A little warning: if you haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet and don’t want to be spoiled, you might not want to read this post as I’ll be discussing specific details that might ruin parts of the series for you.
Harry Potter is the most well known character in the English speaking world, if not the whole world. He faces situations in 17 years that most normal people haven’t faced in their entire lives and yet everyone applauds him for being made of strong stuff.
But in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we see a change in attitude towards our main character.
Well, he’s not exactly the best person to be around. He’s moody, he’s angry, and he whines about how the world owes him one. Who wants to be around that sort of attitude, most people tell me. But what if his attitude isn’t a product of being a teenager with raging hormones? What if his emotions in the fifth book are the product of post traumatic stress, anxiety, or some other form of mental illness as a result of what he experienced just a few months previously?
Hold onto your butterbeer and keep your wand in your pocket, I don’t want to be cursed just yet. Let me explain why I think so before you make any rash judgments.
Let’s take a look at the end of The Goblet of Fire. Harry and Cedric were just transported to a cemetery thousands of miles away. As soon as they arrive, Harry watches his school mate be murdered right in front of him. Immediately after, Harry’s tortured both mentally and physically as he fights to survive a fully restored Voldemort.
He makes it back to Hogwarts, but it doesn’t stop there.
We find Harry back at his aunt and uncle’s house for summer at the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix. As we all know, they neglect him and turn a blind eye to their son Dudley’s daily physical bullying and taunting. Harry’s effectively cut off from the wizarding world; Dumbledore won’t speak to him and his friends and godfather refuse to tell him what’s going on in their world in fear of getting in trouble. Through all this, our main character is suffering from a lack of sleep due to nightmares of what happened to him and Cedric.
Isn’t it odd that no one considered to ask him how he was doing with all that he experienced? Isn’t it strange that no one thought that he needed counseling and support from the world he loved so much after what happened? Why dump him off at the one family’s house where the people could care less about his physical and mental well being? Not only that dump him there and cut him off from all knowledge of his world without telling him why, without even checking on him to make sure he was doing okay?
Having thought about all this, it’s no wonder Harry Potter had so many pent up emotions. Add to everything that happens in his fifth year with Professor Umbridge and Sirius’ death and you’ve got a recipe for a downward spiral into mental illness and post traumatic stress. The other characters in these two books in particular meant well, but they only exacerbated the problem that started at the end of the Goblet of Fire.
I can’t make claims to what J.K. Rowling meant to show as far as mental illness is concerned. Perhaps she was making a point that there’s people in our world that face traumatic events like war and terrorism and are forced to suffer alone as no one things to reach out and help them, but I’d like to think she made a point with Harry Potter. Because even the most heroic and admired people in our world suffer the worst even if we can’t see it.