Thursday, April 3, 2014

HHBPBO 4 Privet Drive

*This Post Contains Spoilers for books 1-7*
Before there is magic, wonder and the fight between good and evil there is a basket dropped on the doorstep of Number Four Privet Drive. That's right, there's no Hogwarts or flying brooms, at least not yet. Instead Rowling treats us to a perfectly normal house in Little Whinging, thank you very much!

The Basics
On the surface there's nothing particularly special about the house on Privet Drive.  It has a spotless kitchen and living room, as well as a second floor that contains Petunia and Vernon's room, a guest room, Dudley's room, and Dudley's spare room/Harry's room. Oh and we can't forget the spider infested cupboard under the stairs. The yard is perfectly manicured and there's an impressive car in the driveway. 4 Privet Drive is everything you expect of the tidy and tedious Dursley family.

Diving Deeper
There's something to be said for remembering your roots and letting them keep you humble. Harry's relationship with the house on Privet Drive, and it's often foul inhabitants, made him into the great Wizard that could share snacks on the Hogwarts express and defend a hurt Neville's honor. His neglect in it's perfect, clean walls taught him to keep a cool head in the face of adverse situations. The loneliness he faced locked first in his cupboard and then in Dudley's spare room showed him the value of Ron, Hermione and Hagrid. Part of what makes Harry the caring, compassionate character we know him as is his upbringing on Privet Drive. A lesser character would have been toughened by eleven years without love. In fact we know exactly what eleven years of hardship and neglect can do. We know a lot about Tom Riddle.

The Bottom of the Lake
Privet Drive holds a very special place in Rowling's magical world. It is both the least magically and most charmed placed in seven books worth of muggles and wizards. It is the place we're reunited with Harry at the start of every school year. No matter how many friends and pseudo family members invited Harry to stay for summer break he always has to spend a few weeks back at Privet Drive.

While he's at Privet Drive he's shunned for his magical abilities. The Dursley's fear what he is capable of and lock him away from his spell books. Before Hogwarts he always seemed most level headed with the Dursley's, but as he grows so do his outbursts. Incidental uses of magic in the muggle house in Little Whinging leads to official warnings from the Ministry of Magic and eventually an inquisition in front of a full court. Every force of nature is against magic at the Dursley's house. Their fireplace is boarded up, rendering the Floo Network useless. Hedwig, who isn't necessarily magically, is kept locked away.

But there's something more to 4 Privet Drive. Harry always has to return because he's safe there. What keeps him safe isn't the muggleness of the house, it's the magic behind family and love. The fact that Lily died to save Harry, and that Petunia took him in keeps him safe. One of the largest themes of the entire series is that Love conquers all. Harry can beat Voldmort because he knows how to love. He can't be touched by someone so evil while Lily's blood flows in his veins. He can't be located or harmed while he's in the house her sister owned.

So that's Privet Drive. The weeks Harry spends there over summer vacation can be worse than a run in with the Dark Lord, but the house keeps him safe, and the inhabitants keep him humble.

1 comment:

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I'd never thought about the importance of Privet Drive before. It really does serve as the base for everything in the series.