The symbolic Order of the Phoenix: The fracturing of the family romance and the quest for the real in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series

Jeanne Zanussi Taylor, Tennessee State University

Abstract

The success of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books can be attributed, at least in part, to the series' adherence to the ubiquitous and familiar literary trope of the orphan hero. Given the basic plot of the Harry Potter series, with Harry's seven-year quest and battle against evil, Harry fits comfortably into the orphan hero tradition. This tradition is, however, much more than a literary device; the orphan hero trope provides a framework for exploring the psychological and intellectual development of the adolescent protagonist. By following Harry from age eleven through seventeen, the Harry Potter series is keenly focused on Harry's development from child to adult. ^ This thesis begins by examining Harry's development through the framework of Sigmund Freud's family romance theory and its connection to Otto Rank's work on hero myths and the orphan hero tradition. Expanding my discussion to include Jacques Lacan's stages of human psychological development, I explore Harry's resistance to fully accepting his place in the Symbolic Order, the surrogate fathers on whom Harry relies in order to postpone his self-actualization, and the triggers that finally allow Harry to drop the fantasy of the family romance and accept his reality. In addition, I examine how Rowling presents the family romance stories of Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort and Severus Snape as two alternative models of an adolescent's search for identity. I conclude by examining Harry's role as a father and discussing the ways that Harry has successfully navigated his own family romance and achieved normalcy and maturity in adulthood.^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Modern|European Studies|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Jeanne Zanussi Taylor, "The symbolic Order of the Phoenix: The fracturing of the family romance and the quest for the real in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series" (2011). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI1497846.
http://digitalscholarship.tnstate.edu/dissertations/AAI1497846

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