This month, we’ve been talking about home in various ways, and I’d like to consider characters we find inextricable from homes/settings. I’d planned to make a list, but there are so many examples that I decided to offer just one and invite you to play along. More fun that way, yes?
Here’s mine: In the first Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling mentions early on that he lives in a cupboard under the stairs. This small detail resonated on several levels for me as a reader. It was haunting. I felt incredibly sympathetic toward this young man, about whom I knew very little. And in a metaphorical sense, he wasn’t even at the foot of the stairs, the great climb, the ascension to the top that is to be his quest. He was under the stairs at Privet Drive.
Turns out that Harry’s true home is Hogwarts, of course, and there are endless ways in which that place functions as a special sort of sanctuary for him (even though it holds dangers and challenges as well). He has moved from the cramped confines of the cupboard to the vast and ever-changing space that is Hogwarts. And there, the stairways move around unexpectedly, symbolically mirroring the way his quest seems to be aimed first at one adventure/goal and then another.
These two “homes” in direct opposition prepare us for Harry’s transformation from alienated young boy to great wizard belonging to a community. It’s difficult to imagine the story set anywhere else, so complete is the synthesis of character and place.
Your turn! Please add your favorite character + place pair in the comments. (Or we can talk more about Harry Potter, if you prefer…there’s always time for HP chat.)