Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Potter Talk: Tom's Worst Memory

Harry Potter is and will always be my favorite book series because every time I read it, I find something new- new insights into the characters or new, subtle themes I'd never picked up on before.  And Mr Geek is and always will be my perfect partner because the same is true for him.  The other night, we stayed up all night discussing one of his new theories, and it felt just like we were back in the middle of The Three-Year Summer (the period of time between the publishing of books 4 and 5).  This lively conversation inspired me to start sharing some of our theories and observances, and solicit your thoughts on the topics.  Sound like fun?

Hogsmeade, Orlando, FL // *personal photo*
So the other day, Mr. Geek brought up a really good point about Harry's worst memory- the one that he relives whenever the Dementors are near:

It can't possibly be his memory.

Harry was just over a year old when his parents were murdered.  There is no possible way that a 13-year-old kid can remember something that happened when he was a year old- especially not in such detail.  So why does Harry hear his mother screaming so clearly?  Why does he see a green light?  Why is he able to recall the order of events that night so very long ago, before his long-term memory had fully developed?

Mr. Geek's theory is that this is not, in fact, Harry's memory, but Voldemort's memory, and the connection established between the two of them is what allows him to experience it.  In other words, it's not his own brain remembering the night his parents died, but, rather, it's his connection to Voldemort that's allowing him to access the images and sounds of that night.

And he goes one step further with this theory.  Mr. Geek believes that this isn't just Tom Riddle's memory- it's actually Tom Riddle's worst memory, and that the Dementors are essentially triggering a memory stored in the horcrux inside Harry.  Now, obviously, the day his parents were murdered probably qualifies as the worst day of Harry's life, but, without this connection to Voldemort, he could never possibly have remembered it.  Harry was mentally, emotionally, and even physically abused by his family and schoolmates growing up- surely he has plenty of worst memories that he could relive in the presence of a Dementor.  But that fateful night could certainly qualify as Tom Riddle's worst memory- it was the night he lost everything!

Mr. Geek's final bit of proof is that when Harry escapes Voldemort once more in Godric's Hollow in book 7, their mental connection very clearly gives Harry the full view of the events of that night from Voldemort's point of view- from his walk down the street until the exact moment that the curse rebounded.
And his scream was Harry's scream, his pain was Harry's pain...that it could happen here, where it had happened before...here, within sight of that house where he had come so close to knowing what it was to die...
Voldemort's worst memory would most definitely be that of the night when he almost died, as, to him, this is the worst thing that could ever happen- his worst fear.

These arguments are convincing, but I'm not sure this is what Jo intended when she had 13-year-old Harry remembering a night from toddlerhood.

While a baby that young may not have developed a long-term memory, extremely traumatic events can have a psychological impact on us, even if we can't remember the events themselves.  It is pretty realistic that young Harry would dream about a bright green light, and you may even be able to convince me that he might dream about a woman screaming, though his subconscious might not be able to recreate the images his infant eyes had seen.  Furthermore, this might be one of those side effects of having magical blood- having a really good memory.  After all, Harry also grows up dreaming about his flight in Hagrid's motorbike, and Voldemort wasn't there for that.  (Mr. Geek disputes this argument by pointing out that if wizards had such great memories, then people like Ron could never do poorly on exams.  My counter-argument is that Ron would have to have paid attention during a lecture in order to remember any of it.  Mr. Geek's counter-counter argument is that Neville pays attention and is still not a stellar student.)  Or, perhaps, the Dementors are able to pull out something buried so very deep in a person's psyche and expound upon it, such that your worst memory could potentially be something you never actually remembered until the happiness-sucking Dementors are in your presence.  Furthermore, I think Jo's point in labeling this memory as Harry's worst memory- this memory his little brain was not capable of storing for that long- is to show us that the death of a parent profoundly affects a person for the rest of his life, regardless of how well he remembers the exact details of the death itself.  After all, most of the Potter series is Jo's own coming to terms with her mother's death many years after she was gone.

So what do you think?  Is this Harry's worst memory, or is it Tom Riddle's?  Is the whole thing just a metaphor for dealing with trauma, a plot device to give us a glimpse at what actually happened the night that Harry became The Boy Who Lived without having to just tell us about it, or was it intentional?  Did Jo intend for the explanation of Harry's memory of that night to be the horcrux Voldemort unintentionally left behind, or is this one of those "I'm not good at math or science" moments where she doesn't quite understand how the human brain functions?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Much love,
The Geeks

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