Monday, December 22, 2014

Not Upset: The Mirror of Erised

(Just a reminder, but if you have ten minutes then I would give you resounding thanks for filling out a nine-question survey to help me make Sometimes I'm a Story better next year. RESOUNDING THANKS TO THOSE FOLKS WHO HAVE ALREADY DONE SO—YOU ARE AWESOME!)

Welcome to week three of my Harry Potter self-examination tangent! We’ve talked about the Patronus spell and our favorite potion, Amortentia. Ready for more?

3. What would I see in the Mirror of Erised?

I feel like this is both the easiest and the hardest question to answer because it deals with two separate spheres: primary desires and substrate desires. The current situation versus the dream, so to speak.

Look at Harry and Ron, when they first discover the mirror:

Harry sees himself with his parents, and in the book he actually sees his entire family. People who look like him and love him. And so while Harry wants other stuff—success in school, Quidditch victories, snacks—his driving desire is for his parents; that is, to receive the love, belonging, and nurturing he’s never received before.

Later on, this is a reason he appreciates Mrs. Weasley, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin so much: they parent him. This is also part of the reason why Harry defends Hogwarts: Hogwarts has as much home and family as he’s ever had, and he never wants to lose that again. (Also, Voldemort needed to be dead.)

Ron, on the other hand, sees himself as a Quidditch lord, school official, and bearer of many awards. This may seem like he wants the fame and glory of his brothers, but I think what he really desires is a little more humble: he wants to matter. He wants to be recognized. Ron lives in the shadow of his brothers, and deep down, he wants to be their equal.

I think this contributes, a little, to when Ron leaves Harry and Hermione during Deathly Hallows—yes, he’s overwhelmed, but Harry’s the hero and Hermione’s the genius, making him the overshadowed nobody again. I’d imagine that during his absence, he had time to realize that he wants more to uphold his loyalty to his friends than seek his own glory: his desire eventually changes.

These desires Harry and Ron have define their behavior and values; they’re substrate desires—things you want but aren’t necessarily life-and-death matters. Primary desires are closer to that mark.

When Harry faces Voldemort in the first book, his primary desire is to keep Voldemort away from the immortality rock—and the mirror shows him with the stone in his pocket, because obtaining the stone will satisfy that condition. This is not a desire that ever returns, as the stone is destroyed, but very important in the moment it occurred.

Wanting to get a snack, or wanting to not get shot by bank robbers, or wanting to not get hit by a car can be very powerful desires in the moment that such a thing becomes a problem—but unless we have a phobia, it’s unlikely that these things are an issue as soon as the situation ends. Our desires, again, are flexible to the situation.

Flickr Credit: Wendy

For me? Primarily, I’d really like to figure out how I’m going to edit my current WIP. I’ve worked on it so long that I’m almost immune to seeing the suckiness, and at the moment it feels like a big, impossible blob in my life. I want the tools and the knowhow to find the suck, which probably extends into a greater desire for perfection, but the concept of the draft is temporary, so that’s that.

In the long term, though we don’t always recognize our substrate desires, I’ll guess freedom. I keep a diary, and among my concerns as I mature is getting stuck in a life I would hate to live. That might mean a crappy job, or debt, or an awful reputation: things could really pin me down. Living in freedom, for me, means finding a future life I’ll enjoy without having to fight to keep it. I’ll have bad, life-sucks, destroy-the-world days, of course. But I’d like a place that matters and the ability to wake up without the shadow of past mistakes hanging over me. It’s one reason I know I’m sometimes hesitant to make decisions about my future, and another as to why the ideas of corporations and colleges bother me.

So I’ll have to work on that.

Anyway, I think for the mirror (though this goes for all the questions, now that I think about it) it’s important to remember that our desires can change, even as we change. Our primary concerns get taken care of, and sometimes our characters change as we enter different stages of our lives. Even if you don’t know what the mirror would show you now, there’s every chance that as you mature (even you eighty-year-olds), your desires and your ability to recognize them will change as well.

But, at least for me, that’s no bad thing.

Do you know what you’d see in the Mirror of Erised? Care to share?


  1. Arg I know what you mean about editing- I don't really want to change anything with my first draft, but I'm making myself be ruthless and question every word.

    As I've grown up, my fear has been the same! I've changed my school subject choices for next year from my original choices because I'm worried that I will get to the end of school at not be happy with what I'm going to spend my life doing. I'm hesitant to make these choices all the time.

    I'm still not sure, because I wonder if I'm taking the subjects I am because it's what people have told me I should do.

    I think if I looked into the mirror I would see something like Ron- going to school showed me that there are many people much smarter than me, who will go on to do bigger things than me, including my own sister.

    1. Editing sucks, eh? For me, I really want to make changes, I just don't know what to change. I feel like it's easy to edit other people's stuff, and mine is incredibly different for some psychological reason. Blah.

      *nods* Absolutely—I especially dislike that what inspires me may not end up being what feeds me and so making these kinds of decisions can be stressful and scary. Blah. :(

      And I definitely understand the desire to matter, like Ron. My sister's smarter than me too, of course (she's the math/science chick) but I think what we have to realize is that sometimes we're putting meaning in things that don't matter—and ultimately what will satisfy us are things that may not be big, but are significant nonetheless.

    2. I struggled with that with my first novel, and in the end I've decided to just leave it as a first draft and not touch it. With my second, I've somehow overcome this barrier in my mind. Maybe I'm just really determined to do it. I don't know.

      When I finish the first draft, I sit back and I'm like 'look at my master piece.' and in my head I'm like 'Wow this makes no sense what am I even writing?' xD

      I tend to use both sides of my brain evenly, but Science is my best subject, which I thought would be quite important to my family, but they are more interested in math, which my sister understands easily. So maybe it springs from there slightly :)

    3. I can't remember what novel this is, but I've certainly had to trunk manuscripts before and that's fine with me. But I'm sure we can manage, if we give ourselves a little time. :)

      XD I know that feeling very well. Hopefully the more drafts we go through the more sense we end up making.

      Ah, I can see that. But the thing is, math and science are so intertwined that I'm sure there's room for your passions in there too! I can get where it would come from, though. I guess it just depends on whether you want to value the calculation or the application, eh?

  2. Wow, this is an awesome analysis of Harry. Especially loved "Also, Voldemort needed to be dead." As for editing the WIP, I knowwwww. Totally have that feeling too.

    I think I'd see myself as a scientist/author, but I really don't know - I'm still working out my own dreams.

    1. I didn't really think of it as an analysis, but I suppose you're right. Glad you liked it. :) Also, does anyone deny that Voldemort needed to be dead? NO. BECAUSE VOLDEMORT NEEDED TO BE DEAD. As to the editing: yup. Blah.

      I can see both of those things for you, just from looking at your blog (which, admittedly, doesn't share the whole story). But I think even if we're still ironing out our dreams, even actively seeking them out can prove a valuable lesson. :)


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