going to introduce the idea of lineage and what it means for the Harry Potter books. I will do this by starting out with Hermione Granger. First, I will analyze her different lineages, and then use this information to predict her role in future books.

First, what do I mean by lineage? In the most basic sense, lineage is a continuation from one thing to another, usually cross-generational. It often, though not necessarily, implies that things are as they have been, and as they will be. It is also another way to talk about the continuance of the human race. I come from a long line of wanderers, so my lineage can be said to be that of a wanderer.

When I talk about lineage for the Harry Potter books, however, I am taking lineage one step further. To me, lineage does not so much say what is, is what was, is what will be; but rather what was, is what can be. Therefore, if one is the son of a banker, it is possible that this person may follow in the footsteps and also become a banker. However, this same person could despise banking and follow in some other path.

In the Harry Potter books, as in many British books, lineage is an important concept. How many times have we heard how much Harry looks like his father? Or how often have people been judged by the houses in which they were put in? Through out the books, there is an overwhelming sense that one is supposed to be like their father, whether this means a criminal or a good guy. Yet, J.K. Rowling also gives us plenty of opportunities to step back and realize how non-absolute this concept is. For instance, Sirius Black may come from a long line of dark wizards, but he is by no means a dark wizard himself. Instead, he chose the path of friendship of good. Peter Pettigrew was never placed in Slytherin House, but yet he did become a dark wizard. He chose to betray his friends and embrace evil.

There are many places where we come across lineage in the books. The fours Hogwarts houses were ways for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin to keep their lines going. (While Hufflepuff is in itself a line, I do not include this in the above sentence because Helga Hufflepuff was willing to teach anyone.) The Sorting Hat was created to separate students by their talents, constructing a possible path for them to take throughout their lives. This is a form of lineage because it is passed from generation to generation.

Another way to analyze lineage is to look at the parents of individual characters. Arthur Weasley is a moral, upright man. We expect the same from his family. Yet, Percy chose not to follow this line, but to choose another path. Remember, a large theme in the books is the right to choose who we become. In fact, the entire plot of book two revolved around these two concepts of lineage and choice. Therefore, we are given to wonder what lineage path is Percy choosing? Is he tied to Wormtail?

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
Book II, Albus Dumbledore, Page 333

Other means of analysis include examining the different people the characters hang out with; different talents that are emphasized; and different viewpoints that are examined. Once we have an idea of the different paths a character can choose from, and yes they can be on more than one path at a time, we can use this information as a tool to predict who that character will become, and whether or not they are worthy of our trust. On the trust issue, I will be doing a Draco post and a Snape post, but first I would like to start with a simpler example: Hermione Granger.

Before I share with you my thoughts on Hermione, I want to give you a bit to explore what you think, based on the above. I should have the Hermione bit up tomorrow morning. (Please don't kill me!)