Harry Potter

Harry Potter

By: Kristen Marsillo


Harry James Potter is the main character in the popular book series, Harry Potter. Harry was born on July 31, 1980 in the village of Godric’s Hollow to James Potter, a pureblood wizard, and his muggleborn wife, Lily Potter. Harry experienced a very loving and nurturing family environment until about one year of age when he witnessed his parents’ murders at the hands of the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort. Parentless, the infant Harry was sent to live in the home of his mother’s muggle sister, Petunia Dursley, and her muggle husband, Vernon Dursley, where he was raised alongside their son, Dudley. Harry often suffered emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of his aunt and uncle, their hatred of him stemming from both Petunia’s hatred of her sister, and their disgust and fear of his destiny as a wizard. He was talked down to and made to feel as if he was worthless, underfed, and compared negatively to his cousin Dudley. The Dursley’s ultimate goal was to repress Harry’s magical tendencies so that he would grow up to be “normal” like them.

At age eleven he experienced a turning point in his life when he received an invitation to study magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts, Harry found the loving home he had been denied during his childhood, befriending his two closest friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, and also creating lasting bonds with the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, the gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, and various others. He also made enemies, developing antagonistic relationships with both his fellow classmate, Draco Malfoy, and his potions professor, Severus Snape. During his six years at Hogwarts, Harry experienced numerous dangerous situations in which he came face to face with either Voldemort or his followers, the Death Eaters. During his first year, Harry successfully destroyed the Sorcerer’s Stone before Voldemort could obtain and use it, and during his fourth year he witnessed the rebirth of Voldemort, the event that would trigger the beginning of the Second Wizarding War. During his fifth and sixth years Harry learned increasingly more about Voldemort and the man he had once been, Tom Riddle, and also more about the connection that tied their fates together. He learned of the prophecy that had been told about himself and Voldemort, of Voldemort’s quest for immortality, and of the horcruxes that had kept Voldemort alive throughout his years of exile. Instead of returning for his seventh and last year at Hogwarts, Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, traveled across the country plotting Voldemort’s demise, eventually destroying him and bringing peace to the Wizarding world.

Harry is currently head of the auror department of the Ministry of Magic. He is married to Ginny Weasley, sister of Ron Weasley, and they have three children: James, Albus, and Lily.

Biological Perspective
Sociobiology and Evolutionary personality
When analyzing personality from a socio-biological perspective, emphasis is placed on the evolution of certain behaviors and why those particular behaviors have been passed down from generation to generation. It has been concluded that those behaviors that continue to be passed on have proven to be advantageous in the survival of a species. One concept that is studied under this perspective is the Cinderella Effect, which states that parents are more likely to abuse and mistreat stepchildren rather than their own biological children. This tendency stems from the idea of natural selection, which proposes that parents are naturally inclined to give preference to biological children because it is those children who will ensure the survival of the gene pool. Although Harry is biologically related to the Dursley’s through his mother, his aunt and uncle still clearly favored their full biological child Dudley over Harry. The Dursley’s were intent on suppressing Harry’s “freak” magical genes and passing on their own “normal” genes, and in order to do this they created a hostile home environment full of blatant favoritism, neglect, and emotional abuse, meant to weaken Harry and break down his resolve so he would have less of a chance of surviving and passing those genes on. This favoritism and abuse manifested itself in the way Petunia and Vernon directed their attention almost exclusively on Dudley, while either completely ignoring Harry or only communicating with him in order to express their distaste at his temperament, appearance, and family. For most of his childhood Harry wasn’t even allowed the privilege of having an actual bedroom, instead, being forced to sleep in a broom cupboard under the stairs. When Harry is allowed to move into an actual bedroom he is given the smallest one in the house with only the barest essentials such as a lamp, a bed table, and a bed. He is often neglected and underfed, the Dursley’s even going so far as to lock Harry in his bedroom for days, giving him only minimal portions of food, and only allowing him out to use the bathroom.

One would think that with all the mistreatment Harry was forced to endure during his childhood that he would have grown up to be a troubled and maladjusted individual, but throughout the books Harry consistently shows his ability to successfully navigate the world and relate to others. He doesn’t exhibit any signs of mental illness, doesn’t partake in deviant behavior, and is able to form deep and lasting relationships. Harry’s resilience in the face of his hardships shows just how crucial the first few months of life are for successful development. One theory that focuses on this concept is attachment theory, which describes the bond that develops between a mother and her infant shortly after birth. The nature of this bond has been shown to predict the likelihood of an individual surviving to adulthood, and the success that that individual experiences throughout life. In his first year of life Harry experienced a loving and nurturing home environment where he most likely formed a secure attachment with his mother. This secure attachment means that Harry’s mother showed great parental sensitivity when interacting with him: responding to his cries, comforting him, talking to him, and playing with him. Within this short period he was able to form a positive internal working model of the world, his mother’s love and attention reassuring Harry that he was a good person and that the world was a good place. This secure attachment acted as a buffer for him while living with the Dursley’s, protecting him from their abuse, and ensuring his survival.

Trait Perspective
The trait perspective in personality theory attempts to gauge an individual’s personality by using various adjectives or dimensions in order to describe them. The approach is considered to work best when only a small number of adjectives are used, usually those that are most obvious and consistent to the individual across different situations. One of the more popular theories to develop out of the trait perspective is the Big Five, which attempts to assess personality in terms of five dimensions: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Individuals are scored on a scale ranging from high to low on each dimension, with each consisting of a sub-level of different adjectives associated with having a high score. Harry would be low on extroversion, high on agreeableness, in the middle to low on conscientiousness, low on neuroticism, and in the middle on openness.

On extroversion, Harry would be considered to be low. He has consistently demonstrated that despite his famous persona and the amount of attention it garners, he is uncomfortable with being in the spotlight, and would rather live a humble life away from it. When Professor Lockhart, himself extroverted, calls attention to his fame, Harry is extremely embarrassed and mortified, and quickly attempts to remove himself from the situation. Harry is also not extremely social, and while he doesn’t shy away from social interactions, he doesn’t appear to actively seek them out either. He is completely content and satisfied with the small social group he’s created with Ron and Hermione, and he doesn’t feel the need to have a large circle of acquaintances.

On agreeableness Harry would probably score high. He tends to get along with most people, and doesn’t present a particularly cold or hostile attitude to others. While he does have disagreements, they tend to be due more to the context of the situation and the violation of his values rather than to any lasting personality trait. The most noted example of this would be Harry’s disagreement with Remus Lupin over Lupin’s insistence on joining Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s quest for Voldemort’s horcruxes at the expense of leaving his pregnant wife at home. Harry angrily lashes out at him, calling him a coward and insisting that a good husband and father would never act that way. Harry is clearly acting more on the violation of a value rather than a general tendency to be disagreeable.

On conscientiousness, Harry would score somewhere in the middle. This is because while he does show a high amount of perseverance, as demonstrated by his determination to defeat Voldemort, he has a tendency to be lazy and act impulsively. He often procrastinates when it comes to doing homework, which stems from being disorganized and his lack of talent in planning. In terms of being impulsive, when faced with something dangerous he frequently forgoes analysis of situations for acting on his feelings and impulses. He naively led his friends into danger at the Department of Mysteries when he impulsively acted on his need to save people, instead of listening to Hermione’s insistence that it might be a trap.

In terms of neuroticism Harry would likely be low. He tends to remain calm and collected most of the time, and isn’t subject to extremes in emotions. Although he does show signs of moodiness at times, these periods tend to be due more to a buildup of stress rather than to emotional instability. Harry’s ability to successfully maintain relationships and to build a happy life out of a horrible childhood reflects a successful person who knows how to approach and manage difficult situations without falling apart.

On openness, Harry would be around the middle. While he does show creativity and ingenuity in his ability to solve problems at the spur of the moment, he does have a tendency to get caught up in his prejudices, and distance himself from those he views as distasteful. This is especially apparent in how he deals with Draco Malfoy and other Slytherins in general. He has a tendency to put all Slytherins under the label of evil, and never really steps back to try and see that they are individuals separate from that label, and will be as variable in attitudes and beliefs as him and his friends are.

The biological and trait perspectives to personality stand as excellent approaches to analyzing the personality of Harry Potter. The biological perspective addresses why he was forced to endure such a horrible childhood environment, and why despite this environment he grew up to be a well adjusted and successful individual. The trait approach, and specifically the Big Five, offers a more in-depth look into his personality, assessing Harry on five different dimensions. With this approach one is able gain an understanding of how Harry views and manages the world around him, and with this knowledge, the ability to see how this view manifests itself through his actions.


Bunker, Lisa Waite. (2001-2007). Harry James Potter: Profile. www.hp-lexicon.org. Retrieved from http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/harry-narrative.html

Rowling, J.K. (1997-2007). Harry Potter. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.

Pietromonaco, Paula R., & Lisa Feldman Barret. (2000). “The Internal Working Models Concept: What Do We Really Know About the Self in Relation to Others?” Review of General Psychology, 4(2), 155-175.