Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)

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Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)

Wild About Harry

When you have a pile of Bertie Bott's beans you pick and choose which ones you want, depending on your mood. Some days you might feel like sampling peach or green apple. Other days, you're more in the mood for peanut butter and grape. And you'll rarely crave vomit, or worse, buttered popcorn.

Adapting a book into a movie is like eating jelly beans. You can't chow down on 'em all, or you'll feel ill and bloated: you have to pick and choose what parts of each character you want to portray on screen. So what aspects of Harry's book personality shine through?

Hmm. Maybe "shine through" isn't the best turn of phrase. Because Cuarón focuses on the darkest parts of Harry's personality and life experience. At the Dursley house, we see Harry's capacity for revenge when he inflates Aunt Marge up to giant size. (Not that she doesn't deserve it.)

We're also subtly reminded about everything Harry has been through before he even reaches the age of thirteen. When beastly Aunt Marge asks Harry if they "use a cane" at the boarding school he allegedly attends, he reflects on how much hurt he's been dealt:

HARRY: Yeah. I've been beaten loads of times.

Canes? Canes?! Harry has 99% problems, and a cane ain't one. Harry's had to face a basilisk, a three-headed dog, and a man with a face on the back of his head. A cane wouldn't even faze him.

Harry Plotter

Once he gets to Hogwarts (and away from that aggro train dementor), Harry's primary conflict in the movie is more of an internal one. He has to learn to face his fears. And one of his biggest fears is that of his own godfather, escaped convict Sirius Black.

A normal person would be scared if a psychopath broke out of jail for the sole purpose in killing them. But, as we've established, Harry Potter isn't a normal person. If Harry was a normal person he would say things like:

HARRY: Mr. Weasley, why would I go looking for someone who wants to kill me?

…and mean it. Harry Potter? You better believe he wants to go looking for Mr. Black.

Harry wants to meet Sirius Black…so he can kill him. Remember how we alluded to Harry's capacity for revenge?

But let's check out Harry's motives for a quick second. What drives Harry to want to kill? The fact that he believes Sirius Black to be responsible for the deaths of his parents. Harry's identity is still super-wrapped up in his parents' lives (recall how his happiest memory is of his smiling mom and pops).

Not only that, but Sirius' sudden appearance is like a knife in the heart for poor ol' (or rather young: dude is only thirteen) Harry—now that Hogwarts is back in Black, Harry can't forget for even a moment that his parents were murdered.

The Magic of Belief

Of course Harry learns that Sirius didn't kill his parents, and you know there's a part of him disappointed that he can't get revenge, if only for a second.

But this also proves to be a moment for a Life Lesson. Harry learns that Peter Pettigrew is the actual culprit…but instead of killing him, Harry decides to do the right thing and turn him over to the Dementors.

Of course, this decision allows Pettigrew to escape. (No one said life was fair.) So the Boy Who Lived is left wondering which is worse: revenge or mercy. It's a bit of an existential pickle…and one that Harry's going to have to muddle through in the next few films.

But it's not all gloom n' doom for Harry—it's only approximately 96% gloom n' doom. After his encounters with Dementors, a werewolf, and an Animagus, Harry gains a godfather named Sirius (and the world gained an additional Harry Potter character crush).

But he also earns something more important: self-confidence.

In the first two HP films, we see that Harry's more than a little haunted by his parents: he is, in fact, overshadowed by them even after their death. Harry's constantly told that he is like his father, and as a result he starts to wonder if he's special at all in his own right. But in the encounter at the lake, Harry proves that he can rely on himself to be his own savior.

He thinks his father is the person who conjured the massive Patronus and scared the Dementors away, but it's actually Harry who Patronuses the snot out of those raggedy old ghouls.

HARRY: I knew I could do it this time because, well, I had already done it. Does that make sense?

Time travel wise, this doesn't make a lick of sense. But it does show us the cyclical nature of self-confidence. By believing in himself, Harry is able to accomplish something great. And by saving Sirius, Harry believes in himself even more.

And although Harry will always miss his parents, he now realizes he can be the source of his own salvation.

Yep, our Harry's definitely wise beyond his years.

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