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Belly of the Whale
Descent into the Unknown – Experiences in Harry Potter
Analysis By Lynne Milum
Copyright © 2004-2007 by Lynne Milum. All rights reserved.

Belly of the Whale for the Series

The Order of the Phoenix finds Harry descending into desperate isolation – both his physical and psychological separation deepens as this new trial progresses. This psychological state is a metaphorical belly of the whale and signifies a new phase of Harry's transformation. Prior to Cedric’s death, Harry had key moments of desperation, but always found an outlet. Quidditch is a major psychological release for Harry, and this meditative experience was denied him in Book 5. With the mood of the series, the reader gets the feeling that if and when Harry emerges from this funk, he will truly discover his comprehensive power. With that enlightenment, nothing – even possibly death – can deter him.

Trial 1 – Through the Trapdoor
(From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

The first book, the strongest image of "The Belly" occurs when the three friends drop though the trapdoor guarded by Fluffy and land in the Devil’s Snare. Only those who can relax and not let the despair overcome them can be freed from the trap. As the trial deepens, Harry is gradually separated from Ron in the Chess Room and Hermione in the Potions Room. Harry enters the final room to face Quirrell/Voldemort alone.

Trial 2 – Bottom of the Chamber Slide
(From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

In the second book, Ron, Lockhart and Harry descend into the dark depths of the Chamber, into piles of vermin bones searching for Ginny. Harry descends further after being cut off from Ron and Gilderoy Lockhart by the cave-in. Again, Harry goes deeper into the bowels of Hogwarts to face Tom Riddle (Voldemort's own 16-year-old memory) alone. Harry sheds another layer of naivete in realizing the identity of his foe and the gravity of the situation – even the price Ginny will pay if he fails.

Trial 3 – Through the Passageway
(From Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

In the third adventure, Harry becomes aware of a notorious wizard who betrayed his parents. The wizard has broken free and apparently now intends to do Harry harm. A tremendous cloud of fear ways on Harry and is reinforced by both the Grim and Divination professor Trelawney.

Harry learns to descend many secret tunnels in this story – first into the passage by the witch with the hump to enter Hogsmeade against all school rules. But the descent into the passage to save Ron from the giant black dog is the descent into the Whomping Willow as Crookshanks stops the threatening branches most parallels 'the belly of the whale' scenario.

Trial 4 – Graveyard Portal
(From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

A metaphorical descent transpires as Cedric and Harry are transported by the Triwizard Cup to the remote graveyard. Then Harry is separated from Cedric as the final fatal curse – Avada Kedavra – is uttered. Harry is then faced with a horrible manifestation of a snakelike Voldemort…it appears that this is truly the end.

Trial 5 – Dialing up the Descent
(From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

Believing that Sirius is in mortal danger, Harry and key D.A, members depart from Hogwarts by riding through the air on thestrals – wizard omens of death. Ginny, Ron and Hermione can't see the creatures they are riding – showing complete faith in Harry despite paralyzing fear. On arrival at the Ministry, they crowd into the telephone booth and descend into the depths of the Ministry of Magic, then navigate further into the unknown that is the Department of Mysteries.

Trial 6 - Dissembled Cave
(From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

Descent into the belly of despair begins for this tragic episode begins when Dumbledore and Harry apparate from the Hogs Head to Tom Riddle's childhood cave. The image of further descent is to plunge themselves into the sea for access to the cave entrance. Then Dumbledore locates the hidden inner cave, which requires blood to be spilt in order to gain entrance. This enormous cavern holds even more terrors for Harry consistent with the Whale metaphor including confrontation with death itself.

 



 

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