I find myself conflicted about the message of today’s chapter. Not everyone can be a hero, and not simply in the “because they don’t have the ability” sense. Even if every single person had the potential to be an actual hero, logistically most people cannot be heroes. Heroes are dependent upon others to grow their food, produce their clothing, and build their shelter. Luke Skywalker needed the factory worker who bolted together his X-Wing. Without a vast support crew, he’s just a kid swinging around a lightsaber on his uncle’s farm. If everyone was a hero, society would collapse. Heroes are great because they direct all of our effort, which we have focused into them.
I realize self-actualization doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a hero. It can just mean “be the best damn sidekick or factory worker or accountant you can be!” It is a worthy goal, and it makes life sweet, and everyone should strive for it. But so much focus is put on “being the hero” in all the media we consume that it probably pushes far more people into attempted heroing than it should.
But looking over the whole of the Self-Actualization arc, I don’t think the message is “everyone must be a hero, or they are a failure”. Hermione, ultimately, remains a support character. She simply becomes a much better Hermione. Maybe the message really is “be the best you can at what you are”, and her focus of not being trapped in Harry’s shadow constrained my view of the situation. I tend to over-empathize with fictional characters.
You probably gathered from my emails that I am particularly fond of the the Self Actualization arc. I do like Humanism and the Stanford Prison Experiment too, when Harry grows up and dons the burden of the hero. But 4 reasons I like SA:
1) The battle in chapter 67 was brilliant. Yeah, I’m being superficial and realize this is the HPMoR equivalent of a car chase to keep the boys interested, but it is a fun scene when Neville says he’s invincible and breaks out the lightsaber.
2) This chapter, #68, lays out more clearly and eloquently than the original books what it means to be a member of each of the four houses and, by extension, what it means to be true to yourself. Identity is something that I have struggled with. Also, this chapter played a (small) role in setting the course of one of my non-platonic relationships.
As for your comments on the chapter, my interpretation is that Dumbledore is asking Hermione to be true to herself. And although Hermione says it’s not about the glory, she is obviously a very talented person and expects to accomplish great things with her life (I may be projecting because I too once thought I would change the world with my brain). And while being sorted into Ravenclaw, Hermione also has a very strong moral compass, so her “great things” probably involve righting wrongs, which translates into being a heroine.
3) After some the heavy events of Humanism and SPE, it is nice that that camera shines on someone besides Harry. Don’t get me wrong, I like Harry, but I also like ensemble cast shows because it feels like a more fleshed-out world. And so 8 characters get a day in the limelight. In particular: 7 receive more characterization than they do in the books (well, maybe not Parvati), and they are female. And they mostly do a good job of passing the Bechdel Test.
Furthermore, Daphne and Tracey’s personalities grew naturally out of the Slytherin baseline that has been established in HPMoR by the Malfoys and Quirrellmort. Ditto, Lavender is fairly Gryffindor (which I read as: fools rush in) with her costume and skateboard. As for the Ravenclaws, Hermione and Padma have had their personalities and motivations established previously. I don’t think SA would have worked in the original books: the Slytherins are cartoonishly bad, the Ravenclaws never demonstrate their supposed brains, and no students outside of the golden trio and the Weasley children become more than names or, at best, flat characters.
4) Chapter 74 takes it to 11.
Also, I guess can update my page in the credits to http://jgf1123.tumblr.com/
When it first came out I was unhappy, I was like “Heeeeeyyy…. what’s all this? Why have we deviated from the Harry storyline?” But it grew on me very quickly. Not only are all the characters awesome and fun to read, but it really does have a lot to say about a topic that has grown very dear to my heart – self-actualization. Now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. :)
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