4.16.2014

Harry Potter and Love: Less-Than-Ideal Family

Usually I prefer to link art I can credit, but for this I can only give a source.
To the unknown artist:
Thank you for including Harry and Hermione in the Weasley family portrait.
It wouldn't be the same without them.

The word from Masha:
What's missing for me is a healthy family dynamic. Not ideal..I'm not expecting ideal, - really, honestly, I'm serious! - just reasonably attractive. I know everyone thinks I'm mean for rejecting the Weasleys... I hate-with-a-passion the 'hen-pecked husband' thing. Can't stand it. I am way too sick of the over-abundance of Father-as-object-of-Ridicule gigs to embrace yet another. I'd love to see a family where spouses share a mutual respect and nurture each others dignity...
And I'm going to repeat what I said in response, which is that:
I'm OK with my love for the Weasleys being a bit irrational. Because it's true that the dynamic between Arthur and Molly is far from ideal, and is the sort of thing that's absolutely insufferable in real life. The dynamic between Molly and anyone is less than ideal, except for Harry perhaps—and it's her love for Harry, her mothering of the motherless, that redeems her so thoroughly to me.
To be fair, she welcomes Hermione as freely as she does Harry. And anyone who had to raise Fred and George can perhaps be forgiven for being a bit prone to panicking and yelling.

Allie Brosh and the Weasley twins FTW! From Cheezburger.

We don't see a lot of healthy family dynamics anywhere in Harry Potter, actually. You get a little of it in Harry's flashbacks of his parents' death scene, so you know what he lost, but there aren't a lot of clear, positive family pictures in the stories.

The Weasleys are far from ideal, but Potter fans everywhere love them, and I do, too. Maybe it's just that at thirty-six, after that much lifetime with a close-knit family that is capable both of wounding deeply and surviving those wounds, I sympathize a bit. Or maybe it's that there's sort of a Catholic nostalgia around the prolific, poor family where nobody is perfect, and nobody quite follows all the rules, but everybody is wanted and welcome.

Molly and Arthur Weasley remind me of two couples I've known for whom bickering seemed to be part of the package. One of those couples is gray-haired and still together—and possibly still bickering—and the other seems to have ironed out their differences, at least for public viewing. I would call them both happy, though I don't know either well enough at this point to say for sure.

As for hen-pecked husbands, I generally dislike the caricature on principle, but I can't say that I've ever been acquainted with the reality. At least, not with anything fitting the general image. The dominant husband and painfully subservient wife—now that I've seen, and if the Weasleys had been that, I would have responded with visceral dislike much like Masha has expressed. Ergo, no judgies from this quarter.

In other news, I went hunting for Weasley fan art, and now I have "Weasley Is Our King" stuck in my head.

4 comments:

  1. So here's a question from an authorial perspective: wouldn't it be less interesting if the Weasley family had been more ordered toward the ideal? From the perspective of a writer trying to gain interest, a close-to-perfect family would have been . . . well . . . boring. NOT that those families are boring in real life, not at all, but if characters don't have faults then we don't really have a story to tell.

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    1. Well, particularly considering how magical the family is, I don't necessarily think disorder is vital to interest--granting, of course, that over the extended amount of time we spend with the Weasleys, much perfection would be impressively unbelievable.

      That said, I do think that Rowling probably chose a lively and deeply-faulty-but-still-loving family structure for interest's sake, partly for humor and partly to portray loyalty, which--for all their open bickering--is the one thing the Weasleys have in almost endless quantities.

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  2. The dominant husband and painfully subservient wife—now that I've seen, and if the Weasleys had been that, I would have responded with visceral dislike

    Yeah, me too. :(

    My feelings about the "hen-pecked" thing are complicated. One way it works from a story perspective here is that it lets the reader get a glimpse of, I guess you could say, Wizarding values and the W.World's relationship to the Muggle world via Arthur's eccentric interest in Muggle technology and Molly's (and the Ministry's) disapproval (and Molly isn't just being a killjoy for the sake of it, either: Arthur really could lose his job from some of the stuff he does, and I have no idea how easy it is to change careers in midlife, or what the W. World's welfare system even looks like.

    And I agree with Christie R. Honestly, a large family without any visible conflicts would be either super creepy or too unrealistic to care about.

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    Replies
    1. "If Dad raided our house he'd have to put himself under arrest."--Ron

      ;)

      The sheer size of the family does add to the Weasley dynamic, I think. The more personalities you introduce, the more potential for conflict. Also, all other things being equal: the more kids mom has, the more pressure lands on her, and the more difficulty she has controlling her household. Especially when said kids are lively sons with a penchant for making magical catastrophes. (Not to mention the spunky daughter who has a run-in with Voldemort early on...)

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