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Harried, Spellbound, and Less Than Heroic: Applying Trauma Theory to Harry Potter

At the end of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the central character, Harry Potter, is celebrated as a hero. All of the students at Hogwarts school of wizardry “were standing up to look at him” in the Great Hall (Rowling 304) as he was commended for his “pure nerve and outstanding courage” (Rowling 306), but what had Harry done that was truly heroic or courageous? Most of those students would claim that Harry had bravely chosen to single-handedly face Voldemort, the most dangerous figure in the wizarding world, and had defeated him in a heroic physical attack, but is that what truly happened? A close reading of the novel, using trauma theory, reveals underlying truths and motivations for Harry’s actions throughout the novel, showing that Harry does not act under his own free will but instead reacts based upon ingrained behavioral patterns that have developed following traumas he has endured throughout his childhood. While Harry was successful in his attack upon Voldemort, heroism had little to do with his victory.

Characters in literature are often appraised for the realism of their thoughts and behaviors. They may be bold and heroic or meek and cowardly, but characters are generally expected to act the same as living, breathing people in the real world. Literary theory often expands upon this appraisal, viewing the character as indicative of a typical human being, someone who acts and reacts with conscious and subconscious motivations. Thus, by examining literature through trauma theory, the reactions of characters to trauma can be compared directly to the reactions of actual trauma victims. Trauma theory can reveal underlying truths and meanings in literature, showing how trauma, in a wide range of circumstances, affects literary characters at the moment of the traumatic event and far into their futures, leading to sometimes unusual but often predictable reactions and behaviors in their interactions with other characters and society. Whether the text discussed is a true narrative of witnessing by the trauma victim or completely fictional, certain observations of both the trauma and the long-term effects upon the victim are consistent.

Harry Potter’s childhood traumas are numerous, and he exhibits a wide variety of lasting post-traumatic behaviors, all of which inform his actions and interactions throughout the novel. Because his interactions with other characters and the world around him are mediated by these lasting post-traumatic behaviors and perceptions, his triumphs throughout the novel, generally considered to be the result of heroic actions on his part, are neither the products of heroism nor are they the result of his ability to overcome any of the traumas of his childhood. Harry Potter’s free will is overwhelmed by the dominance of his post-traumatic influences, and his successes within the novel are driven by his post-traumatic reactions to moments that reenact past traumas. Like many trauma victims his responses to every situation are a result of his post-traumatic behaviors, not the result of any conscious, heroic decisions on his part. In essence, Harry Potter succeeds because of his childhood traumas rather than in spite of them.

J.K. Rowling’s novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, tells the story of a young boy, Harry Potter, who escapes a demeaned life with relatives who dislike and abuse him, only to find himself in a fantastic hidden world of magic and intrigue. Harry, who survived a traumatic attack that killed his parents as a child, tries to fit into this alien magical society, making friends and enemies in the process. Harry is involved in various dangerous escapades throughout the novel, and he is honored as a hero at the end of the story for having once again defeated Voldemort, the wizard who had killed his parents.


Although human beings have suffered trauma throughout their history, the study of trauma has developed only recently in a focused fashion, showing similar roots in a variety of psychological conditions which were previously considered quite different from one another. Michael Trimble notes, in his essay “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: History of a Concept,” that some neurologists and psychologists, following World War I, believed that a variety of conditions including “shell shock, battle neurosis, battle fatigue and combat exhaustion all meant the same thing” (8). Similarly, ‘compensation neurosis,’ the lasting suffering of victims of railway crashes who sued the railroad companies for compensation, was after World War II considered merely a different aspect of the same condition as those war-based ailments. (Trimble 8) Diagnoses for hysteria, nervous shock, psychoneurosis, and survivor syndrome had also been separately categorized prior to the end of World War I, but these sicknesses were also eventually realized to be aspects of the same phenomenon – trauma (Trimble 10-12). At the forefront of those trying to understand trauma was Sigmund Freud, whose concepts regarding repressed memories, the interpretation of dreams, and post-traumatic behavioral changes laid foundations for all future understandings of trauma.

A basic explanation of trauma is provided by Robert Pynoos and Spencer Eth in their essay “Developmental Perspective on Psychic Trauma in Childhood.” Pynoos and Eth state that, “trauma occurs when an individual is exposed to an overwhelming event resulting in helplessness in the face of intolerable danger, anxiety, and instinctual arousal” (38). Trauma victims may be personally threatened or may be appalled at the suffering of others, and this sense of helplessness and distress overpowers them and shatters their sense of what is possible or understandable in the world, offering something so horrible as to be outside of their frame of reference. As Kali Tal writes in Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma, “[a]n individual is traumatized by a life-threatening event that displaces his or her preconceived notions about the world” (15). Consequently, trauma is not simply the result of simple fear or bereavement. Even while the death of a parent or other loved one as a result of natural causes is disturbing at any age, it is a naturally accepted part of life and existence. Trauma results from an experience beyond the understanding of what is natural or to be expected; a traumatic event is beyond the comprehension of trauma victims, and they are stunned and transformed by the realization that the world is not as they had understood it to be. In her book Trauma and Recovery Judith Herman notes that,

Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life. Unlike commonplace misfortunes, traumatic events generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity, or a close personal encounter with violence and death. They confront human beings with the extremities of helplessness and terror, and evoke the responses of catastrophe. According to the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, the common denominator of psychological trauma is a feeling of “intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and threat of annihilation” (33).

Trauma victims feel these threats of violence, these close encounters with death, and suffer from fear, helplessness, and loss of control not only when each event occurs but throughout their later lives, continuously struggling to reconcile these unbelievable moments of reality with their world-view.

Any extraordinarily disturbing event can constitute a traumatic experience: viewing the death or murder of a loved one or of a fellow human being; facing personal injury or death; being raped; experiencing the horrors of war as a combatant or a civilian; being forcibly relocated from one’s home, community, or country into an alien environment; surviving a devastating accident; surviving any event where others have died or been killed; enduring spousal abuse or domestic violence; facing abandonment or abuse as a child; or facing any other sort of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or terrorization at the hands of others. No list could possibly enumerate all of the possible forms of traumatic events. Based upon their nature, traumatic events defy simple description or categorization; a traumatic event is so far from what the trauma victim has learned to expect from the world that they simply are unable to make sense of the horrific situations they have seen and endured. Traumatic events leave a lasting impression upon those who have viewed or survived them, and most victims will be forever changed by the experience.

In practical terms, trauma can be defined as “[t]he concept that following an accident a person may develop symptoms, mainly subjective and usually not associated with any clearly defined somatic pathology” (Trimble 6). To understand victims of trauma and their actions it is necessary to understand that they are victims of a significant trauma, but they are also sufferers of post-traumatic psychological effects and behaviors that have developed as psychological defense mechanisms and which maintain lasting influences upon their perceptions and actions following the traumatic event. The study of trauma explores not only the originating trauma and these lasting, post-traumatic effects and behaviors but also observes and attempts to improve the ability of trauma victims to cope with their changed perceptions of the world and their ability to respond to everyday life.

Trauma theory, an extension of the study of trauma, is the understanding of human reactions to trauma in all aspects of life. Not simply considered in terms of psychology or psychiatry, trauma theory is applied to various disciplines, notably the study of literature. The literature of trauma is, in many ways, meant to provide an account of the affects of trauma on the lives of traumatized people. John Harvey comments upon this use of literature to express traumatic experiences in his book Perspectives on Loss and Trauma: Assaults on the Self. According to Harvey, accounting for trauma, in this context, can be defined “as the act of explaining, describing, and emotionally reacting to the major events in our lives in storylike form” (4, original emphasis). Many times, literature provides an outlet for trauma victims to voice their traumatic story in print because they are unable to articulate the events verbally. This sort of literature allows for an act of witnessing by the reader and the text of the story can be analyzed in an attempt to understand the actual traumatic event. More often, the actual moment of trauma will never truly be known in the text and will only be seen in dreams and fragmented flashbacks. This sort of incomplete knowledge, consistent with the repressed, blocked memories of many trauma victims, may be used to piece together an understanding of the actual trauma. Cathy Caruth, in the introduction to her book Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History, points out that in his founding ideas of psychoanalysis, “[Sigmund] Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, … because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing. And it is, indeed at the specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the language of literature precisely meet” (3). In this sense, an unknown trauma can be realized and worked through by understanding what is known through the literature, whether through flashbacks and dreams or through behavioral changes and psycho-social reactions. Literature can reveal the hidden nature of traumas as well as the resultant motivations of trauma victims, even if only to the reader and not to the victims themselves.

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it is significant to know how and why Harry has been traumatized in order to understand what has shaped his perceptions of the world and those around him. An understanding of his traumas is also necessary to understand his conscious and subconscious motivations and behaviors when faced with anything that might be reminiscent of the traumas he has suffered. Certainly the story told in this novel is not so much about Harry’s specific traumas but is more about how he lives his life after experiencing those traumas and how the lasting effects of those traumas have shaped who he is as a person. However, understanding Harry Potter must begin with understanding the traumas that have shaped him, even when he does not often recognize those traumas himself. For Harry, realizing more and more about the traumas he has endured goes hand-in-hand with understanding and becoming a part of the world of wizardry that will be his new home. For the reader, understanding Harry’s traumas can do much to explain his reactions and behaviors within that world of wizardry. Geoffrey Hartman notes, in his essay “On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies,” that “[i]n literature especially, shock and dreaminess collude. Where there is dream there is (was) trauma” (Hartman 546). In a sense the whole wizarding society is like a dream where Harry’s unknown traumas can begin to be known for the first time. This is where his greatest traumas were realized, and this is where his story is told. Harry’s traumas are many, and each trauma plays a significant part in affecting Harry’s behaviors and creating his troubled identity.


Jonathan Shay, as part of his book Achilles in Vietnam, notes that the official diagnostic criteria set forth by the American Psychiatric Association has a clear definition of trauma and its lasting effects. The APA explains that, “[t]he person has experienced an event that is outside the range of usual human experience and that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone, e.g., serious threat to one’s life or physical integrity; serious threat or harm to one’s children, spouse, or other close relatives and friends; sudden destruction of one’s home or community; or seeing another person injured or killed as the result of an accident or physical violence” (Shay 166, original emphasis). Harry Potter suffers traumas in all of these ways and more, each successive trauma compounding upon those that came before. While each trauma in itself is of great significance in understanding Harry’s behaviors and motivations in this novel, the combination of all of his suffered traumas is just as important in understanding the overwhelming nature of the lasting effects upon Harry throughout his life.

John Harvey notes that, "Our major losses have cumulative effects. When a new major loss occurs, we are not affected by it alone but also by other major losses that interact with it in our minds and that are recalled in our experience, some of which have been only partially addressed and resolved” (29. original emphasis). Many victims of trauma never resolve their feelings toward the traumatic experience, even partially; and any additional traumatic events they face have a huge impact upon them, each successive trauma building upon those that have come before. This difficulty resolving traumas is explained in the essay “The Intrusive Past: The Flexibility of Memory and the Engraving of Trauma” by Bessel Van der Kolk and Onno Van der Hart. Citing founding ideas developed by Pierre Janet regarding the affects of trauma, Van der Kolk and Van der Hart recall that, “Janet proposed that traumatized individuals become ‘attached’ (Freud would use the term ‘fixated’) to the trauma; unable to make sense out of the source of their terror, they develop difficulties in assimilating subsequent experiences as well. It is ‘as if their personality development has stopped at a certain point and cannot expand any more by the addition or assimilation of new elements’ (Janet, 1893, 138)” (Van der Kolk and Van der Hart 164). Coping with trauma is difficult for anyone, but victims of multiple traumas may find coping even more difficult. People who suffer a number of traumas during their life may be completely unable to cope with any one of those traumas unless they have made at least some progress with facing the first trauma. Harry Potter suffers multiple traumas, none of which he faces or resolves. The first and most significant of Harry’s unresolved traumas, his primary trauma, is the death of his parents.

For anyone, the “witnessing of a parent’s homicide constitutes a psychic trauma. The viewing is painful, frightening, and distressing, and it is usually followed by a constellation of psychiatric symptoms” (Pynoos and Eth 38). For Harry, the event is compounded by the fact that the murderer attempted to kill him as well. When Harry was still a baby, a wizard named Voldemort attempted to gain control of the wizarding world. Many wizarding families opposed him, including Harry’s parents. As a result, Voldemort sought out Harry’s parents and killed them; he also attempted to kill Harry but was thwarted by an inexplicable rejection of his magical attack spell which left Harry safe, although scarred, and left Voldemort weakened and unable to continue his plans of conquest. Harry lost his parents and nearly lost his own life, and this situation would be traumatic for anyone. While the event itself is the source of the primary trauma, it leaves an additional, accompanying trauma for Harry, as it would for any child, in that his parents, his protectors and caregivers, are gone.

For many people, the absence of their parents in childhood may be equally as traumatic as the viewing of their death. John Harvey notes that, “[a] theme that occurs throughout people’s accounts of their parents’ deaths is the regret of not having shared more with them emotionally and cognitively while they were still alive” (Harvey 50). This is certainly true for Harry, who misses his parents and suffers from their absence equally as much, and possibly more than he does from memories of their actual murder. His trauma comes partly from the violence of the event itself but moreso from the enduring loss of the central figures of his childhood. Harry struggles with trying to remember the actual traumatic event, but he also repeatedly feels the loss of his parents. In one example from the novel, “The Potters smiled and waved at Harry [from inside the reflection of the Mirror of Erised] and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them. He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness” (Rowling 209). This sadness is clearly his sense of loss, and his hope to rejoin his parents is a way of denying the traumatic events that have happened, events that centered upon the murder of his parents and his own attempted murder but events which also had wide-ranging effects on the world.

While Harry’s primary trauma is indeed the murder of his parents, it is important to recognize that Voldemort, the perpetrator of that trauma, was a leading figure in a war within the wizarding world, and Harry therefore can also be seen to suffer from war trauma. Voldemort and his dark magic had many followers, and Harry’s parents, as well as Harry himself, were on the opposite side of this war from Voldemort. While Harry was clearly a civilian in this conflict, it is not clear in this first book whether his parents were combatants or not. Later novels will reveal that Harry’s parents were leaders of the opposition, but Harry is unaware of such information within this first book. Regardless of their status in this war, Voldemort must be seen as more than a simple murderer. He is a notorious war criminal who nearly succeeded in dominating the entire wizarding world, unleashing the horrors of war but also creating a lasting terrorist threat that traumatizes the wizarding world with the lasting fear of his return. As such, Voldemort has become a heinous figure to nearly everyone Harry encounters in the wizarding world, and his reputation makes him appear even more powerful and evil to Harry than what Harry would naturally be expected to attribute to him as the murderer of his parents. Harry not only has lasting fears about Voldemort returning to try again to kill him, but he is well aware that others within this society were in league with this murderer, and therefore Harry’s trust for anyone he meets becomes challenged.

As a civilian child during this war, Harry would have experienced trauma regardless of whether his parents had been murdered or not. While that was by far his most significant trauma at the time, it should not be overlooked that Voldemort’s war would have had sweeping traumatic effects on Harry not only at the time of the murder but also for some time before. Studies by Teresa McIntyre and Margarida Ventura, as published in their essay “Children of War: Psychosocial Sequalae of War Trauma in Angolan Adolescents,” show that civilian children in war zones suffer post-traumatic stress disorders in 82% to 90% of the cases, and the likelihood of lasting traumatic effects increases in direct proportion to the degree of war exposure (41). The strongest lasting symptoms for these victims are re-experiencing the event, various avoidance or numbing symptoms, and arousal symptoms, the last two of which are even more predominant than re-experiencing in some cases (McIntyre and Ventura 41). Harry suffers all of these lasting symptoms, as will be seen, as a result of this additional trauma from Voldemort’s war. Harry, as a very young child, is particularly susceptible to these lasting effects; the younger the age of the trauma victim, the higher the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (McIntyre and Ventura 42). Studies additionally show that the victim’s self-worth and popularity decrease with increased war exposure (McIntyre and Ventura 42), while increased war exposure also brings increased “Isolation, [Sleeping Troubles], Anxiety/Depression, Social Problems, Problem Thinking, Delinquent Behavior, and Internalizing” (McIntyre and Ventura 43). All of these post-traumatic psychological effects and behaviors are evident in Harry Potter, as will be seen, but the war has yet another traumatic influence upon Harry that is often observed in those who are traumatized by war, namely relocation to an alien society.

Like many people whose society is at war, Harry finds himself forced to leave the home and culture that he has known his whole short life, forced to relocate into an alien society as an outsider. For many people who must leave their country due to war, relocation is a traumatic experience that continues to be enacted over and over within the new, alien environment. Certain post-traumatic behaviors are common. Studies by McIntyre and Ventura found that, “relocation seems to be related to global behavioral adjustment … with more behavior problems reported for adolescents relocated due to war than for the other groups” (48). Like others in similar situations, Harry never fully adapts to the non-wizarding, Muggle world and never feels like he fits in, even though he has forgotten veritably everything about the culture of his birth while under the influences of his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys. This new culture never feels natural to Harry, but he is forced to forget anything about the culture of his birth. “Don’t ask questions – that was the first rule for a quiet life with the Dursleys [Harry’s aunt and uncle]” (Rowling 20). Harry can never understand why he is so disliked by the Dursleys and this feeling of persecution is completely consistent with people who have suffered trauma as the result of war and relocation from their homelands. Daryl Paulson’s study, “War and Refugee Suffering,” shows that, “[a] common thread binding present-day civilian victims of war is that, as a group, they have been unjustly persecuted and, as individuals, they have suffered immensely, with few individuals or groups coming to their aid. Their stark awareness of the world communities’ apathy and indifference is shocking for them” (112). Trauma victims feel isolated, as though no one else can understand their experiences since others have not lived through those same traumas. For people who are relocated due to war, this isolation is made worse because their new environment is unfamiliar and may cause them to feel even more isolated. As Paulson explains, “[victims of exile from their warring home country] are no longer in a comfortable, familiar setting but are trying to adapt to a new culture that is different and strange, and to a community that is often distant or even hostile” (113). Most trauma victims who have been relocated as the result of a war in their homeland never feel safe or accepted in their new environment, and most are able to articulate their anxieties clearly. Paulson states that,

The consensus of individuals characterizes this upheaval [living in exile] as feelings of insignificance and being lost in the world, in that:
1. They have lost the love and respect they formerly experienced with friends and family.
2. They have lost their former social and cultural status.
3. They have lost their cultural environment and the many obligations and dependencies that gave their lives meaning.
4. They are adrift among the values of the new cultural environment, those not recognized in their native culture, and those they bring with them that are not valued in the new (Paulson 113).

All of these feelings exist for Harry, even though he does not consciously remember the wizarding world from which he comes. He simply knows that he is different, out of place, and that he is not an accepted part of the Dursley’s family or their world, a world which is drastically different from the loving environment he vaguely remembers with his parents. Harry may not clearly remember the world he came from but his aunt and uncle do, and they make great efforts to assimilate Harry into their world, even while they dislike and distrust him because of his heritage, demeaning him and treating him unequally from their own son. Harry not only is forced to lose his original culture, but he is never allowed to fully become a part of the society where he is relocated, either.

The Dursleys keep many secrets from Harry, refusing to tell him the true nature of his parents’ death or to tell him of his heritage and culture in the wizarding world (Rowling 49). They go beyond simply trying to force Harry to adapt to his new environment, the Muggle world; they try to eliminate any memory or behavior that would be reminiscent of his former culture. Uncle Vernon himself declares that, “’We swore when we took [Harry] in we’d put a stop to that [wizarding culture] rubbish … swore we’d stamp it out of him!’” (Rowling 53). This particular trauma is deeply significant among Harry’s other traumas because he is constantly enduring this alienation during the entire time he lives in the Muggle world. Any sympathy from the Dursleys or celebration of Harry’s heritage might help him to heal from his traumas, but he instead is denied any knowledge of his past at all. Judith Herman notes that, “[a] supportive response from other people may mitigate the impact of the [traumatic] event, while a hostile or negative response may compound the damage and aggravate the traumatic syndrome” (61). Once again, Harry’s traumas are compounded and have a cumulative impact upon his lasting behavior. The Dursleys are keenly responsible for this, and their traumatic impact upon Harry is sweeping.

The Dursleys are not only causing Harry trauma by denying him knowledge of his past, they are fully responsible for much more direct trauma in the form of a variety of types of child abuse. “Chronic child abuse takes place in a familial climate of pervasive terror, in which ordinary caretaking relationships have been profoundly disrupted. Survivors describe a characteristic pattern of totalitarian control, enforced by means of violence and death threats, capricious enforcement of petty rules, intermittent rewards, and destruction of all competing relationships through isolation, secrecy, and betrayal” (Herman 98). Not only does Harry feel that he does not belong in the Muggle culture of the Dursleys but he is made to feel that his every move is watched and his every slightest mistake punishable in some horrible way. “’I’m warning you,’ [Uncle Vernon] had said, putting his large purple face right up close to Harry’s, ‘I’m warning you now, boy – any funny business, anything at all – and you’ll be in that cupboard from now until Christmas” (Rowling 24). Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia are both responsible for mistreating Harry, and both are equally abusive. Harry is forced to live in a cupboard, a small closet under the stairs that holds unpleasant smells and is a home for spiders. His accommodations are meager at best in this environment, and it is certainly not because the Dursleys are unable to afford any better rooms. Dudley, their son, has two rooms for himself at the beginning of the novel, while Harry is relegated to the cupboard. More specifically, the cupboard is treated as a place of solitary confinement, always a place of punishment. At one point it can be seen that, “[Uncle Vernon] was so angry he could hardly speak. He managed to say, “ Go – cupboard – stay – no meals” (Rowling 29). There is certainly also, based on this punishment of ‘no meals,’ a clear indication that Harry is underfed and possibly malnourished. We are told that, “Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age” (Rowling 20). But even if it could be accepted that Harry is small for his age, he still, clearly, is not fed properly. We know that, “The Dursleys had never exactly starved Harry, but he’d never been allowed to eat as much as he liked” (Rowling 123). This wasn’t due to any shortage of food, either, since “Dudley had always taken anything that Harry really wanted, even if it made him sick” (Rowling 123).

The traumatic child abuse that Harry suffers at the hands of the Dursleys is appalling. Not only do the Dursleys deny Harry knowledge of his heritage, but they mistrust and misuse him, provide him with inadequate lodgings, feed him poorly, and treat him as worthless. While there is no indication of any sexual abuse, there is repeated evidence that Harry may be physically abused in addition to everything else. Consider when we hear threats from Uncle Vernon. “’Now you listen here, boy,’ he snarled, ‘I accept there’s something strange about you, probably nothing a good beating wouldn’t have cured” (Rowling 56). This certainly suggests at least some amount of corporal punishment if not worse physical abuse, but it is difficult to ascertain exactly how far the abuse extended in Harry’s home situation. Certainly he was forced to sleep in a closet, fed poorly, and verbally abused and belittled, but physical violence is never clearly a certainty; it is a recurring threat, to be sure, which in itself is cause for trauma, but no distinct incidents of beatings are seen. In fact, the closest evidence we have to beatings is when Harry, about to be punished by Professor McGonagall while at school, wonders if “Wood [was] a cane she was going to use to beat him” (Rowling 150). A history of beatings would seem to be suggested by Harry’s making such a ready assumption, but still there is no definitive proof of physical abuse by the elder Dursleys. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia are not alone in traumatizing Harry, however. Dudley and his friends are often “punching Harry in the ribs” (Rowling 28), without fear of being stopped or being chastised for their actions by the Dursleys. At least to some extent, Harry’s traumas at the hands of all of the Dursleys include a certain amount of physical abuse.

Harry’s constant mistreatment by the Dursleys is made all the more pointed by its regular contrast with the Dursley’s overwhelming praise and spoiling of their son Dudley. While Dudley has a fabulous day out for his birthday every year, replete with ever-more numerous and wonderful gifts (Rowling 22), Harry is lucky to have his birthday remembered at all, and his gifts are no better than “a coat hanger and a pair of Uncle Vernon’s old socks” (Rowling 43). While Dudley is sent in expensive uniforms to a prestigious private school, his father’s alma mater, Harry is sent to the local public school (Rowling 32), forced to wear old clothes of Dudley’s which have been died gray (Rowling 33). Harry will always fall second to Dudley, and perhaps that is only natural since Dudley is the natural-born son, yet the Dursleys constant mistreatment of Harry is far worse than this genetic closeness can account for. “The Dursleys often spoke about Harry like this, as though he wasn’t there – or rather, as though he was something very nasty that couldn’t understand them, like a slug” (Rowling 22). Even if Harry is not considered equal to Dudley in the eyes of the Dursleys there is no acceptable reason for him to be so severely mistreated by them in nearly every possible way. Child abuse goes beyond physical and sexual abuse and has powerful effects based upon attitudes and treatments. In his book, Child Abuse Trauma: Theory and Treatment of the Lasting Effects, John Briere catalogues a long list of the forms of child psychological abuse. “[P]sychological abuse will be defined in terms of eight types of parent or caretaker behaviors”: “Rejecting”, “Degrading/devaluing”, “Terrorizing”, “Isolating”, “Corrupting”, “Exploiting”, “Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability”, and “Unreliable and inconsistent parenting” (Briere 9-10, original emphasis). Nearly all of these forms of psychological abuse are practiced by the Dursleys; it is no wonder that Harry suffers lasting psychological and behavioral effects after this sort of mistreatment, even if he had never faced any other trauma at all in his life.

Harry’s treatment by the Dursleys, in addition to his relocation from the wizarding world, creates lasting traumatic experiences which become compound with the other, more significant traumas from his early childhood. These combined experiences would be traumatic for anyone and would likely have a lasting impact, but for a child, such as Harry, they are life forming. John Briere explains that, “[l]ike other victims, abused children experience significant psychological distress and dysfunction. Unlike adults, however, they are traumatized during the most critical period of their lives: when assumptions about self, others, and the world are being formed; when their relations to their own internal states are being established; and when coping and affiliative skills are first acquired” (17). Harry’s entire view of the world, his coping skills, his reactions to people and society, and a wide variety of his behaviors are affected by this panoply of traumas. Harry has in many ways been overwhelmed by trauma for the majority of his life. Judith Herman notes that, “[p]eople subjected to prolonged, repeated trauma develop an insidious, progressive form of post-traumatic stress disorder that invades and erodes the personality … Chronically traumatized people are continually hypervigilant, anxious, and agitated (86). Harry is all of these things and more. He suffers from a wide variety of post-traumatic symptoms, including both psychological effects and post-traumatic behaviors, and these post-traumatic responses inform his everyday actions throughout the novel.


Kai Erikson has said that, “it is how people react to [traumas] rather than what [type of traumas] they are that give events whatever traumatic quality they can be said to have” (184, original emphasis). After traumatic experiences, the minds of victims will try to cope with the experience in a variety of ways, attempting both to shield victims from remembering the event so that they will not suffer anew, yet also subconsciously adjusting their behaviors in an attempt to protect them from suffering any further traumas. Repressing memories, suffering flashbacks, experiencing anxiety, falling into depression, and feeling isolated and misunderstood are just the beginning of the common effects faced by trauma victims. Additionally, a variety of post-traumatic behaviors often develop in response to the traumatic events witnessed by victims. Such behaviors include sleep disorders, psychic or emotional numbing, emotional restriction, internalizing, loss of interest in work or activities, survivor guilt, hypervigilance, dissociation, uncontrollable rage, adversariality, interpersonal difficulties, trust issues, disregard of authority figures, delinquent behavior, impaired self-reference, suicidal and self-endangering tendencies, multiple personality disorder, and escape into a self-imposed fantasy world.

For most trauma victims, blocking the traumatic situation from conscious memory is a common response, with the mind sometimes revisiting the event in the subconscious, in dreams or wakeful flashbacks. Cathy Caruth, looking at the founding ideas of psychotherapy, explains that, “what seems to be suggested by [Sigmund] Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle is that the wound of the mind – the breach in the mind’s experience of time, self, and the world – is not, like the wound of the body, a simple and healable event … [it] is experienced too soon, too unexpectedly, to be fully known and is therefore not available to consciousness until it imposes itself again, repeatedly, in nightmares and repetitive actions of the survivor” (3-4). The mind takes two approaches to dealing with a traumatic event: learning to cope and accept the trauma or setting up a defense that will block the trauma from memory or safeguard victims from suffering such a trauma again. When the mind blocks a trauma from conscious memory, it is making a defensive response that will keep victims from suffering emotionally and psychologically, but when the mind allows the subconscious to dream of the event, it is trying to cope with that moment, to make it acceptable and bearable to the victim. Often, dreams and flashbacks are incomplete, fragmentary images from the event; this is the mind still setting up a level of defense, allowing the victim only so much knowledge of the event as they can bear at that time. The mind does not limit itself to the conscious and unconscious reliving of the event, however; traumatic responses are many and complex, ranging from various psychological effects to actual behavioral differences in victims. “In ‘Moses and Monotheism,’ Sigmund Freud (1939) distinguished positive from negative effects of trauma. Positive effects consist of attempts to bring the trauma into operation again by remembering, repeating and reexperiencing. Negative effects serve to keep the forgotten event from being repeated, and as such are the defensive reactions of avoidance, inhibition, and phobia” (Pynoos and Eth 40). These reactions, positive and negative, are considered post-traumatic effects and behaviors, and they come in a variety of forms. “The symptoms include: recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event; anxiety dreams; psychic numbing with markedly diminished interest in activities; feelings of detachment and constricted affect; fear of repeated trauma and renewed anxiety resulting in hypervigilant or avoidant behavior; decline in cognitive performance; startle reactions; and persistent feelings of guilt out of proportion to personal responsibility (American Psychiatric Association, 1980)” (Pynoos and Eth 40). Symptoms vary depending upon whose definition is used; Freud’s observations are different from those of the American Psychiatric Association’s, as just mentioned, and again different from the World Health Organization’s definition:

The World Health Organization’s Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders offers the category “Enduring personality change after catastrophic experience,” defined as these personality features that did not exist before the trauma:
(a) a hostile or mistrustful attitude toward the world;
(b) social withdrawal;
(c) feelings of emptiness or hopelessness;
(d) a chronic feeling of being ‘on the edge,’ as if constantly threatened;
(e) estrangement (Shay 169).

Regardless of who has established the list of post-traumatic effects and behaviors, certain victim responses are consistently catalogued and are commonly seen in trauma victims. However, it should be noted that any given victim of trauma will respond in a different manner, exhibiting different post-traumatic reactions than someone else, even a victim of the same trauma. Certain traumas do seem, statistically, to elicit certain behaviors and psychological effects more often than not, but each individual victim will exhibit his or her own combination of responses. Harry Potter is no different.

Harry displays a wide range of psychological effects and behaviors as a result of his combined traumas. Certain post-traumatic responses are not seen in Harry or are negligible, but many are dominant, influencing and sometimes controlling Harry’s behaviors. The first notable reaction in Harry is that which Freud so carefully observed, the re-experiencing of the original trauma.

Early in the novel, Harry wakes from an unusual dream. “[Harry] rolled onto his back and tried to remember the dream he had been having. … There had been a flying motorcycle in it. He had a funny feeling he’d had the same dream before” (Rowling 19). It is likely that Harry did indeed have that dream before since it is a memory of the events that surrounded his primary trauma, the murder of his parents. In fact this particular dream is a memory of Harry’s relocation from the wizarding world to the Muggle world, a situation which, in itself, was traumatic to Harry. It is not surprising that Harry had only this brief memory with no related story or context connected to it; that is common in re-experiencing – “Traumatic memories lack verbal narrative and context; rather, they are encoded in the form of vivid sensations and images” (Herman 38). Because these memories are so brief and cryptic, the trauma victim may choose not to discuss them with others. Far too often the victim cannot understand the dreams because their entire memory of the traumatic event itself is blocked. In many cases, “children will maintain a stance of silent aloofness, choosing not to speak of the traumatic occurrence.” (Pynoos and Eth 42). In some cases this may simply be an issue of trust – which is a significant issue in trauma victims – but in other cases the event is simply blocked completely from conscious memory as a defensive tactic by the mind. In such cases, victims will often be unable to call forth those memories no matter how hard they try, and the memories that do come forth will often simply be a cryptic image with no clear meaning.

In the novel we are told that, “[Harry] couldn’t remember [the events] when his parents had died. Sometimes when he strained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came up with a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burning pain on his forehead” (Rowling 29). He tries desperately to remember, but his mind has very effectively locked these memories away. Even when the overall events are presented to him directly, memory of the full moment still fails him. “Something very painful was going on in Harry’s mind [after being told of how his parents had died]. As Hagrid’s history came to a close, he saw again the blinding flash of green light, more clearly than he had ever remembered it before – and he remembered something else, for the first time in his life: a high, cold, cruel laugh” (Rowling 56). Clearly the memories of this event are present in Harry’s mind, but he has subconsciously blocked access to them to prevent him from experiencing that trauma again. His mind is subconsciously protecting itself, and Harry is reluctant to delve deeper, even when he has been told exactly what happened. This reluctance to delve deeper could well be merely the subconscious protections afforded by his mind, and certainly that is a large part of the situation, but Harry may also be blocking those memories with a conscious effort as well, remaining unwilling to accept that he was helpless to flee or to help his parents in that first traumatic experience of his life.

Harry may not want to come to terms with what has happened to him simply because he wants and needs to remain angry about what happened, refusing to admit defeat or to submit to the pain of that moment. This is not an uncommon reaction among those who have suffered extreme trauma in war. Henry Krystal noted similar reactions during his therapy sessions of Holocaust survivors as published in his study “Trauma and Aging: A Thirty-Year Follow-Up.” Krystal states that,

For the survivors of the Holocaust to accept that what happened to them was justified by its causes implies an acceptance that Hitler and Nazism and the bizarre events they experienced were also justified by their causes, and such an acceptance is too closely reminiscent of the submission to persecution. The process of making peace with one’s self becomes impossible when it is experienced as bringing back the helplessness and the shame of the past. Hence, many survivors would experience this self-healing as granting Hitler posthumous victory, and they therefore reject it. To them, self-integration appears antithetical to their survival – they are obligated to be angry witnesses against the outrage of the Holocaust (83, original emphasis).

Harry, too, seems obligated to block these moments from his memory as a way to avoid submitting. Try as he might, however, his memories will continue to haunt him, at the least in his dreams.

Sleep disorders are a common problem for trauma victims. The unconscious mind, during sleep, will often replay the traumatic memories in the victim’s mind, and the result is often a fear of sleep or an unwillingness to sleep. Henry Krystal explains that, “[p]erhaps [trauma victims] fall asleep for a couple of hours but then wake up, often in pain, and spend most of the night waking and walking around. In the morning, before dawn, they may sleep a little more. Some people then complain of many terrible dreams, which, generally, they cannot remember. But they have the feeling that they are of a persecutory nature” (90-91). The victim thus becomes reluctant to have those same dreams again and is hesitant to sleep.

Harry certainly suffers from sleep disorders. We are told that “Harry couldn’t sleep” (Rowling 183), or that “Harry didn’t sleep all night” (Rowling 244). The problems are so pervasive that even minor characters from the novel notice Harry’s sleeping problems. “Neville thought Harry had a bad case of exam nerves because Harry couldn’t sleep, but the truth was that Harry kept being woken by his old nightmare, except that it was now worse than ever because there was a hooded figure dripping blood in it” (Rowling 263). This is the reality of sleep disorders in many cases. The trauma replays itself repeatedly during sleep and the victim, whether consciously or subconsciously, has trouble sleeping at all, fearing to re-experience the trauma again, even if only in a dream.

While it is common for trauma victims to consciously block any memory of their traumas and subconsciously relive them, it is also common for victims to completely separate their conscious awareness from current reality. This dissociation “involves a cognitive separation of the individual from his or her environment at times of stress or trauma. Often described as ‘spacing out’ by child abuse survivors, this dissociative behavior consists of withdrawal into a state of affective and cognitive neutrality, where thoughts and awareness of external events are, in a sense, placed on hold” (Briere 37-38). In instances like this, victims simply block out current events when they are stressed. When Harry is looking into the Mirror of Erised, he gets lost in his thoughts, withdrawing into a world where all of the rest of his life is ‘placed on hold.’ “How long he stood there, he didn’t know” (Rowling 209). When he returns from his dissociative episode, “Harry had only one thought in his head, which was to get back in front of the mirror … There was nothing to stop him from staying here all night with his family” (Rowling 212). If not for Dumbledore, Harry might place large parts of his life on hold as he ‘spaced out’ in front of this mirror, and “wasted away before it” (Rowling 213). The fantasy world where his parents live is far preferable to the real world where Harry has been traumatized by their deaths and the subsequent traumas of his life. Harry desperately fears both the actual traumatic events of his past as well as the potential for further trauma in the future, and Harry readily latches upon any escape as a respite from his persistent fear of the world around him.

Fear is a tremendous factor in the behavior of trauma victims. Most victims of trauma have severe anxiety about their safety, and they constantly fear that they may be traumatized again. Judith Herman explains that, “[a]fter a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go on permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment” (35). This ‘permanent alert’ causes childhood trauma victims to exhibit their anxieties even more strongly than adult victims, becoming intensely sensitive to their surroundings. “A common impact of childhood victimization is hypervigilance to danger – not only for potential physical injury, but also for psychological trauma such as betrayal, abandonment, or injustice. This expectation of injury may lead to hyperreactivity in the presence of real, potential, or imagined threats” (Briere 25). Hypervigilance is a constant state for these children, and their senses often become very refined. Studies show that “[c]hildren in an abusive environment develop extraordinary abilities to scan for warning signs of attack” (Herman 99).

As with so many other post-traumatic behaviors, fear and anxiety are driving principles for Harry Potter, fear causing him to be hypervigilant to the point of paranoid anxiety. While Harry does have enemies in this story, he is often overly paranoid about who is against him. Harry considers Professor Snape to be an enemy because of his adversarial, belittling attitude, and Harry therefore is certain that Snape is up to no good (Rowling 183). Once Snape is considered an enemy, a threat to Harry’s well-being, Harry applies his hypervigilance to be keenly aware of the presence and behaviors of the professor. “Harry noticed at once that Snape was limping” (Rowling 181), and he notices him again as he heads into the woods outside of the school at night (Rowling 223). Harry also has great anxiety when Snape asks to referee the next Quidditch game because he is sure that Snape has some “sinister desire” to “persecute or harm Harry on the field” (Rowling 217). Harry becomes so anxious and hypervigilant of Snape that, “he didn’t know whether he was imagining it or not, but he seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went. At times, he even wondered whether Snape was following him, trying to catch him on his own … sometimes he had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds” (Rowling 221). Harry is simply terrified that Snape or any other person might victimize him, and he becomes paranoid about every person who is unkind to him and about every shadow seen out of the corner of his eye. His anxiety gets to the point that, “Harry kept looking nervously over his shoulder. He had the nasty feeling they were being watched” (Rowling 254). While a certain amount of Harry’s hypervigilance may be justified, he is more often than not imagining threats that simply do not exist. Harry has learned to fear the intentions of others, and any sign that someone does not like him automatically makes Harry view that person as an enemy.

There is more than simply anxiety-ridden hypervigilance at work when a victim such as Harry decides someone is an enemy. According to John Briere, “[t]he untreated survivor’s expectation of continued victimization, difficulties with trust, adversarial perspective, and tendency to ‘over-react’ to perceived rejection or devaluation may lead to considerable isolation from – and rejection by – the social milieu” (51). Victims expect to be victimized again, and their hypervigilance seeks any signs of danger. The problem, many times, is that trauma victims are often too ready to find a new enemy who seeks to victimize them, and any sign of anything but devoted friendship will be seen as a sign of worse actions to come. Trauma victims will often form an aggressive, adversarial nature towards anyone who can be perceived as a threat. “By virtue of childhood experience, former abuse victims tend to assume that the world is a hostile environment, where nothing is inherently deserved and thus nothing is ever freely given” (Briere 54). In this sense, trauma victims see themselves in a struggle against the world, constantly on the defensive and constantly fearing the worst. It is not necessary for someone to directly wrong the trauma victim; if someone is not directly in support of the trauma victim, they are assumed, by default, to be against them, and they will be seen as a potential threat or a direct enemy.

While Harry does form close, trusting friendships with Hermione and the Weasleys, he very readily comes to view many others as enemies, often forming hatred as a first impression and reacting with an aggressive, adversarial nature. Harry very easily hates those who do not befriend him immediately, and this aggressive behavior is a common reaction among trauma victims. After only meeting him briefly on two other occasions, Harry forms a resolute hatred for Draco Malfoy. We are told that, “Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley, but that was before he met Draco Malfoy” (Rowling 143). In fact, both Professor Snape and Malfoy are constantly seen by Harry to be his enemies. “’I hate them both,’ said Harry, ‘Malfoy and Snape’” (Rowling 196). Draco Malfoy is obnoxious and certainly makes it easy for Harry to dislike him. Draco is rather friendly upon their first meeting, but their second encounter is a direct confrontation, spurred on by both Harry and Malfoy alike. Malfoy tells Harry he would “be careful if I were you, Potter … Unless you’re a bit politer you’ll go the same way as your parents” (Rowling 109). This reference to the murder of his parents certainly fuels the fires of anger in Harry, but Malfoy often seems to be less of an enemy than Harry believes him to be.

Malfoy is more of a loudmouth and a practical joker than an enemy, yet Harry becomes easily enraged by their conflicts. While Malfoy is obnoxious, most of his actions can be seen as pranks, such as when he plans to put Neville’s Remembrall up a tree (Rowling 148-149). Harry’s reaction to this is far from playful. He ignores the calls from Hermione, his friend, imploring that he stay where he is and not break the rules imposed by the teacher, and rushes off “sharply to face” Malfoy while “[b]lood was pounding in his ears” (Rowling 148). It is as though he were driven to respond to more than simply the current confrontation, and Harry repeatedly responds poorly to Malfoy’s taunts and jibes as though he is fighting against all of the injustices and traumas he has ever faced. Regardless of Malfoy’s intent, be it humor or scorn, Harry always responds aggressively, challenging Malfoy to fights. It might be argued that Malfoy brings out the worst in Harry, but it is more likely that Harry’s reactions to past traumas are at the heart of things. For many trauma victims, “Moral and ethical judgment is often substituted for self-healing. It seems virtuous to ‘feed’ righteous indignation, and treasonous to stop the rage” (Krystal 85). Harry is therefore releasing his rage for past traumas based simply upon his indignation at Malfoy’s obnoxious behavior. Such heated confrontations are overblown responses to Malfoy’s antics, yet Harry cannot tone down his aggressiveness. “Because of their difficulty in modulating intense anger, [trauma] survivors oscillate between uncontrolled expressions of rage and intolerance of aggression in any form” (Herman 56). Harry is always at extremes, then, in his reactions to others, either hating them aggressively or finding that they can be trusted and being their devoted friend.

Trust is difficult for trauma victims. Kai Erikson points out, in his essay “Notes on Trauma and Community,” that “the hardest earned and most fragile accomplishment of childhood, basic trust, can be damaged beyond repair by trauma” (197). Hypervigilant behavior, feelings of adversariality, and the sort of aggressive behavior just discussed all result from the difficulty of trauma victims to see anyone as deserving of trust.

In every encounter, basic trust is in question. To the released prisoner, there is only one story: the story of atrocity. And there are only a limited number of roles: one can be a perpetrator, a passive witness, an ally, or a rescuer. Every new or old relationship is approached with the implicit question: Which side are you on? … [A victim] may cling desperately to a person whom [he] perceives as a rescuer, flee suddenly from a person [he] suspects to be a perpetrator or accomplice, show great loyalty and devotion to a person [he] perceives as an ally, and heap wrath and scorn on a person who appears to be a complacent bystander (Herman 92-93).

In this sense, Voldemort is the perpetrator most significant to Harry, although all three of the Dursleys are considered perpetrators as well; Malfoy and Snape are seen as passive witnesses, at worst actual allies to the perpetrator and at best bystanders who made no attempt to save Harry or his parents from attack and murder; Ron and Hermione are allies, supporting Harry emotionally as well as helping him with his problems; and Hagrid and Dumbledore are rescuers, having saved Harry from the perpetrators of Harry’s traumas and being supportive of him in every way. Hagrid, as a rescuer, earns Harry’s greatest trust and devotion, and Harry goes to great lengths to assure Hagrid’s safety, particularly when there is concern that Malfoy will make trouble for Hagrid’s possession of the dragon Norbert (Rowling 236). How Harry reacts to everyone else is based largely upon his perceptions of each person’s trustworthiness in regards to the traumas he has suffered.

Victims of trauma do not base all of their reactions to others upon trust alone. Even the demands or advice of the most trusted friend or caregiver may be doubted by the trauma victim. “People whose view of the world has been tempered by exposure to trauma can easily lose faith not only in the good will but in the good sense of those in charge of a dangerous universe” (Erikson 195, original emphasis). Trauma victims will often disregard authority figures in favor of their own counsel because they place great emphasis upon maintaining control by themselves. For many trauma victims, “the sense of having control and being able to predict events is critical to feelings of well-being and hope and to the ability to cope and function” (Harvey 17). As a result, trauma victims often break rules and act outside of the expectations imposed by parents, teachers, and other authority figures. This is not so much a form of ‘acting out,’ as a way to gain attention or affection, but more a reaction to the confusion and distrust they hold for a world in which the traumas they have faced can occur. In the face of a world seemingly gone mad, trauma victims will doubt any directive that comes from anyone other than themselves.

Harry is driven to break rules, break curfews, and enter restricted areas because of this compelling behavior to disregard authority figures. He is unable to stop himself. At one time, even after he “swore to himself not to meddle in things that weren’t his business from now on,” having “had it with sneaking around and spying,” he is back to the same practices within a week (Rowling 245-246). Harry has no qualms about breaking away from his house members as they are ordered to head back to their rooms. He knows he will be in trouble if he is caught, but he is easily led away to find Hermione instead (Rowling 173). Similarly, Harry is actually excited and anxious to sneak into “[t]he Restricted Section in the library” (Rowling 205), a place he has been ejected from before and told not to reenter. And yet again, on another occasion, he sneaks out knowing fully well that, “There was no reason on earth that Professor McGonagall would accept for their being out of bed and creeping around the school in the dead of night, let alone being up the tallest astronomy tower, which was out-of-bounds except for classes” (Rowling 242). Prior to Harry’s most serious disobedience, Headmaster Dumbledore makes very clear that, “the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death” (Rowling 127). As if that is not warning enough, Professor McGonagall, after catching Harry and his friends loitering around the door to that hallway repeatedly, warns that, “[i]f [she] hear[s] [they’ve] come anywhere near here again, [she’ll] take another fifty [house competition] points from Gryffindor [their house]” (Rowling 269). None of these remonstrances from his headmaster and teachers are sufficient to stop Harry from going where he wishes. In each case he clearly knows that he is breaking defined rules and defying authority, yet he goes forth nonetheless. Harry feels that he must face the world and his troubles alone, without anyone else’s help and without anyone else’s hindrance. Kai Erikson explains Harry’s actions when he says that, “[t]o describe people as traumatized is to say that they have drawn into a kind of protective envelope, a place of mute, aching loneliness, in which the traumatic experience is treated as a solitary burden that needs to be expunged by acts of denial and resistance” (186). By sneaking out after curfew and by going places he is supposed to avoid, Harry is attempting to keep his burden to himself. Breaking rules is not so much a disrespect for authority figures as a disregard, and Harry’s acts of disobedience are invariably made in an effort to resolve his problems on his own, even when an ally would be invaluable.

Harry puts great effort into solving his own problems, but he is barely able to understand who he is. John Harvey claims that, “One of the most important consequences of major loss is identity change” (20, original emphasis). It might be argued that Harry changes from a wizard to a Muggle after his parents die and from a Muggle back to a wizard after he is abused by the Dursleys, but this would be an unfounded argument. In fact, Harry never displays an identity change at all, mostly because Harry struggles throughout the book to form any solid identity whatsoever. An impaired self-reference is common among trauma victims. Just as trauma victims have difficulty accepting the good sense of the rules cast upon a chaotic world, they also have difficulty understanding their own place in such a chaotic world. Harry never truly feels that he is a part of the Muggle world, and he generally feels out of place in the wizarding world. He strongly doubts that he is a wizard when Hagrid first tells him of his lineage, and he continuously is unable to see himself as the hero that the wizarding world believes him to be. “Harry, instead of feeling pleased and proud [to be considered a hero for inadvertently defeating Voldemort when he was a child], felt quite sure there had been a horrible mistake” (Rowling 57). This self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy are almost constantly shown by Harry whenever he is told what “an honor” it is to be in his presence (Rowling 69). As he puts it, “’Everyone thinks I’m special … but I don’t know anything about magic at all. How can they expect great things? I’m famous and I can’t even remember what I’m famous for” (Rowling 86). Harry struggles not only against his traumatic memories, but he also struggles with accepting who he is as a result of those traumas. Some of this is the standard struggle of all children to find their place in the world, but for Harry this is exacerbated by his view of the world as chaotic and unfriendly and by his fears of further traumatization. Harry may also feel that he is no longer a whole person, having lost a part of himself each time he was traumatized.

As Judith Herman has shown, “[l]ong after the event, many traumatized people feel that a part of themselves has died. The most profoundly afflicted wish that they were dead” (49). For many trauma victims, suicidal tendencies are common; death may seem to be the only escape from traumatic memories and conscious fears of revictimization. While Harry Potter does not distinctly attempt suicide or even think about it, he clearly exhibits self-endangering tendencies that repeatedly place his life in great peril. Suicidal and self-endangering tendencies are very similar for trauma victims, one being an active and the other a passive attempt to risk life. Harry may or may not seek death, consciously or unconsciously, but he reacts to life-threatening situations without the same serious regard for life and personal welfare that most people would have. Kai Erikson points out that, “[t]raumatized people calculate life’s chances differently” (194). Harry certainly takes chances that others would not, and his past traumas are at the root of this behavior. Not only is Harry affected by self-endangering tendencies, this ‘calculating life’s chances differently,’ but the enormity of the frightening traumas he has faced seem to have altered his reactions to normal fears of physical danger. This, too, is a common reaction for trauma victims. Studies by Robert Pynoos and Spencer Eth show that, “the traumatic event may alter the recognition and tolerance of the affect of fear” (41). For Harry, there is no longer a standard response of fear based upon physical danger. For instance, consider Harry’s encounter with the troll. Harry leaps onto the troll’s back, grabbing it around the neck, yet he takes this action with no plan and knowing fully well that the troll “couldn’t feel Harry hanging there,” useless, and also knowing that, sooner or later, “the troll was going to rip him off or catch him a terrible blow with the club” (Rowling 176). This was an impulsive action but also one which suggests that Harry is carelessly, thoughtlessly endangering his life. Running or casting a spell would have been the best alternatives considering the advantage in height, weight and ferocity that the troll holds compared to Harry and his friends, yet Harry makes a move that clearly has no hope of improving the situation. It seems certain that Harry is indeed calculating life’s chances differently; either that or Harry is recklessly endangering his life purposefully. There is another possibility, as well; Harry may be attempting to gain favor from his peers and from authority figures such as Dumbledore. John Breire suggests that, “the individual engages in potentially life-threatening behavior … as a way to force personally important individuals to express caring, attention, validation, or appreciation” (56). It seems much more likely that Harry is simply recklessly self-endangering himself rather than seeking to gain favor with others, but his reactions to the praise of adults for his actions, both after the troll encounter and after his battle with Voldemort, make it difficult to eliminate this as a possibility. In either case, Harry is reacting in ways that are very typical of behaviors among trauma victims.

There are a number of other post-traumatic behaviors that could be ascribed to Harry Potter, but only the aforementioned behaviors have sufficient evidence in the text to support them. Two other possible behaviors must be mentioned, however, as they are common reactions of young children to trauma, namely multiple personality disorders and escaping into a fantasy world. An argument could be made that Harry Potter suffers from multiple personality disorders and shifts back and forth from being a Muggle to being a wizard. There is little support for this view in the text; Harry very clearly moves from the Muggle world to the wizarding world in a physical sense, not simply as a personality change, and once he learns that he is a wizard, he never stops being a wizard, even when he returns to the Muggle world at the end of the book.

It could be much better argued that Harry creates a fantasy world, the wizarding world, as an attempt to escape the traumas he endures under the Dursleys. John Harvey states that, “[q]uite young children … may show feelings of unreality for a long time after a parent’s death” (51). This ’unreality’ could be something as little as refusing to believe that a parent is dead and acting as though they are alive, yet the unreality might be as complex as imagining an entire fantasy world of escape where the death of a parent is no longer a part of that reality. In this sense, the events of nearly the entire book could be a creation of Harry’s mind and not a catalogue of lived events. Harry could be seen to create the wizarding world as a way to gain power for himself that could free him from his enduring traumas. As Pynoos and Eth have seen in their case studies, “[o]ccasionally, young children can imagine superhero powers protecting them from attack or fantasize aid from an older sibling or relative” (Pynoos and Eth 41-42). Becoming a wizard could be seen as a way for Harry to imagine that he has the power to stop the Dursleys. Once again, however, there is little evidence in the text to support this contention. Since the story starts with the Dursleys in the Muggle world, it must be assumed that at least that part of the story is not a fantasy of Harry’s creation. If that is the case, the Dursley’s admission that there is a wizarding world and that Harry is indeed from a wizarding family (Rowling 53) seem to make clear that the wizarding world is more than a fantasy based solely in Harry’s imagination. As fantastic as the wizarding world may be, the reader must accept that any story regarding a trauma victim may seem unreal. Geoffrey Hartman believes that, “[t]he post-traumatic story often needs a ‘suspension of disbelief’” (541). If there is any fantasy world created by Harry in this book, it is the vision Harry views in the Mirror of Erised, where his parents are still alive. As discussed earlier, this is a dissociative behavior on Harry’s part, an attempt to escape stress and trouble in his current reality while fantasizing about a different, more perfect place. There is no comparison between having this short-lived vision and living all of life in a complex, imagined reality. The wizarding world must inevitably be seen as a real aspect of Harry’s life and not an escape into fantasy.


Post-traumatic behaviors and effects of trauma are wide-spread, deeply rooted, and long-lasting. A wealth of documented studies examine the lasting effects of trauma, both with and without psychological treatment, and all studies support each other in showing this lasting impact. John Briere has explained that, “[a]lthough some of the initial reactions of victims to their abuse may abate with time, more typically such disturbances, along with abuse-specific coping behaviors, generalize and elaborate over the long term if untreated” (18). Survivors of the Holocaust continue to suffer from their traumas. In studies conducted twenty years after initial psychological treatments that were conducted following World War II, it was found that “[t]hese patients have continued to suffer from depression, sleep disturbances, repetitive dreams, various chronic pain syndromes, and chronic anxiety (Eitinger, 1980), as well as characterological difficulties” (Krystal 76). Another study, conducted thirty years after its initial, post-Holocaust study, found that the survivors continue to have “[p]roblems of chronic depression, masochistic life patterns, chronic anxiety, and psychosomatic disease” (Krystal 77). While these studies were specific to the Holocaust, they are indicative of other studies regarding all types of trauma. Post-traumatic behaviors can potentially last the entire lifetime of the victim, and these behaviors can eventually become more ingrained in the victim than the memories of the original trauma. “Traumatic events produce profound and lasting changes in physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory … Traumatic symptoms have a tendency to become disconnected from their source and to take on a life of their own” (Herman 34). For Harry, who barely remembers some of his traumas, it can clearly be seen that his behaviors, untreated, have become a major part of his existence. Harry is ruled, in many ways, by these behaviors, and he acts based upon these reactions to traumas which have since passed.

Harry’s reactions to situations in life, like the reactions of most trauma victims, can be seen as a struggle between his own free will and the overpowering effects of past traumas that dictate many of his behaviors and perceptions of the world. Trauma victims are often driven by their post-traumatic behaviors more than by their own decisions, and the reaction is often based upon chemical reactions in the brain. “The locus coeruleus [part of the brain] is the ‘alarm bell’ of the CNS [Central Nervous System], which properly goes off under situations of threat, but which, in traumatized people, is liable to respond to any number of triggering conditions akin to the saliva in Pavlov’s dogs. When the locus coeruleus alarm gets activated, it secretes noradrenaline, and, if rung repeatedly, endogenous opioids. These, in turn, dampen perception of pain, physical as well as psychological (Van der Kolk et al., 1989). These neurotransmitters, which are activated by alarm … affect the interpretation of incoming stimuli further in the direction of ‘emergency’ and fight-or-flight responses” (Van der Kolk and Van der Hart 173). Trauma victims may arguably still have free will, but their reactions and perceptions are clearly affected by this altered chemical reaction in their minds. Decisions to face danger or flee from it are no longer normal, and the trauma victim’s reactions may be completely unpredictable. Additionally, their hypervigilance and sense of fear regarding future traumas serves only to further their reliance upon the post-traumatic behaviors that seem to psychologically protect them from the horrors of their past. “[Pierre] Janet described the fact that traumatized people lose track of current exigencies, and respond instead, as if faced with a past threat: (they have) “lost the mental synthesis that constitutes reflective will and belief; [they] simply transform into automatic wills and beliefs the impulses which are momentarily the strongest” (Van der Kolk and Van der Hart 174-175). Janet seems to suggest that free will is lost entirely by trauma victims, and while free will still exists in each trauma victim, the effects of past traumas can overwhelm them under certain circumstances such that they may be entirely driven by their post-traumatic behaviors. Particularly in situations that recall past traumas, trauma victims will react with post-traumatic behaviors more often than they act with free will.

Harry Potter is no different than any other trauma victim. With amazing regularity, he allows his post-traumatic behaviors to drive his actions more than his free will, and it can be argued that what seem to be heroic deeds on Harry’s part are simply the results of his being driven by the disorders, behaviors, and effects that he has developed in response to the traumas of his past. One example after another displays how Harry consistently reacts according to post-traumatic influences rather than any conscious act of free will. While everyone praises Harry as a hero, no one was there the night Voldemort attacked him and killed his parents; no one knows what truly happened, including Harry, who has suppressed the memory. Harry has been a legend to the wizarding world, but he has never been present to prove himself. He is vaunted for deeds he did not knowingly commit, if he even committed them. Harry’s entire position as the hero who as a baby defeated Voldemort has no solid basis in fact, simply assumption and hearsay. As with many trauma victims, “[t]oo often, this view of the [traumatized] veteran as a man apart is shared by civilians, who are content to idealize or disparage his military service while avoiding detailed knowledge of what that service entailed” (Herman 67). While the lack of evidence regarding Harry’s past actions makes his heroism as a baby questionable, his actions during the novel can more distinctly be observed and considered for heroism.


The unavoidable reality is that, for Harry, heroism has nothing to do with his actions – but his trauma does. Harry is driven by the lasting effects of his trauma; his perceptions of the world, his psychological frame of reference, and his behaviors are all subject to post-traumatic influences, and his every action results from this influence, not from any heroism, intentional or unintentional. We are told, when Harry faces the troll in the bathroom, that, “Harry then did something that was both very brave and very stupid” (Rowling 177). In truth, however, Harry is not particularly brave or heroic in this situation. As has been argued earlier, Harry “calculates life’s chances differently” (Erikson 194) and endangers himself recklessly as a standard post-traumatic behavioral response. Additionally, the chemical impulses that trigger his ‘fight or flight’ responses are very possibly out of balance. Harry and Ron are both terrified when they realize that Hermione is locked in the bathroom with the troll, but Harry reacts more than acts when they enter the bathroom. After both Harry and Ron attempt to distract the troll, Harry runs to pull Hermione out of the bathroom as quickly as possible. When Hermione is too panicked to move and Harry realizes the troll is between him and escape through the door, “[h]e took a great running jump and managed to fasten his arms around the troll’s neck from behind. The troll couldn’t feel Harry hanging there” (Rowling 176). Harry is not being heroic but panicked, proving ineffective against the monster and risking his own life wildly, with no heroism or logic in his actions. He is simply reacting to his fears and, possibly, taking self-endangering actions in the process. Normal ‘fight or flight’ responses would not lead anyone to attempt to fight the troll physically, yet Harry jumps upon the troll as if this might make a difference. As Professor McGonagall puts it afterward, “You’re lucky you weren’t killed” (Rowling 177). Even though Ron is as frightened as Harry, he at least manages to cast the spell that knocks the troll unconscious with his own club (Rowling 176). Ron acts in this situation, even though he is terrified, but Harry reacts, being driven by his post-traumatic behaviors more than his free will.

Certain points in the text make clear that Harry is far from heroic, many times being quite unable to act due to his fears. When Harry is in the forest, facing the hooded figure that has fed upon the unicorn’s blood, “he couldn’t move for fear” (Rowling 256). Later, still in the forest, “[i]t was as though an iron fist had clenched suddenly around Harry’s heart,” even though Harry was far from danger and safe with an ally (Rowling 259). Still later, as Harry realizes that his great enemy Voldemort is at the heart of the problems around Hogwarts, he fears for his life. “So all I’ve got to wait for now is Snape to steal the stone,” Harry went on feverishly, “then Voldemort will be able to come and finish me off” (Rowling 260). Harry’s reaction is similar when he believes that Snape will finally be able to get the Sorcerer’s Stone and rejuvenate Voldemort. He is nearly hysterical as he argues with Ron and Hermione, “Don’t you understand? If Snape gets hold of the Stone, Voldemort’s coming back! … If I get caught before I can get to the Stone, well, I’ll have to go back to the Dursley’s and wait for Voldemort to find me there, it’s only dying a bit later than I would have” (Rowling 270). Harry is desperate with fear, certain that he will die if he tries to interfere in the unfolding events and equally sure that he will also die if he does nothing. A key point to notice is that Harry only ever really intends to “get the Stone” so that Snape cannot give it to Voldemort and restore his power; he never actually intends to face either Snape or Voldemort directly as he is sure that either one would kill him and that he would not stand a chance. Finding the Sorcerer’s Stone and moving it to a secret location might be an inspired way to delay what he fears, but it is hardly an action based upon heroism. If anything, Harry is paralyzed by his fears, and he only reacts when his traumas are invoked and his behaviors become driven by the lasting effects of his traumas.

The final escapades, in which Harry seems to automatically be deemed a hero, are far from heroic on his part. From the moment they embark, Harry is not the person to lead the trio of friends, either to solve the problems they face, or to selflessly risk himself for his comrades. Instead, he begins by expecting someone else to take the lead. Even before they leave their common room, Harry desperately begs Hermione to, “Do something” (Rowling 273, original emphasis), to stop Neville from getting them into trouble. Once they have entered the third-floor hallway, getting past Fluffy, the three-headed dog, is no great accomplishment since Fluffy is still groggy from the affects of Quirrell’s harp-playing, and the subsequent playing of Harry’s flute puts the giant dog immediately back to sleep (Rowling 275). Next, the Devil’s Snare plant nearly squeezes the life out of both Harry and Ron and is only stopped by Hermione’s well-learned spell, without any help from Harry (Rowling 277). Granted, Harry’s abilities at flying a broomstick, in the next room, allow Harry to catch the winged key that opens the next door, but this is hardly heroic in any way (Rowling 281). In fact the most heroic deed in this final sequence of adventures is made by Ron, who bravely sacrifices himself in the chess game, knowing that the life-sized enchanted chess pieces will attack and possibly kill him but knowing that it is the only way to finish this challenge and move ahead toward the next. As Ron says, “it’s the only way … I’ve got to be taken” (Rowling 283). The next obstacle, the troll, has already been knocked unconscious, obviating any heroism on Harry’s part (Rowling 284), and the logic puzzle of the seven bottles leaves Harry stumped, solved only by Hermione’s usual intelligence (Rowling 285-286).

The ending situation, which Harry expects to be a confrontation with Snape, is left for Harry to face alone, but his choices are not likely based upon heroism. He is alone, first of all, not by choice but because there is only enough potion for one person to use and pass through the black flames into the final room (Rowling 287). Harry is the natural choice because, as has been seen before, Harry is driven to face his problems by himself, and he also often places himself in dangerous, life-threatening situations; this is clearly such a moment. Harry tells Hermione to send for Dumbledore to put a stop to Snape, and inevitably Voldemort, but Harry chooses to go forward and clearly does not expect to survive. He tells Hermione that, “I might be able to hold off Snape for a while, but I’m no match for him, really” (Rowling 286). While this might be considered a heroic act of sacrifice meant to gain time for Dumbledore to return, it seems more likely that Harry is succumbing to his self-endangering behaviors. If Harry is no match for Snape, he could easily be dead well before Dumbledore returns, particularly considering Hermione still has to gather the unconscious Ron and make her way out of the maze of challenges they have just passed through before she can even write a letter to send by owl to inform Dumbledore that he is needed; all of this will take time, yet Harry proceeds directly ahead to face certain death. Harry is to some extent reliving his role as a victim by placing himself in harm’s way, knowing that he is quite unlikely to win this standoff. The arguments by Henry Krystal suggest that this is not an uncommon response from a trauma victim. Krystal believes that a survivor of trauma “stands the risk of having the object and self-representations polarized into victim and perpetrators” (84-85). This polarization will “propel him into continuing the victim identity” (Krystal 85).

Harry’s actions make it difficult not to see him falling completely into the role of victim. When Harry actually comes face-to-face with Quirrell in the last room he makes no attempts to stop him (Rowling 288), even though he has shown no fear toward this professor in any of his previous experiences. While it is true that he is shocked not to find Snape, it seems odd for him to come to a complete stop when he clearly knows that Quirrell, the only man in the room besides himself, is the person trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone for Voldemort. Certainly Harry is confused to find Quirrell instead of Snape, but Harry stands inactive not because he is confused but because he was never prepared to face any opponent. After all, if he had been expecting Snape, Harry would have had his wand in hand and been ready to attack Snape directly if he had been acting heroically, hoping to gain time for Dumbledore. But if Harry had, instead, simply been acting with reckless self-endangerment, falling into his long-standing role of victim, he would have entered the room exactly as he did, without his wand ready and without any preparations for attack, like a lamb to the slaughter, expecting Snape to kill him as soon as he was noticed. When Harry realizes he is not facing Snape but Quirrell, his expectations come into doubt and he pauses, unsure of what to expect.

Harry’s delay allows Quirrell to cast a spell that ties him in ropes, making any attack on Harry’s part impossible; even in this completely vulnerable state, however, Harry does not become afraid, even when Quirrell coolly announces, “I’m going to kill you [Harry] tonight” (Rowling 289). This certainly seems to suggest that Harry does not have normal responses to fear or normal senses of self-preservation, otherwise it would seem to be expected that Harry would at least break a sweat or become notably afraid or struggle to get free of his bonds to escape. The only struggling Harry does is to try to look in the Mirror of Erised to ascertain the location of the Stone. Harry seems to accept his impending death at the hands of Quirrell, and when Harry does finally look into the Mirror, the Stone settles into his pocket via a magic spell of Dumbledore’s, not due to any heroic, or even intentional, actions on Harry’s part. “Somehow – incredibly – he’d gotten the Stone” (Rowling 292, original emphasis). Voldemort immediately realizes that Harry now has the Stone and tries to get Harry to give it to him.

While Harry has continued to act in established victim and perpetrator roles, with himself as the victim and Quirrell/Voldemort as the perpetrator, he still, like all victims of trauma, harbors “a longing to change place with the aggressor. But, the identification with the aggressor must remain unconscious or else it will flood the self-representation with psychotic rage” (Krystal 85). When Voldemort taunts Harry with degrading comments about how Harry’s parents had “died begging for mercy” (Rowling 294), and how his “mother needn’t have died … she was trying to protect [Harry]” (Rowling 294), Harry’s response shifts toward just such a longing to change places with his aggressor, to swap victim and perpetrator roles. Voldemort’s retelling of the murder of Harry’s parents, an event which Harry has blocked from his conscious memory for his whole life yet which has been vividly depicted for him for the first time, essentially reenacts Harry’s primary trauma. “[Pierre] Janet observed … that traumatic memory is evoked under particular conditions. It occurs automatically in situations which are reminiscent of the original traumatic situation … When one element of a traumatic experience is evoked, all other elements follow automatically” (Van der Kolk and Van der Hart 163). Quirrell/Voldemort’s promise of killing Harry and his retelling of the murder of Harry’s parents not only reminds Harry of that original traumatic situation, it evokes the trauma of the original event fully. Harry is, for all intents and purposes, reliving the most traumatic event of his life, but he is also, “trapped, surrounded, overrun and facing certain death … he apparently has nothing to lose and everything to gain from reckless frenzy” – he has, by definition, entered what is known as a berserk state (Shay 79). Such a berserk state is commonly seen in soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorders. The berserker lashes out wildly, often with no conscious thought of what they are doing, attacking anyone that may be nearby. This is not a conscious decision on Harry’s part; “Harry, by instinct, reached up and grabbed Quirrell’s face” (Rowling 295, emphasis added). Once he has started, Harry loses himself in this same sort of berserk state that is seen in soldiers, giving in to his “psychotic rage” as he swaps the roles of victim and perpetrator (Krystal 85), attacking Quirrell/Voldemort with something inherent in him that burns Quirrell’s skin upon touch, just as it had deflected Voldemort’s magical killing attack when Harry was a baby.

The true end of the battle against Quirrell/Voldemort is unknown. As is the case with many trauma victims who enact a berserk attack, Harry blacks out from the pain and remembers nothing of what happened during that time (Rowling 295). Dumbledore arrives at some point thereafter to finish off Quirrell/Voldemort and regain the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling 296), and the defeat of Quirrell/Voldemort, even accounting for Harry’s berserk rage, must very likely have depended upon Dumbledore, but there is no way to be sure. Even if Harry is to be considered to have defeated Quirrell/Voldemort himself, this was hardly a heroic act. Harry was desperate – berserk even – and acted instinctually, drawing upon his aggressive tendencies and fueled by the pain of reliving the primary trauma of his life. While he may have achieved victory, he did so through no conscious actions of his own; instead, he was driven by unconscious post-traumatic thoughts and behaviors, a victim of the lasting effects of his endured traumas, even if a successful victim.


As Kai Erikson observes, “’trauma’ has to be understood as resulting from a constellation of life experiences as well as from a discrete happening, from a persisting condition as well as from an acute event” (185, original emphasis). Harry Potter suffered a number of different traumas which together affected him deeply, leading to an array of persisting post-traumatic behaviors and perceptions of the world. The lasting effects of these combined traumas influenced Harry deeply and led to behavioral responses which shaped his actions and reactions throughout the text. Because Harry’s actions and reactions to other characters and to the world around him are mediated and directed by these lasting post-traumatic behaviors, his triumphs throughout the novel, particularly at the conclusion of the text, are not at all due to any sort of heroism but are, in fact, the specific result of his controlling post-traumatic behaviors and reactions, as has been argued. As well as he may succeed throughout the novel, Harry Potter is no hero; he is simply a former victim of trauma who is overwhelmingly driven by post-traumatic psychological effects and behaviors.

While Harry’s peers and teachers at Hogwarts school of wizardry praise him at the end of the novel for his heroic accomplishments, they, along with the millions of readers of this story, might be less enthusiastic about Harry’s successes if they realized that those accomplishments came about through post-traumatic behavioral responses and not through self-willed heroism. There is a need within all of us, not simply to see that good can triumph over evil but to see that people can overcome the fears and traumas of their pasts. Harry is seen as emblematic of what we can do, what we want to do, in spite of our past sufferings, but ironically he is exactly the opposite of the courageous, self-willed hero we desire. Harry is not a hero but a victim, and while his successes should be celebrated, his behaviors should be put in perspective with his past traumas. The hero we seek is within us, just as it is within Harry Potter, but before we can be champions against the evils of the world, we must first face our own demons, and the most heroic action we may ever take will be facing and resolving our own traumas.

Works Cited:

Briere, John N. Child Abuse Trauma: Theory and Treatment of the Lasting Effects. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1992.

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1996.

Erikson, Kai. “Notes on Trauma and Community.” Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Ed. Cathy Caruth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995. 183-199.

Hartman, Geoffrey H. “On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies.” New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation. Ed. Ralph Cohen. 1995 Summer ed. Vol. 26:3. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995. 537-563.

Harvey, John H. Perspectives on Loss and Trauma: Assaults on the Self. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2002.

Herman, Judith Lewis, M.D. Trauma and Recovery. United States: Basic Books, 1992.

Krystal, Henry. “Trauma and Aging: A Thirty-Year Follow-Up.” Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Ed. Cathy Caruth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995. 76-99.

McIntyre, Teresa M. and Margarida Ventura. “Children of War: Psychosocial Sequelae of War Trauma in Angolan Adolescents.” The Psychological Impact of War Trauma on Civilians. Ed. Stanley Krippner and Teresa McIntyre. Westport: Praeger, 2003. 39-53.

Paulson, Daryl S. “War and Refugee Suffering.” The Psychological Impact of War Trauma on Civilians. Ed. Stanley Krippner and Teresa McIntyre. Westport: Praeger, 2003. 111-122.

Pynoos, Robert S. and Spencer Eth. “Developmental Perspective on Psychic Trauma in Childhood.” Trauma and Its Wake: The Study and Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Ed. Charles R. Figley, PhD. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1985. 36-52.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Shay, Jonathan, M.D., PhD. Achilles in Vietnam. New York: Atheneum, 1994.

Tal, Kali. Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma. New York: U. Cambridge, 1996.

Trimble, Michael R. “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: History of a Concept.” Trauma and Its Wake: The Study and Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Ed. Charles R. Figley, PhD. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1985. 5-14.

Van der Kolk, Bessel A. and Onno Van der Hart. “The Intrusive Past: The Flexibility of Memory and The Engraving of Trauma.” Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Ed. Cathy Caruth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995. 158-182.


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Harried, Spellbound, and Less Than Heroic, by Paul Cales, © March 2004