Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Identity

By J.K. Rowling

Identity

People stared shamelessly as he approached. They even pressed their faces against the windows of their compartments to get a look at him. He had expected an upswing in the amount of gaping and gawping he would have to endure this term after all the "Chosen One" rumors in the Daily Prophet, but he did not enjoy the sensation of standing in a very bright spotlight. (7.76)

How in the world is Harry not affected by his own fame and popularity? It takes a special and steadfast person to be able to stay true to oneself in the face of such public awe and curiosity. Harry remains a private person, even though he has the opportunity to be public about things. How has he changed since he learned about the prophecy?

It was as Harry suspected. Everyone here seemed to have been invited because they were connected to somebody well-known or influential – everyone except Ginny. (7.160)

To Slughorn, identity is all about who you know and who you are. He's a bit superficial in that way and likes to be around "greatness." Why is Ginny Weasley invited to his parties?

[…] he could not press the point, because so many people were trying to listen in to his conversation, not to mention staring at him and whispering behind their hands. (9.4)

Harry really can't escape his nosy, curious classmates. He has to take shortcuts at Hogwarts in order to avoid people gaping at him and asking him all kinds of questions. Can you think of any other famous people or people in power who have had to contend with the pitfalls of fame? It must be frustrating having to work so hard for a bit of privacy.

"Not all wizards can do this, of course; it is a question of concentration and mind power which some" – his gaze lingered maliciously on Harry once more – "lack." (9.64)

Oh, Snape. You are so good at hating Harry Potter. Did you get a Ph.D. in that subject? Last time we checked, Harry definitely has concentration and mind power. If only Snape knew what kinds of defense against the Dark Arts Harry had single-handedly taught his cronies last year, he'd be eating his words.

"Well, I have decided that it is time, now that you know what prompted Lord Voldemort to try and kill you fifteen years ago, for you to be given certain information." (10.26)

Why is now a good and appropriate time for Dumbledore to teach Harry about Voldemort? What has Harry learned in the past that has made him ready for this next lesson? Do you think anybody else in the world knows Voldemort as well as Dumbledore? It's almost as though Dumbledore is arming and outfitting Harry with the tools and information necessary to go into battle: he's teaching Harry about his enemy.

"So!" said Gaunt triumphantly, as though he had just proved a complicated point beyond all possible dispute. "Don't you go talking to us as if we're dirt on your shoes! Generations of purebloods, wizards all – more than you can say, I don't doubt!" (10.125)

More often than not, wizards and witches in the world of Harry Potter build their identity around who their family is, whether they are a pureblood, a half-blood, or Muggle-born. Why is lineage important? Why is pureblood ancestry valued? In one of the few examples we have of a pureblood family, we find abuse, maliciousness, and hatred. What does this tell us about family lineage and tradition?

Ron was not the only one to be excited at the prospect of Apparition. All that day there was much talk about the forthcoming lessons; a great deal of store set by being able to vanish and reappear at will. (17.66)

Just like learning how to ride a bike, learning how to swim, or learning how to drive are big cornerstones of growing up for us, learning how to Apparate is a huge rite of passage for the students in Harry's year. Apparition implies greater mobility and freedom, and it signals the beginning of adulthood.

"As he moved up the school, he gathered about him a group of dedicated friends; I call them that, for want of a better term, although as I have already indicated, Riddle undoubtedly felt no affection for any of them. This group had a kind of dark glamour within the castle." (18.116)

It's interesting that when Voldemort was first building his identity at Hogwarts, he found it necessary to give the impression that he had friends. He recognized that having alliances was important to his success, even though, by nature, he would rather operate completely alone. He may have never had a true friend in his life, but he does know that he can only be truly successful with the help of those willing to fight for him.

It took Harry only five minutes to realize that his reputation as the best potion-maker in the class was crashing around his ears. (17.28)

Do you agree with Harry's use of the Half-Blood Prince's notes and scribblings? How much of Harry's interest in this textbook lies in the fact that he is able to coast through potions? How much has to do with the fact that he is arming himself with valuable information? If you were to interview a random third year student at Hogwarts and to ask her who Harry Potter is, what would she tell you?

"I know what you are known as," said Dumbledore, smiling pleasantly. "But to me, I'm afraid, you will always be Tom Riddle. It is one of the irritating things about old teachers. I am afraid that they never quite forget their charges' youthful beginnings." (20.157)

What's in a name? Truckloads. Names may be superficial things we attach to ourselves, but they play a huge role in forming our identities. One of the first things we learn about people are their names, and names lead to a whole list of assumptions about where a person is from and what the person is like. Voldemort's rejection of his father's name reveals his desire to cut himself off completely from his family, and reveals his desire to be super scary.

We don't know about you, but we find the name "Voldemort" to be pretty chill-inducing. It has something to do with that "vol" sound – it makes your mouth get all small, round, and kind of like you are about to say something sinister. "Vol" means flight in French. Plus v's are pretty rare – not many names begin with the letter "v" (we can think of Virginia, Vernon, Velma, Veronica, Violet, Voltron, Victor). The "de" in between ensures that this name has three syllables, because one must go big or go home. "De" means "of" or "from" in French. And then, of course, there's the "mort" which means "death" in French. Put them together, and Voldemort has assembled a name for himself that reveals his greatest goal: "flight from death." Obvious much, Voldy?

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...