Jessica O’Neal Talks Character & Harry Potter

Posted by on Feb 6, 2012 in Blogging, Books | 45 comments


“The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail.”

~Mark Twain


Today I am happy to let writer Jessica O’Neal take the stage.

Whether you’re writing or reading, you want characters to be believable and complex–even inspiring, and Jessica has a knack for reminding you why it’s so awesome to take a journey with a great character.

A big thank you to Jessica for sharing her post on Harry Potter.  Be sure to check out her site for more characters from the Harry Potter series, and Robin Hood!  She even posts about her own archery stories–she has a bow and arrow!




The Characters of Harry Potter: Harry

by Jessica O’Neal

One of the things that I love so much about the Harry Potter series is that J.K Rowling was able to create such a large cast of characters that I got to know and love. There are so many that I absolutely adore and have probably referred to at some point in time as my favorite. But I can only have one actual favorite character. For me, that character is Harry.

I am very aware that I am in the minority with this opinion and, to be honest, I don’t care. Harry, just like every other character that Jo created, is flawed in many ways. There are times when I want to smack him or hide my head in shame at his behavior, but I still love him. From the moment we first meet him in the small cupboard under the stairs he took my heart in his neglected little hands and never let go.

I tend to have a bit of a bleeding heart for those who face injustice and, goodness, Harry faces more than his fair share of injustice. From neglect bordering on abuse at his home to constant scrutiny and judgement by his peers to the bullying of “Professor” Snape to countless false accusations by peers as well as authority figures, Harry is plagued by unfair situations. In spite of all this, however, he somehow manages to to keep a surprisingly level head and never stops in his quest to defeat evil.

Ironically, the book that seems to turn people away from Harry the most is one that makes me love him more than ever and is my second favorite in the series: Order of the Phoenix. The Harry in this book is often referred to as ALLCAPS!HARRY in the fandom. If you have read the book, it is not hard to ascertain why. After fifteen years of being bullied, ridiculed, and forced to face more life or death situations than most adults Harry is finally fed up. He is frustrated and angry, which tends to boil over from time to time in a speech written in all caps. Yes, he frequently directs that anger towards the wrong people; yes, he is a bit more rash than usual; yes, he whines and complains about things a good deal; but you know what? I probably would have done the same thing. In fact, I would have been way worse.

After everything he had been through – living with the Dursley’s, facing Voldemort in the back of his teacher’s head, everything in the Chamber of Secrets, the fiasco with Sirius, competing in the Triwizard Tournament, watching a friend be murdered in front of him, seeing Voldemort returned to a body, being forced to battle Voldemort in the certainty that he would not survive – he is left feeling abandoned, attacked by Dementors, and threatened with getting expelled from Hogwarts.

When he is finally rescued from the Dursley’s he finds out that he is being lied about and defamed by the government and the media. He barely escapes being expelled from Hogwarts only to arrive at the school that is supposed to be his safe haven and be faced with Dolores Umbridge. Just the mention of that woman’s name makes my blood pressure rise. She is evil and I am not ashamed to say that I hate her. So much. She makes Harry’s day to day life hell. I challenge anyone to have to deal with her the way Harry did and not get a little grumpy and whiney.

I could go on listing out all the things that Harry has to face, but I won’t – I think I have made my point. Any normal person forced to deal with all the things Harry is would lose their temper on occasion, too. The fact that he does makes Harry more human, more relatable.

It is so difficult for me to read through all of his struggles, but I do and I root for him with every fiber of my being. I join him in the rollercoaster of emotions that he feels throughout the entire series. When he finally makes it to the end of Deathly Hallows and begins to triumph I am barely able to contain my joy. After seven long books of struggle after struggle after struggle he is able to show everyone that he is capable, despite all of their doubts and cruelty.

No matter how many times I have read Deathly Hallows, I still sob through the scenes where people stand up for Harry. My absolute favorite scene is when they are in the Great Hall and Voldemort has told them that if they turn Harry over no one has to die. Pansy Parkinson stands up, points to Harry, and yells for someone to grab him. One by one the students at the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff tables stand up and point their wands, not at Harry, but at Pansy. Harry is described as being “awestruck and overwhelmed” (490-491). Every time I read this scene I can’t help but cheer as tears run down my face. All the events and torment he has been through from the beginning of the series run through my mind and I feel just as awestruck and overwhelmed as he does. People finally realize they need to Support Harry Potter.

*Page numbers from the UK editions.

How do you feel about Harry? Do you find him whiney and annoying or do you understand where he is coming from? 

What characters have left an impression on you?





  1. I love Harry! :) And I am amazed at J.K. Rowling’s ability to create a world and especially a plot of such complexity and pull it all off so well. I wonder if she’ll ever write anything else?

  2. Oh I do hope she writes something else and something totally different. Harry can never be duplicated now, I would love to see her diversify.

  3. Though I don’t have any interest in Harry Potter books or films, I’m grateful for the enthusiasm for reading they’ve inspired, particularly in kids. And judging from this post, he seems like a great role model. :) Thanks Jessica and Coleen!
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  4. Thank you so much Coleen for hosting me! I am so excited to be here at your wonderful blog. Susanna and Catherine, it would be so sad if Jo never wrote another story. She is such a gifted writer. Thank you to both of you for the comments. It’s always good to know someone else who loves Harry. :)

    • Your welcome Jessica!!
      I agree with everyone too–I would love to see more stories from Rowling.

  5. I think if you took Order of the Phoenix in isolation, Harry wouldn’t be quite the likable protagonist he is. Part of why he works is that he grows so much over the course of the series. OotP is a cool book in part because Harry is coming to grips with the many faces evil can take. Voldy’s brand–more all-dark cruel and power mad. Umbridge’s is of another variety–bureaucrat cruel and power mad. Harry is rightly angry at injustice in a very adolescent way that becomes more self-sacrificing, more mature, as he goes through books six and seven.

    • This is very true. I love watching Harry grow over the course of the series. It is so fun to me to go straight from reading Deathly Hallows to Philosopher’s Stone. When reading the series through the change is so gradual it’s easy to overlook it, but when you jump from the end to the beginning you can really see how much he grows.

  6. Great post! Those are the scenes that touch me most as well since it is so relatable. I want to believe that friends have my back.

    • Thanks, Susie! Those scenes seriously get me every time.

  7. I totally get where Harry is coming from. He’s one of those characters that you feel so close to, even during his little hissy fits.

    • I completely agree. He is a character that I love flaws and all.

  8. Coleen and Jessica, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. That will change. Jessica, your passion for the series (Have you read August McLaughlin’s latest post on Pursuing Passion?)has given me the kick in the pants I need to start book 1. Thanks.
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    • I first picked up the book because I wanted to see what had my son reading at all hours! The first HP book was the one I enjoyed the most.

    • YAY!! These books are my absolute, all time favorite reads.I am so excited that you have decided to start reading them. You MUST let me know what you think!!

  9. Thanks for this post, Jessica, and to Coleen for bringing you to us. I haven’t read any Harry Potter books. (I’ve seen the movies, but I’m aware of how lame that sounds ….) Jess describes well, though, the “you just don’t understand me” device that authors often use to resolve conflicts in fiction between teens and the rest of us. This device often ignores the developmental process adolescents go through in favor of a quick solution to a misbehaving teens based on enlightenment of others about the justness of the teen rebellion. This seems like a cheat and a shortcut to me. A misbehaving kid may be justified in his misbehavior, but even though we adults understand that, does our understanding excuse him? Then again, should we doubt any device that effectively brings a reader like Jessica to tears?

    • But that is one of the things that is so great about Jo’s writing – Harry does receive consequences to his actions. When he is being whiney and wallowing in self-pity his friends are there to tell him that, yeah everything happening to you sucks, but don’t take it out on us. And his rash behavior of rushing to the ministry in Order of the Phoenix has deadly consequences that result in a huge maturing of Harry’s character. I think part of why everyone finally standing by Harry’s side is so moving is that, even though his somewhat obnoxious behavior was justifiable, he still learned how to cope and grow up BEFORE he was supported. I could literally go on and on about this, so I am just going to stop, lol. Thank you so much for bringing this point up, Diane! And don’t worry, I know a lot of people who are fans of the movies without having read the books, it’s not lame. ;)

  10. I love the Harry Potter books, but have not read the final one (long story). I should read it this year. I rooted for Harry from my first introduction.
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    • Oh my goodness! You will love it! It is hands down my favorite of the series.

  11. Thanks, Colleen for having Jessica over for a Harry Potter party! :) I’m a huge fan of HP myself. Back around the time book 4 Goblet of Fire was released, I finally decided to read the first book to see what the heck all the fuss was about. I fell in love with the characters and the story and the message of the series. The HP books are the only books I’ll reread, over and over.

    • My fellow HP buddy! Good to see you here, Ginger. :) I have lost count of how many times I have read this series, but I know that it is more than 10…and I wonder why people think I am crazy, lol! I started reading it right after the 3rd movie and 5th book came out. I still remember the circumstances exactly and I doubt I will ever forget it.

  12. I love these posts on Harry Potter, with seven books there is so much good stuff to learn from and to remember… I’d forgotten some stuff from the Order of the Phoenix, even the ALL CAPS!

    • Yes, there is a wealth of stuff to talk about from this series. I have to force myself to blog about other things, lol. But I am sure it won’t be long before I return to The Boy Who Lived.

  13. I did find him whiney through much of Order of the Phoenix, but at the same time, I don’t think it would be as believable if he wasn’t. It’s not just what he’s gone through, it’s also his age. What teenager doesn’t act that way from time to time? Rather than ruining him as a character, I think it made him more realistic, and in a lot of ways, more relateable.
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    • Exactly! Like I said, there were many times that I wanted to smack him, but that is part of why I love him so much. He is one of the most believable and realistic characters I have ever encountered.

  14. That’s an awesome scene in the Great Hall. And Harry’s flaws do make him human. What a cool post, Jessica.

    Thanks for having Jessica guest post, Coleen. I hope both of you have a great week.

    • Thanks, Lynn! That scene definitely ranks at the top of my “best scenes I’ve ever read” list. (I just made that up, no idea what other scenes rank there, lol)

  15. Very interesting post. I never found Harry to be a whiner. Honestly – the kid had a LOT to whine about, but he wasn’t that type. He was more of an optimist and I love his bravery too. Love that character.

    • You are now one of my favorite people, Leigh. I am so used to having to defend Harry that I don’t even know what to say to someone who DOESN’T think he was a whiner. Thank you!

  16. Wow.
    Must go read Harry Potter. Right now.
    And there’s no way I can answer in one small comment section the question: What characters left an impression on you?
    But I know that I love characters who stand up for others. And who learn to stand up for themselves.
    Who, in some ways, are stronger than me …
    And who make me think.
    And who take me places I’ve never been … or maybe back in time.
    Sure, specific characters come to mind. Anne with an “e” of Anne of Green Gables. And Jade in Sarah Evans’ series with Rachel Hauck. And PJ Sugar in Susan May Warren’s series of the same name … ok, running out of space.

    • Hahaha, yay!! Love your list of things you love in characters – all things that I look for, too. Thanks for the comment, Beth!

  17. I have to admit, I lost interest in HP after book 4. In fact, I started reading #5 to my daughter, and it was so long, and so little happening at first… but after reading this, I might have to pick it back up. Characters that put up with crap like Harry does without complaining get annoying – because who wouldn’t?? Reading that he finally reacts like this makes it sound more interesting!
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    • LOL! A lot of people have similar complaints as you to OotP. It is certainly more of a character development book than an action book…until the end that is, then it is nothing but action. I love all the character development that happens in it, though, which is a large part of why it is my second favorite in the series. You should give it another go and if you still don’t like it at least you gave it a fair shake. :)

  18. The character that left the best impression on me was the one I hated the most–Delores Umbridge. JK Rowling created this absolute MONSTER of a character but from a writing perspective, I appreciated the fact that D.U. wasn’t bad simply for the sake of having a villain. Instead, she believed so strongly in everything that she did that she didn’t even flinch when it came to hurting students.

    Clearly, I don’t condone the behavior, but I did appreciate Rowling making such a hatable, feminine, crazy cat lady character. She really did throw together some great character extremes.

    Fun post, Jessica. Thanks for sharing!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! Ugh! I loathe Umbridge with every fiber of my being. Just the thought of her makes my skin crawl and my blood pressure increase. And that is precisely why she is such a great character. Thank you for bringing her up, T.J.

  19. I remember loving Harry when I read the first book. But in the movie he wasn’t quite as likable as Ron. I wonder why that is. Maybe it just goes back to the book is always better than the movie. Fun post!

    • Yeah, I still love Harry in the movies, but no where near to the degree that I love him in the books. Thanks for the comment, Emma!

  20. Order of the Phoenix was my least favorite book in the series, primarily because it was so bleak and I too HATED Umbridge. When I read it the first time, I thought Harry was whiny and petulant in that book (although not in any of the others). But later, when I read it RIGHT AFTER re-reading the fourth book, I could relate to his anger and wasn’t surprise to find that bubbling up to the surface more often. Not to mention the fact that he was going through puberty. Although Rowling doesn’t mention that directly obviously, it is a factor in his behavior, which makes him an even more believable character.

    I’m not sure who my favorite character is in the series, or if I even have one. It really is an ensemble cast, and what makes it work so well is their relationships with each other.

    In any case, GREAT post guys! :-)

    • That is so interesting to hear you say that, Julie. I didn’t start reading the series until after OotP was already out, so I read the first 5 books back to back. It could very well be that that is why I loved it when so many people hated it. That is very interesting to think about.

  21. hangs head in shame — I have to read this series. i read book one and loved it but never got the others. and now i’ve forgotten book one, so I will start over. thanks for reminding me of a great read that I’ve missed.

  22. Awesome, awesome post. Reminds me why I enjoy the books so much. One of my favorite things about Harry Potter, he’s one of my favorites too, is that J.K. Rowling created a world I want to live in and peopled it with characters that breathe. :)

  23. I should probably duck my head in shame, Jessica, but I have never read a Harry Potter book. I’ve always meant to, but then once I saw the movie, I just couldn’t imagine reading the book. Ah, perhaps one day. There is always hope.

    Your description of Harry is awesome. Thanks for sharing!
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  24. I haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books, but really want to. It’s finding the time to fit them in. I will go and download them right now to my kindle.

    Thanks for a great post!

  25. I have not been as enamored of HP in the books as many others are. I have liked the few movies I’ve seen but when I try to pick up the books, they don’t keep me engaged. I much prefer the characters of Little Peggy and Alvin the Maker in Orson Scott Card’s series, that starts with The Seventh Son.
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  26. Thanks Jessica and Coleen. I love Harry. The first time I read “Order of the Phoenix” I wasn’t so happy. Up until that book, the magic still existed. With this book the darkness really began to take over. But, after reading it again several times, I grew to love it. As, it is really the beginning of really understanding Voldemort. I love the Harry Potter books and thinking through the horcruxes. Jo really developed her characters.

  27. I ADORE all things Harry Potter!! I also really like Harry. He did annoy me in book 5 but, I annoy myself all the time and still love me ;) Thanks for a lovely post. I grasp onto anything I see re: Harry Potter and still get super depressed at the thought that the series has come to an end. I keep hoping for that announcement that a new series with the new generation is being written……

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