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Harry Potter's Invitation to the World

by Vickie Ewell


Chapter 5 - The First Letter of Invitation
(HP Chapter 3)

The man-made world that surrounded Harry was dark, depressing, and hopeless. Since uncle Vernon blamed the snake’s escape on him, Harry had been locked up inside the cupboard for weeks. When he finally got out, he had to cleverly avoid Dudley and gang. Generally, that meant staying away from the house as much as possible.

Before we enter the Path of Liberation that is what many of us do. We avoid the discomforts of life as much as possible, but we also stay away from people we don’t get along with or don’t want to associate with anymore – people like the Dursleys who are self-centered and abusive.

Harry had one silver lining in his life: He was going to go to a public secondary school come fall, and Dudley was going to tread in his father’s footsteps by going to his father’s old private school. While that meant a new school uniform for Dudley, which he proudly showed off one morning, Aunt Petunia decided to try dying some of Dudley’s old uniforms gray for Harry. Although Petunia told Harry he would look like all of the other kids when she was finished, Harry didn’t believe her, but decided it was best not to argue.

Jo spends a lot of time showing us how Harry’s mechanical conditioning came to be. He was a product of the Dursley’s conditioning and interactions, the same as we are a product of our parents’ conditioning. Although fiction required the Dursleys to be presented in an exaggerated form, their problems and issues are not so foreign as to be unrecognizable.

The love, gifts, and preferential treatment they gave Dudley over Harry didn’t produce a loving, caring child. Dudley was a spoiled bully who had learned mom’s and dad’s boundaries very well. He knew exactly how to punch their buttons to get what he wanted.

Understanding our own carnal nature and vanities, our mechanical programming, is important. That’s why Jo continues to show us that programming. When we come to understand and accept ourselves as being gray, a combination of pure and impure forces, we come to understand and accept others as they are. Knowledge about ourselves helps us to accept and love others because others are not so different from us. We have all been born into the same type of slavery. We all react mechanically, even though the buttons themselves may differ.

The smell coming from the bucket in the kitchen was pretty rancid. Our impurity and the impurity within those around us become more noticeable when we start to observe ourselves, but the mail arrived and diverted everyone’s attention away from the smell.

There was a small bicker between Dudley and Harry over who should get the mail. That’s our first clue that Harry wasn’t as passive as his perspective has led us to believe. We have seen the personal rules and regulations Harry had set up for his self, but he was not a wimp as the Harry Potter movies initially portrayed him. Today, something had changed, though. Harry received a letter addressed to Mr. H. Potter who lived in the cupboard under the stairs.

Harry was surprised. He had no friends or relatives, and didn’t check books out of the library. He had no clue who would be writing to him. In addition, the letter had no stamp, so it didn’t go through the Post Office. It had a purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms: a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake surrounding a large capital H.

While Mr. Dursley was busy opening his mail, Harry broke the seal on the envelope. He pulled the letter out and was just about to unfold it when Vernon snatched the letter out of his hands and prevented both Dudley and Harry from getting their hands on it. When they saw it, he and Petunia went into shock.

Harry was furious, and yelled: “I WANT MY LETTER!”

Vernon reacted by grabbing both boys and throwing them into the hallway, slamming the kitchen door behind them. Dudley was good at manipulating mom and dad, but their fear of the Wizarding World had taken over their fear of upsetting their son. Dudley began to go through his own crisis because his tricks no longer worked. He was confused as to why, and will soon begin making new rules of conduct for his self – for better or worse.

Aunt Petunia spoke the voice of reason: “Look at the address – how could they possibly know where he sleeps?” She suggested they write back and tell Dumbledore they don’t want Harry going to Hogwarts, but Vernon decided they were going to just ignore the invitation.

Petunia tried to argue on the side of reason, yet again, but Vernon was emphatic: “Petunia! Didn’t we swear when we took him in we’d stamp out that dangerous nonsense!”

Mr. Dursley preferred to handle problems by ignoring them and hoping they would go away on their own, but he didn’t try to talk to Harry because the way the letter was addressed scared him. He was as frightened of Dumbledore knowing somehow that they were keeping Harry under the stairs as Petunia was.

Harry was livid though. He wanted his letter. Vernon told him it was a mistake. He burned the letter, but that only made Harry more angry. I think Harry instinctively knew that letter represented freedom, somehow, or at least contact with the outside world – an unknown relative perhaps. “It was NOT a mistake,” Harry argued, “it had my cupboard on it.”

Since that response slammed right into Vernon’s fear, he yelled: “SILENCE!” Vernon’s reply caused a couple of spiders to fall from the ceiling. Remaining silent, not asking questions, and rarely speaking his mind were a few rules Harry had set up for himself way back in Chapter 1, and the falling spiders represented the rules we make for ourselves in order to cope with the fallen world, as well as the suggestions we receive.

Mr. Dursley took a moment to regain control over his self, and then explained to Harry that Harry was moving into Dudley’s second bedroom. When Harry asked why he had to move, Vernon mirrored Harry’s personal rule back to him: “Don’t ask questions!”

Everything Harry owned was moved into the upstairs bedroom in a single trip. He was poor of earthly possessions, but not because the Dursleys couldn’t afford to be generous. Almost everything in Dudley’s second bedroom was broken, including some of the birthday presents Dudley had received only a month before. We all know that physical possessions are not eternal. They eventually break. But often, we cling to those broken possessions and the rules that no longer work for us. We refuse to discard them.

As Harry looked around the room, the broken objects reminded him of various aspects of Dudley’s personality, what he’d gone through living with the Dursleys, but they also caused him to take an internal look at himself. Yesterday, he felt like any other neglected 10-year old would feel like. He yearned for tasty food and material possessions. He would have given anything to move into this bedroom even with its broken toys, and he would have been grateful for them.

But he didn’t feel that way anymore. As he stretched himself out on the bed, he came to realize that there were more important things in life than a bedroom full of toys and a tummy full of food. He had suddenly learned that he’d rather live in a tiny cupboard with that letter, and be physically hungry, than be in Dudley’s second bedroom without it.