Endings as beginnings: remorse in ‘Harry Potter’ series

30 Aug

At the end of the first book of the J. K. Rowling series ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ Hagrid cries to Harry, It’s -all -my – ruddy -fault!’…
‘Hagrid !’ said Harry, shocked to see Hagrid shaking with grief and remorse…’
Rowling here, at the end of the first book, introduces the compelling narrative philosophy of her series: remorse. This trope ‘Remorse’ is the overarching theme of the Harry Potter series. The word is a thread through the series, a hidden key in each book. How does Rowling use and define remorse?
Remorse is a choice open to all the major characters Harry encounters, including himself. It is what makes wizards muggle like and humans wizards. Snape, (or rather Professor Snape) Voldemort, Hagrid, Ron and Dumbledore, among others, are offered remorse. Harry pointively offers Tom Riddle this choice at the end of their final duel. Voldemort refuses. He has long ceased being Tom Riddle, being human. He cannot and will not ‘try’ remorse. Such a choice, and its acceptance, Rowling herself ( through the character of Hermione) points out in the chapter ‘The Ghoul in the Pajamas” (The Deathly Hallows) can destroy earthly life. Remorse is the only magic that can break a horcuxes’ power in or for a life. But without remorse, or deep, deep sorrow, all life in and beyond earthly existence is lost. Life can only begin when we grieve, grieve at a lost. A son; a spouse, a school, a heart.
Great art, music, painting and writing, have ends embedded in their beginnings. Shakespeare’s Prospero drops an iamb in his last speech in ‘The Tempest.’ There is remorse in leaving his magic, his island, writing and the spell of creation. Something ends with his new beginning. Carravaggio’s ‘The Call of St. Matthew’ shows three images, three paintings of the apostle’s life: the call has the movement from a young man holding, grasping coins to an older man’s hands open, embracing death at his end. Opposites, ends in beginnings; the dropping of a word’s beat, grasping and holding at life’s beginnings, then releasing and emptying at its end: this is deep remorse, the movement from an enslavement to a freedom that hurts, deeply, even to death. Opposites together. All spiritual fruit has seeds of the Spirit’s fruit in its opposition. Remorse is a love, an empathic love of the other. It is a fruit, a love. An end product. The tears of remorse waters. Hagrid cries remorseful tears; Harry forgives; a photography album of pictures of Harry’s Mum and Dad enters Harry’s hands. Harry can not speak. He is loved. And he now can love others beyond himself.
Remorse, closes his mouth. We understand. Hagrid understands too. He feels; he is loved. His remorse saved him. It can also free us.

3 Responses to “Endings as beginnings: remorse in ‘Harry Potter’ series”

  1. Jeyna Grace September 2, 2013 at 3:14 am #


    • charlesosewalt September 2, 2013 at 4:53 am #

      truth is so hard to hold; it is a choice also, as


  1. Harry Potter & Merlin’s School of Magic: The Closer Encounter | FanFiction Fridays - September 1, 2013

    […] Endings as beginnings: remorse in ‘Harry Potter’ series (charlesosewalt.com) […]

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