Reading Response for English 112B from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Francesca Ferracuti 3/13/00
There are only two people unafraid to call You-Know-Who by his real name. Who are they and why are they unafraid?
Only Dumbledore and Harry (ideal father-and-son team) dare pronouncing the name of the powerful evil wizard Voldemort.
Dumbledore is the archetype of the wise man, undaunted by the fear of fear itself: “Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself” (298). Dumbledore can call Voldemort by name because is not afraid of his own dark side – Jung calls it “shadow” –thus can face reality with open eyes, looking at its ugliness as well. Only
when we don’t deny the existence of our own Jungian shadow and recognize our private dark side, we can hope to know ourselves completely and we can try to control our own fears, recognizing them at their face value. Harry Potter is the young icon for pure courage – he goes to Gryffindor because he’s “brave at heart.” Harry faces Voldemort like David faces Goliath, calling him by name: “VOLDEMORT! I’ve met him and I’m calling him by his name” (303). Many of us would be afraid to address Voldemort by name. Voldemort is a French name (Vol de mort = Flight of death) and symbolizes what ultimately the dark wizard stands for: death itself. It’s interesting to notice how many of us in the Muggle world avoid pronouncing words like
“death” or “cancer,” preferring euphemisms like “passed away” or “long illness.” This is the same as saying “You-Know-Who” instead of “Voldemort.” Harry does not need euphemisms: he has suffered a lot in his short life, and has seen how cruel life can be. Therefore, he does not deny the existence of pain or evil in the world and does not hesitate in calling the demon by name.
The lack of fear in saying the heinous name is only a hint of how similar Dumbledore and Harry truly are. Among other qualities, they share the same integrity and leadership ability. Harry’s heart is an open book to Dumbledore and the boy feels understood by an adult for the first time in his life. Harry knows he can trust Dumbledore: “It’s almost like he thought I had
the right to face Voldemort if I could….” (302).