Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2- A Parabolic Journey of Loyalty, Hope, and Judgment Emily Kearney

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 continues the mythic world of J.K. Rowling with visual imagination while retaining her subtle recovery of the Bildungsroman tradition in literature. The Bildungsroman, a novel dealing with one person's formative years or spiritual education, situates the context of parables found within Harry Potter’s moral growth from adolescence to early adulthood. “Parables, paradoxes, hyperboles, and extreme commandments,” writes Paul Ricoeur, “all disorient only to reorient us. But what is reoriented in us? and in what direction? I would say that what is reoriented by these extreme sayings is less our will than imagination. Our will is our capacity to follow without hesitation that once-chosen way, to obey without resistance the once-known law. Our imagination is the power to open us to new possibilities, to discover another way of seeing, or acceding to a new rule in receiving the instruction of the exception” (Ricoeur).The film thereby preserves a parabolic tone, instructing viewers on the perils of loyalty and its relationship to the virtue of faithfulness, the tension between hope and despair, as well as the wisdom of withholding judgment prior to acquired experience of another person.

Loyalty and faith have a strong correlation between the two virtues. To have a strong vow of loyalty you must have faith not only within the person you are loyal to, but also faith in yourself. During today’s day and age, loyalty can be seen as a constant struggle, most evidently in the lives of adolescents that are trying to discover their own unique identity and their placement within society. The current fads and trends can help waver one’s own loyalty to their true self in order to fit in with peers, rather than stand out in a way they see as undesirable. A constant struggle that can be seen throughout all is “fomo”, fear of missing out, that can bend one’s will to do something or behave in a specific way. “Fomo” is fueled by the constant social media that has become the center of most adolescents’ worlds to stay on top of what society defines as normal and appropriate. For example, as time continues, younger generations can be seen to dress in more provocative ways, such as belly shirts or tighter clothing, but the question is not whether or not they appear to look good or fashionable, rather can they truly explain why they should follow these trends and do they really want to. “Fomo” creates a social anxiety, thus leaving you vulnerable to abandon the loyalty to your morals or hopes and push you to give your loyalty to another without a true understanding and knowledge. Loyalty within one’s self is the most powerful of loyalties because it can give you the strength and faith to be who you want to be, not someone else.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) can be seen to acquire many loyalties throughout the films, but during the last installment of the series it becomes evident which holds true loyalties and which holds the illusion of having attained many loyal relationships. Harry Potter created loyal relationships where he put his faith in his peers and they in return put their faith in him. On the contrary, Voldemort was only ever loyal to himself and it is within that character’s nature which can be foreshadowed by Rowling’s creation of the name “Voldemort”, which means one who flees from death (Pottermore, 2019). The loyal relationship built between Harry Potter and his peers can be seen through Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). During one of the most inspiring scenes, he gives his speech and declaration of remaining loyalty he has even in great times of despair. A rush of emotions can be experienced by the viewers, especially when it comes time to determine who will remain loyal and who will save their own skin.

David Yates, the director of the final film, created a lasting effect with his use of lighting, camera movements, setting, and props that would strongly impact the audience. The specific scene begins with a dim, ominous lighting and a long shot that reveals the distinct divide between Harry’s followers and Lord Voldemort’s. While Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) is the focal point during the opening of this scene, the audience can hear the off-screen declaration by Voldemort of Harry’s demise. Yates was able to reveal the strong impact of Harry’s death by only focusing the moment on Ginny and the others to emphasis their expressions of despair and terror. When Lord Voldemort makes the statement, “From this day forth, you put your faith in me”, the camera movement matches Voldemort’s strides toward the others creating the threatening gesture to be felt by the audience as well (Yates, 2011). The long shot during Voldemort’s threat to join his side or die, can be felt as a moment of doom when it is revealed the immense amount of people on the Dark Lord’s side versus the diminishing numbers on the opposite side. Within these few moments, so much can be felt by the audience by the creation of the mis-en-scene.

Neville Longbottom’s brave act of courage and loyalty entails the greatest parabolic element of loyalty and faith within the film when he steps forward to inspire the others. The setting of the background, the crowd of remaining wizards and rubble from Hogwarts, shows the hardships they all had previously faced from the battle the night before. Neville limps forward, dirty and bruised with a gash on his head that covers part of his face in blood which gives an impression that he is joining the Dark side. By his appearance, the audience can understand his waver in loyalty when facing death, but quickly learn that he finds an inner strength within himself to remain loyal. Yates’ installation of music that slowly builds up in volume begins with Neville’s speech that indicates a very important moment in the character’s development and leaves the audience in awe. When Neville explains that Harry and the other lives that were lost still remain in their hearts, he makes the notion that his loyalty will never lie within Voldemort and his cause. Ricoeur, in Life After Death, “tries to connect the two lines of detachment and trust (49ff) in terms of Jesus’ notion that those who lose their lives will find life. It is linked with service and the concept of kenosis/necrosis – all directed to the other “who is my life after afterlife” (50-51). “Service alone, tied to the gift of life, destiny and obedience at one time” (54),” (Toit, 2009). This statement by Ricoeur directly correlates with Neville’s loyalty to Harry because with his demise, he still held Harry’s life within his heart, filled with love and strength even greater than before to continue to fight by his moral code and carry on Harry’s memory in honor. The moment he pulls Gryffindor’s sword out of the sorting hat, is the most profound declaration of loyalty to Harry, and Neville himself, and the faith in their cause even at their most dire hour.

Loyalty given out of fear is not true loyalty and remains without faith. Voldemort experiences a corrupt loyalty by his followers and the consequences of these actions are most prominently seen when they abandon him. With the revelation of Harry Potter still being alive, the Death Eaters instantly change their loyalty and begin to escape the scene revealing their lack of faith in Voldemort’s ability to defeat “the boy who lived”. This expressive moment within the films, educates the audience on the difference between having faith within what you vow loyalty to and disastrous outcomes that follow a misdirected loyalty. Without faith in what you believe in, you can never truly be loyal to it.

Loyalty and faith are not the only parabolic elements that remain within the series’ final film, but also hope and despair can be displayed. Hope can be lost if one becomes overwhelmed with great times of sadness and feelings of defeat, but J.K. Rowling was able to show the promise of having everlasting hope and the trying moments with the loss of hope. Throughout the films, Harry Potter is a catalyst of hope and inspiration, even during great times of struggle. He is “the boy who lived”, his entire character development begins in infancy when he evades the Dark Lord’s curse, thus stimulating his downfall. Before the education and understanding of his own abilities, he was a beacon of hope for all wizards around the world. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 brings about the conclusion of Harry’s destiny and reveals moments of great hope, hope that can always overcome some of the greatest moments of despair.

Specifically, two scenes can be the utmost examples of giving inspiring hope to others. Yates was able to create a symbolic moment that could be felt by the viewers when Harry returns igniting a sensation of hope and strength among all. Harry’s return to Hogwarts begins with a long shot revealing the room filled with students portraying the expansive change in living conditions from the previous films. This scene is a shade of gray with dark shadows lingering about the room that gives off a rather depressing view, which correlates to the mood of most students. When Neville reveals to his friends that he brought them a surprise, there is little movement or reaction received, but the moment the surprise is revealed a great overturn is shown. Yates’ use of the film’s theme song when Harry reveals himself to his friends and fellow classmates illustrates a great mood shift to overwhelming excitement. Within this scene, Harry gave them hope that their devastating time at the new order at Hogwarts had come to an end.

Rowling’s second demonstration of hope follows Neville’s speech, in the scene of Harry’s reported demise by Lord Voldemort. An overwhelming emotion of hope not only washes over those still fighting for Lord Voldemort’s defeat, but is also immensely felt by the audience when Harry once more faces his enemy. The movement of the camera zooming into Voldemort’s face draws the viewer’s attention to the expression that shows disbelief and defeat when Harry Potter jumps out to reveal he lives, once again. The cut back to Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) emphasizes the look of awe and hope based on their expressions and Hermione’s laugh related to the amazement that her friend had overcome all odds. The use of special effects to create the magic and spells thrown between Potter and Voldemort, embellished the scene further by allowing Harry to lead by example through facing his fears, even when it seems impossible and extremely dangerous. As a result, an instant wave of hope goes through those remaining at Hogwarts replacing their feelings of despair and creates a spark to draw back their strength to continue the fight against the Dark Lord and his followers.

Harry not only lead by example to give others hope, but he also allowed moments of self-sacrifice to provide the opportunity for a better world and future for them. Voldemort could never be a beacon of hope because he would not take on the hardships of others, rather he put his burdens onto others for selfish outcomes. J.K. Rowling created various terms within her series, but the understanding of one specific term sheds some light onto Voldemort’s character even deeper than what the eye can visualize in the films. Horcruxes were the main elements found to be in the last book and the last two films of the Harry Potter Series. A Horcrux was any object that Voldemort stored a part of his soul in so he could never truly die, but in order to split his own soul he had to take the life of another (Goldman & Kimsey, n.d.). “Crux” is the Latin term for “cross” and in this context, you learn the consequences of carrying the cross for yourself and forcing others to do so. Voldemort did not carry a cross for his people, rather he expected them to carry his burdens so he could be immortal. Harry carried on many burdens for the benefit of others, which is precisely why he represents the most immense symbol of hope.

Loyalty and hope can come and go, but the most evident issue within today’s society is the role of judgement. Judgement is easy to pass onto others, especially when we make those determinations of one’s character based off what the naked eye sees. Although, judgement is not meant to be easy, it should require some effort and time to determine the true nature and characteristics of one’s identity. To prematurely judge someone or something can leave an everlasting effect on your opinion and therefore cloud your own judgement. Harry Potter was at fault for prematurely judging Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and in return never trusting the man who proved to be much more than he gave him credit for.

Snape’s memories are the most powerful examples of premature judgment and development of one’s characteristics that could only be discovered with time and effort. Harry and Snape had a very negative relationship, and as result Harry never truly trusted Snape throughout all installations of the series but this was because of a judgement in Snape’s character that Harry made long before their final encounter. The audience stands behind Harry’s judgment because the films, including the book series, are portrayed through Harry’s point of view. As a result, the audience has the same knowledge as Harry, so when Snape mistreats Potter and appears to be involved in suspicious behaviors the audience correlates the same feelings as the protagonist.

The first indication of misjudgment in relation to Snape is when Harry walks in on the scene where Snape is dying. Snape’s character was designed to give off a cold, unapproachable demeanor by his dark, long hair matched with his light complexion. His facial features emphasize his image to be unwelcoming with his dark eyes and expressions of hatred whenever Harry is in his line of sight, but within the moment of his death a wash of emotion comes over his face that is a new side of the character completely. With the emotional death and Snape’s plea for Harry to take his tears, which contain his memories, to the Pensieve and evade his privacy is an extreme turn of behavior for the character. As a final word, J.K. Rowling left a lasting feeling of doubt about previous convictions regarding Severus when he says to Harry, “You have your mother’s eyes” (Yates, 2011).

The use of a flashback to discover Snape’s true characteristics and motives is one of the most creative ways to reveal the plot twist not only to the audience, but as means of revelation to Harry as well. Yates’ element of using special effects to have the Pensieve float in Dumbledore’s office, and the cameras movement in following the Pensieve to the center of the room, sets it up to be a main point of the entire film. The lighting is extremely dark, matching the feelings of doubt and loss Harry and the viewer’s feel in relation to his death, but it is still unsure why you feel such sorrow for Snape when you believed him to be one of the greatest enemies for years prior. The use of silence leading up to the moment Harry dives into Snape’s memories builds up suspense and leaves the feeling of something powerful to come.

The shot of Harry putting his head into the Pensieve continues a downward movement, allowing the audience to take on Harry’s own point of view and experience this moment alongside him. A moment of confusion approaches when you discover a younger version of Lily and Snape and their development of a friendship that continued into their time at Hogwarts. An understanding of Snape’s envy related to James Potter is revealed when the memories show Lily and James’ first encounter. He was separated from her, the girl he grew deeply fond of and, in his eyes, replaced by another.

Snape’s emotional plea to Dumbledore, to hide the Potters to protect Lily Potter from the Dark Lord, is a huge controversy to previous convictions about the character. The voice over of Dumbledore stating, “I could never reveal the best of you Severus, when you risk your life every day to protect the boy”, occurs when the flashback of the first appearance of Snape in the film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is shown (Yates, 2011). A proper understanding of the look on Severus’ face when he first looks at Potter is understood to be not loathing and disgust, but rather a moment of shock by how much Harry Potter resembles his mother and father. Continuing into his memories, a recap of strenuous moments between Snape and Harry are revised and the viewers can understand that it wasn’t just Snape’s judgment against his father that caused his treatment of Harry to be less desirable but his struggle with how much he looks like Lily, the woman he loved, that sparks that intense emotion.

Through these few minutes that entail Snape’s memories it is revealed that all his dark actions and moments of mistreatment had a more powerful motive behind them than Snape being simply an evil wizard. His behavior was all premeditated, including his role in Dumbledore’s death which was the final moment of judgment in Snape’s character. You learn that all that he had done was so he could be closer to Voldemort, not because he believed in the Dark Lord’s cause but because he believed in Harry Potter and vowed to protect him any way he could. Severus Snape was the ultimate double spy and if that revelation was not enough, you learn so much more and sympathize with him.

The final moments of this flashback showcase the most emotional scenes Severus Snape had ever been involved with, expressions of true love. The tilt of the camera when Snape falls to the floor in an overwhelming moment of despair upon discovering Lily’s body can reflect the character’s world becoming unstable. The inclusion of the sound of thunder with the dark lighting in the scene and moments of flash symbolizing lightning can be a symbol of the emotional storm Snape is feeling with her death. A completely new judgment of Snape is made when he responds to Dumbledore’s question of love for Harry as “always” being present (Yates, 2011). Once the memories are complete, Harry takes a moment to collect himself and the close up of the camera on his face allows the focus on his expression of overwhelming sorrow and shock with the discovery of Severus’ true character.

The relationship between Harry and Snape could not better reflect the consequences of misjudgment and the revelation of how wrong one can be if they rely solely on their first impression of someone. Harry never truly experienced Severus the way Dumbledore, or even his mother, had so in return he made the error in defining Snape as his enemy. Looking back on previous encounters with Snape, Harry realizes that Snape was not trying to harm him, rather he was the only man to greatly risk his life every day to protect him. While Harry was not entirely at fault for misjudging Severus, the professor’s motives were intentionally kept a secret, the parabolic tone is maintained within Harry’s acquired knowledge of Severus throughout his life experiences.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 reflects a Bildungsroman tradition by including parabolic elements within the main character’s moral development throughout his formative years. While we may have been disoriented through many of these scenes, Yates was able to reorient us to leave a lasting effect in the final installation of the Harry Potter Series, thus creating an immortal reference of these parabolic foundations. Within today’s society it is very easy to get lost in what is seen to be the current trend, to lose hope based on the immense amount of discouraging reports, and put our judgment onto those around us without the time and effort to investigate the matter, but the films permit us to learn from the characters’ own experiences. As Dumbledore once said, “We must choose between what is right, and what is easy” (Newell, 2005)


Goldman, L., & Kimsey, J. (Eds.). (n.d.). The Harry Potter Lexicon. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.hp-lexicon.org/thing/horcrux/

Newell, M. (Director). (2005). Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [Motion Picture].

Paul Ricoeur ‘The Logic of Jesus, the Logic of God’ in Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination (281).

Pottermore. (2019, June 17). Wizarding World. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.wizardingworld.com/features/the-different-meanings-behind-lord-voldemorts-many-names

Toit, C. d. (2009, October 9). Metanexus. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.metanexus.net/review-living-death-paul-ricoeur-chicago-university-chicago-press-2009-132-pp-2250/

Yates, D. (Director). (2011). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 [Motion Picture].

The essay fulfills the requirements set for the Final Project for Parables in Pop Culture (T/RS 228) at The University of Scranton, under the direction of Dr. Cyrus P. Olsen III, for spring semester 2020, under the conditions of COVID-19 lockdown.

Created By
Emily Kearney