Friday, April 11, 2014

HHBPBO History - The Evans Sisters

My good friend and avid Harry Potter fanatic Jasmyn will be stopping by once a month to give us here at Hoo Hoo Big Potter Blowout some before-the-books history lessons. Stop by her Tumblr or Twitter and say hi!

Hello, Loving Books readers! Jasmyn here, for a Potterverse history discussion! Let's talk about the Evans sisters.

Petunia Evans and her little sister, Lily, grew up in the English town of Cokeworth -- which, I was unhappy to discover, is not a real place, but that's neither here nor there. As family is a huge theme in the books, Lily and Petunia serve as the consummate example of how sibling rivalry (even if the rivalry is one-sided) can split a family apart. Not much is known about the sisters' lives before 1971, but it stands to reason that Lily would have always been the more popular of the two, having a sunnier, more open-minded, and more compassionate personality, long before the revelation of her being a witch came to light. I doubt Petunia's feelings towards her would have turned as volatile as they did without any sort of standing foundation.

Of course, Lily's Hogwarts letter cemented everything. Petunia wrote to Dumbledore asking if she, too, could attend the school, but obviously, she couldn't, and with that rejection came the loss of her hope that she might be able to do what Lily could do. When she couldn't receive the same pride and affection that their parents had bestowed on Lily for being a witch, Petunia denounced Lily as "a freak."

Petunia didn't contain her jealousy with Lily, though. As Lily went through her Hogwarts education, excelling in her magical studies and becoming apparently rather popular, Petunia did everything she could to distance herself from magic. Petunia favored the absolutely mundane and unremarkable, and found her ordinary soulmate in one Vernon Dursley. Unfortunately, the Evans sisters' tastes in boyfriends would become a source of contention.

In a meeting I would give a big toe to have seen, Petunia and Lily introduced Vernon and James to each other shortly after the future Dursleys became engaged. Vernon, ever status-obsessed, and James, ever prone to laugh in someone's face, did not get on, as Vernon amused James to no end and Vernon found James's racing broom and solid gold wizard fortune absurd. After the volatile ending to that meeting, Lily was not asked to be a bridesmaid at Petunia's wedding, and the Dursleys didn't attend the Potters' wedding at all. The sisters were now estranged, and one year after their final correspondence, Harry was brought to the Dursleys' doorstep.

Here's where we get to the weird symmetry: Let's discuss Petunia, Snape, and Harry. Harry may have been the spitting image of his father, but he had his mother's eyes, and Petunia didn't have enough experience with James to look at Harry and see his dad more than his mom. We talk a lot about how Snape treated Harry because he looked at the boy and saw James, but how about Petunia treating Harry the way she did because all she saw was Lily?

Which brings us to some uncomfortable things to consider: Petunia transferred the favoritism of her household to Harry and Dudley; is that, subconsciously perhaps, how Petunia felt she was treated growing up? If so, what does her thought process that mistreatment would "stamp the magic out" of Harry say about that? And, clearly, Petunia's got some incorrect ideas about how relevant encouragement is when it comes to natural magical ability, but would that shed light on any thoughts Petunia may have had about why the perceived favorite-child Lily ended up a witch and she didn't? All this might be a stretch, but Harry ties the Evans sisters together in a lot of ways that have nothing to do with shared blood.

Until next time, your enthusiastic historian,


1 comment:

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Wonderful thoughts. After reading the seventh book I remember finally understanding Pertunia a little bit. I can't imagine realizes your only sibling was going to go away to school without you. I know there was jealousy there, but I bet there was also a sense of loss and loneliness. I bet Petunia felt that Lily was abandoning her in some ways.