Character Essay: Body, Mind and Spirit
Hi guys! I recently read a book called “Looking for God in Harry Potter,” which is an excellent book about the symbolism in the Potterverse, and a must-read for fans who are also Christians.
I wanted to see if I could start a discussion about an aspect of the book which might help some of you with your writing. You may have noticed that Harry, Ron and Hermione aren’t the only trio in the books, and you may have noticed some parallels between Harry’s gang and the Mauraders. I’m going to present to you an explanation for that which is a common literary device used in English-language literature.
The basic concept is that there are three things that make up a whole person: Spirit, Mind and Body. Each has a different role, but they are all necessary to make a happy, functional whole. In Harry Potter and other works of literature, these aspects are represented by characters. I’ll give you some examples:
Spirit – In this case, Spirit stands for heart or courage. Spirit characters include Harry, James Potter, Gryffindor, and Dumbledore. Outside the Potterverse, another Spirit character you might be familiar with is Luke Skywalker. The natural role of the Spirit is as the leader, but he is not complete without the other two – look how miserable Harry was without Ron in GoF, and what a terrible mistake he made in OotP when he didn’t listen to Hermione.
Mind – Mind characters are pretty easy to spot. Hermione, Lupin, Ravenclaw, and Snape are Mind characters in the Potterverse. To return to my previous non-Potter example, Princess Leia is a Mind character. Mind characters are very smart and capable of things like compassion (S.P.E.W.), but they struggle with Faith (Hermione can’t seem to get along with Luna, who represents Faith in the series, and in OotP, Lupin defends Snape at Christmas but completely reverses his position at the end of the story) or Loyalty (It’s no coincidence that Dumbledore’s Army gets ratted out by a Ravenclaw).
Body – In this case, Body means desire or passion. Body characters are good at loyalty and faith but bad at self-discipline. Body characters include Ron, Sirius, Hufflepuff and McGonagall. Han Solo is the Body character in Star Wars. Some people struggle to understand Ron’s role in the books, so this is how you have to look at it: as much as Harry struggles with self-doubt, it's Ron who always believes in him. Hagrid is another body character, and he practically lives on faith. But he occasionally slips up and tells a secret he wasn't supposed to, because he struggles with self-discipline.
The way to use this analysis in your writing is to make sure you cover all three aspects when you’re putting together your cast of characters. I recently read a story about Remus, Sirius and Severus being forced to work together. At the end I was left with the feeling that they weren’t going to get very far, not because they didn’t get along – they did come to terms by the end of the story – but because they were two Mind characters and a Body, but no Spirit. They didn’t have a leader. That doesn’t mean you can’t base a story on those three characters, but you need to have one of them – probably either Remus or Severus – grow into a Spirit character.
Now, for discussion: Two of the trios I mentioned above actually have fourth members: Wormtail and Slytherin. What do you think they represent? Do Harry, Ron and Hermione have a fourth cohort who falls into this category?
It's interesting to look at McGonagall and Snape in these terms. I believe McGonagall is a reformed Body character. In other words, she has more or less mastered her passions and become a disciplined person (but you can tell she's a Body because sometimes her passions strain to get loose, as in the scenes with Umbridge). Does that suggest that Snape has mastered his lack of faith? Maybe "Why does Dumbledore believe in him?" is the wrong question; maybe we should ask, "What does Snape believe in?"
What do you guys think?