Death: As We See It
By Kushagra Singla
"Does it hurt, dying?" Harry asked. "Quicker than falling asleep," Sirius replied. We all know one thing that is constant in all of our lives and that is death. It is inevitable no matter what lengths you go to defy it. We all fear it. The reason behind this fear is that deaths are "the endings" of one's life. This is a common perception about endings that they are never happy or pleasant. We all fear endings but why do we fear it? Is death actually an ending to a person's life? Can death be avoided? If you succeed in doing so, what happens? Author J.K Rowling in her series of books Harry Potter explores the concept of death in its existential form and answers these questions. Through the characters of the series, different takes on death are displayed, and which one is better is what we are going to find out. When we all are aware that we have to die one day or the other, instead of running away from it, why don't we embrace it?
Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling
"My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry's parents. There is Voldemort's obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We're all frightened of it."
The entire series encapsulates the importance of death and the fear lurking with it. Harry, a one-year-old boy whose parents have been killed in saving him from the most powerful wizard, who fears that Harry will be the reason for his death. This shows how much power this fear possesses on a person which made him stoop so low as to kill a baby.
The story of "Harry Potter" revolves around the two main characters, the protagonist, 'Harry' and the antagonist 'Lord Voldemort.' The main theme highlighted in the series is a man's obsession with immortality and the great power that comes with it. The idea is brought forward in two different ways by Harry and Voldemort, the former treating it as an old friend and the latter merely fearing it throughout his life.
Fear of Death
Why do we fear death? A straightforward answer which pops up in our brain is that it is painful and can cause pain in so many ways. This fear can also be sub-categorized - fear of dying yourself, which further divides up to that how will I die? It should not be painful. Will I be remembered after I am gone? "It's the unknown that we fear when we fear death, nothing more," these are the wise words of Albus Dumbledore. The second category is losing someone you love. That's merely painful, not able to see that person again, to feel them and have them with you. The entire process is so excruciating, no one should face it. A way should be found to master death. What if "The Deathly Hallows'' existed in the real world? The Elder Wand, The Resurrection Stone, and The Invisibility Cloak. In "The Tale of The Three Brothers," a story from The Beadle and The Bard, the brothers defy death by making a magical bridge over the treacherous river, and they further humiliate the death by asking for rewards through which they can further defy the laws of death. The elder brother asks for the most potent and unbeatable wand, which leads to his murder. The lust of power can overpower anybody.
The second brother asked for a resurrection stone to bring back the dead. When brought back to the living realm, the love of his life was not fully alive and full of sorrow. So the second brother killed himself to join his lover. Once again, death won and took away his potential victim.
The third brother, who asked for an invisibility cloak, which was a cut-out from death's own cloak, manages to keep hidden under the cloak for many years. He then passes the cloak to his son and greets the death like an old friend. Death is one thing that is common among the three brothers, but the way they die is different, which is also portrayed by the characters of the series. No matter how much power you gain, no one can go against the laws of nature. It was a tale that's why the third brother got the chance to pick his death, but in real life, there are no cloaks of invisibility to hide behind the virtue to accept that one day ‘I'll die’ and when the day comes you should be ready to face it with courage and a wide smile.
You Know Who!
The Dark Lord always perceived death as a shameful human weakness. The weakness through which he derived all his powers. Lord Voldemort's name is French for 'flight of death.' “His long-term goals are immortality and power over the wizarding world (Goblet 569), his name encapsulates not only his worldview but also his narrative”. It is also said that Voldemort's Boggart will be him lying dead on the floor. I think most of us will have the same Boggart. Voldemort's fear of death is still justified as he considered himself not a common human because he possessed magical abilities, and to him, death was ignominious. But we all know that we are normal humans, then why is it such a big thing? I feel it has something to do with the taboo that is associated with death. It is always considered as an unpleasant thing to talk about. Especially in our culture, if a child ever asks his parent who will take care of me if you die, instead of telling him a name, he is told to shut. Taboos instill fear, like in the wizard world. The Dark Lord's real name was never taken; it was a taboo associated with death, and it did create fear of being killed. The things which are not of common discussion always create curiosity, but things as dark as death instill fear. Death is complicated to understand, but we have never put in an effort to simplify it. Being able to talk about it and being open to the idea of death is really important. A significant part of the human race agrees with the fact that death is inevitable, but they can't remove the fear inside them.
Is It All About the Situation?
Our perception of death changes with whatever we are going through in our life. A person who is doing really well in his life, like achieving everything on his list and is thrilled in his life, that person will never wish death to come any day soon. When expectations are not fulfilled, and living becomes difficult, people pray for it to come soon. People who commit suicide or demand euthanasia make this difficult choice to end their lives because death will be less painful than living at that very moment. In such incidents, the fear of death becomes the fear of living.
It is a commonly accepted view that death is just an ending of a person in his physical form, but the soul keeps on living. This has been proved by the Dark Lord also. The Horcruxes he made were simply a part of his soul hidden in an object. That's what made him immortal. If his physical form was destroyed, he still lived in the form of his Horcruxes, which helped him regain his physical body. Similarly, when we die, our soul just enters someone else's body. It's like a shape-changer. Even Voldemort went through major physical changes while he was making Horcruxes.
As mentioned earlier, Harry Potter is fundamentally a book about death. “Harry's coming of age is synonymous with him coming to terms with his immortality”. A one-year-old boy survives the darkest magic that is cast by the most powerful wizard, with just a scar on his forehead and the other person losing his physical existence. Death was always lurking over Harry since that day. He grew mature enough to understand the mortality of his own life as well as the people he loved. During his lifetime, he lost his parents, godfather, teachers, friends to death. He never feared it. All his life, he knew that one day The Dark Lord will return to his power, and that can be the last day in Harry's life. Voldemort always lived in fear of dying one day, and when he achieved immortality, he took advantage of that power to achieve his dream of world domination. That power made him greedy, which led to all the atrocities he committed and became a reason for his downfall. On the other hand, Harry always lived for the people who sacrificed their lives for him. This charismatic acceptance of his own mortality is depicted beautifully in the final pages of the Deathly Hallows when he surrenders himself to the Dark Lord in the Forbidden Forest. Just before he is about to present himself in front of the Dark Lord, with the help of the resurrection stone, he is able to summon his parents and their best friends who were also close to him. It's a theory that when we die, we reunite with our loved ones, and this was Harry's window to reunite with his loved ones. Harry is symbolically choosing the cycle of his life, learning to accept that his death is the reality of life. A fan theory has also related the characters of the series to the tale of the three brothers, where the Dark Lord is the Eldest brother who died of power, the second brother is Snape, who died for love and the third brother is Harry who greeted death like an old friend. I believe that this is a reason that Harry possesses all of the Deathly Hallows and becomes the master of death.
Like Harry, we all have also accepted that death is a reality of life. It's one thing that is guaranteed for every living being. But still, if we ever get a chance to defy it, we will avail it. During this pandemic, the levels of anxiety are at the top. Making us realize the mortal nature of the human race. Death is unknown when it will come? How will it come? No one knows. But that doesn't mean that you always live under fear and restrict yourself from living your life. I personally believe that death is a natural process, and anyone who is born on this earth has to die one day, as soon as their purpose of life is completed, which is assigned by God.
It is not at all a thing to be afraid of, and we need to boldly face it, but then it causes pain, anxiety, emotional upheavals, longing for the person and many more. These are the general impacts seen in people, but they vary, depending upon a person's ability to tolerate emotions and their relations with the individual. Death brings a thrill to one's life. Life Voldemort wasn't running behind Harry to kill him, the series couldn't have been possible. It was the element of death that brought the nuance in the series. All the suspense and the thriller which death fills in our real lives also. So it depends on our choices whether we fear it and make our lives dark or greet it as an old friend no matter when it comes, living each day to the fullest.