Harry Potter and the Many Faces of Motherhood

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Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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16 Responses

  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    Molly is my favorite character in the series because she seems so HUMAN. Like, the messiness of life touches her – she’s not better than life (she is not above sending a Howler to her son at school or screaming at people) but she also loves, and loves fiercely.

    She also knits, though arguably not expertly (Ron rolls his eyes about the sweater she made him, though it’s not clear if that’s teenage-boy stuff or if the sweater is just kind of a mess). She’s NOT cool and hip….and that’s partly why I like her. I love the way they costumed the actress who played her in the movies, kind of bohemian. And yes, in some ways, she is one of the characters you want to emulate…because even though she’s messy, she’s a good messy.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk
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      says:

      That part always resonated to me because I suspect Molly knew darn well that her kids’ stuff wasn’t good enough, that it was old or unstylish, and she really just had no choice because the family was poor. Needs must, as they say. It’s hard to send your kids out in the world knowing they’re at a disadvantage due to things like that, but she did her best with it.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to atomickristin
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        says:

        But she DID send them out with her love. One of the reasons I think Harry enjoyed his time at the Weasley’s so much – and of course, wound up marrying Ginny – is that in some ways Molly was the mom he never got to have.

        While my family was comfortably well-off by your typical American standards, compared to other people in the little bedroom community where we lived, we were poor, any my brother and I never heard the end of that at school. But as an adult I realize that our parents’ love, and the knowledge that we were definitely “wanted” and were always welcomed home more than made up for the “cheap” sneakers and hand-me-down jeans. (I wish I had appreciated that more as a kid, though)Report

  2. Avatar atomickristin
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    says:

    Great piece!

    I will admit (as a mom of 4 boys and girl) I laughed and laughed at the scene where Molly attacked Bellatrix even though I’d often cringed at Molly as the stereotype of the woman who breeds herself into poverty because she just has to have a girl.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Siegel
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    says:

    Great piece and an angle on the books I hadn’t thought of. I can’t think those angles weren’t intended from Rowling, a mother of three who was a single mum when she wrote the book and lost her mother at a relatively young age.

    I also love that what saves Harry is that he chose to save Draco at the risk of his own life.Report

  4. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    I really appreciate that the Harry Potter series has lots of characters who are at the age of motherhood, even if some of them are not literally mothers. In addition to your list, we have Profs McGonagall, Hooch and Sprout. And then there’s Dolores Umbridge, and Bellatrix LeStrange.

    I really appreciate the contrast with Disney, where women of a certain age are missing, non-entities, or the villain, and nothing else. I’ve seen that in other fantasy settings, too. Here we have a rich and interesting menagerie.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Siegel
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    says:

    “It’s always the mother’s fault, isn’t it?”

    This is the one point I’d contest. Voldemort’s rage is also fueled by being abandoned by his father and knowing his origin. He changed his name to disown his “filthy Muggle father” and then went out and killed him and his grandfather. He is also failed by his surrogate fathers, Dumbledore and Slughorn.

    Better writers than I have talked about Harry’s father figures and their failings. He idolizes his father, much like he did his mother, and then later finds out he was flawed. He idolizes Dumbledore and later finds out he was flawed. He loses Sirius. He finds out the man he hated was protecting him the whole time. He’s raised by a collection of partial dads — Hagrid and Arthur in particular.

    Don’t want to distract too much since I think your essay explores an area little commented upon. But I don’t think the novels would say it’s the mom’s fault.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Michael Siegel
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      says:

      That’s a fair critique. Maybe I meant that line more in a meta-sense than novel-specific. Thanks for the other angle to think about.Report

      • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to Em Carpenter
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        says:

        Wasn’t meant as a big critique. A lot of people have talked about that with father figures. But this was the first essay I’ve read looking at the mother figures. Really interesting way too look at it!Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Michael Siegel
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          says:

          HP has been a big part of my own mothering. I read all 7 books to my sons out loud, a few pages a night, over the course of 3-4 years. It is one of my favorite memories of parenthood so far so the series is really special to me. We were watching movie #8 for the fiftieth time the other day and I was thinking how much I loved that scene between Molly and Bellatrix and it made me start thinking about this. It was fun to write! (I had a whole other section about Hermione and her namesake from Winter’s Tale but it didn’t really fit. Suffice to say Hermione is motherly in her own right.)Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DOOR WHERE SHE TRIPS ON IT EVERY DAMN DAY

    While it’s usually a bad idea to assume without evidence that an incident is drawn from the author’s own life, sometimes one is badly tempted to make that leap.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    “Not my daughter, YOU BITCH!”

    This has to be a tribute to “I want my father back, you son of a bitch.”

    Report

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