Beauty, the Beast, and Harry Potter

What Is the Role of Appearances in the Harry Potter Series?

By You Won't Know Who

Once
upon a time there was a beautiful princess. Once upon a time there was an ugly
girl. Show these two beginnings to any child or adult and ask them: was the
character, described so briefly above, good or bad? Most of them will tell you
almost without thinking: the beautiful girl was probably good, the ugly girl
was probably bad. After thinking a bit longer everyone would agree that it's
against logic and experience but nevertheless, it works this way amazingly
often. Although our life is not a fairy tale, we do judge people by
appearances. According to the research, those among us who are supposed to be
more than averagely good-looking tend to earn more, get a job quicker, marry a
better situated partner, win the sympathy of strangers in times of trouble, and
even get lower sentences in court.1

A
survey conducted by London Guildhall University showed that
good-looking people are definitely privileged in many ways. Alternatively, one
could say that people who earn more are more likely to be (or able to be)
beautiful. 2 Nobody says it is fair, but what can you do? Let's face it ’ personal
appearance is not exactly a thing you can make your choice about.

Now,
is it true for the magical word created by J.K. Rowling: a world where you are
what you choose to be? This essay will try to analyse the connection between
the looks and the morality of characters in the Harry Potter series; not
all of them, though ’ it would be twice as lengthy as it is now- just a few
examples. I would like to start, however, with a more general question.


What Is Beauty? How Can We Define It?

Believe
it or not, this is a problematic question to ask. Everyone knows when they see
a beautiful person, thing or landscape, but to define objectively what beauty
is would need some magic indeed. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder ’ that
means that we set the rules for our own definition of beauty, every single one
of us. It implies that different people perceive different things as beautiful
or ugly, unless we happen to deliberately follow the majority, as is the case
from time to time. The notion itself seems to be a maze of different meanings.

Many
people would contrast physical beauty with moral beauty, describing the first
as a shallow representation of somebody's attractiveness, and the second as a
deeper trait of somebody's character or inner self. Hence religious and moral
teachings of many saints and philosophers, living in different countries and in
different times, have often focused on the divinity and/or virtue
of beauty. They tended to assert natural beauty as an aspect of a spiritual
beauty
(i.e. truth) and to define all self-centred or materialistic
pretensions as based in ignorance. It is true that nice-looking people are not
moral just because of their looks, but from ancient times the notion of beauty
connected closely with goodness or virtue ("kalos kai agathos" in
ancient Greek, which can be translated as "beautiful and good") was meant to be
the height of human perfection, linking physical and moral attractiveness in
one, creating a symbol of universal beauty and nobleness.b>3

It
raises another question: are bad people/things/animals also ugly? The most
natural answer seems to be "no" but you cannot deny the influence of physical
ugliness over our perception of people and things. Italian author Petrarch
stated: "Rarely do a Great beauty and Great virtue dwell together."4 Is it really so?

Let's
see how it was presented in the Harry Potter books by analysing the
physical appearances of the characters in the series and their morality and
behaviour.

Starting With Those Undefined By their Looks...

Albus
Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, is (or rather was) one of the most
prominent and interesting characters of the series. He is described in this
way:

Nothing like this man had ever
been seen in Privet Drive. He was tall, thin and very old, judging by the silver of
his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing
long robes, a purple cloak which swept the ground and high-heeled buckled
shoes. His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-moon
spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken
at least twice.
5

The
first thing that comes to mind reading such a description is that there are no
evaluating words whatsoever. Nothing in this man's appearance is described as
"nice" or "beautiful" or "handsome" or even suggested to be so. We just see a
tall, elderly wizard with acrooked nose and bright blue eyes. Only during the
following conversation with professor McGonagall do we learn that he speaks
"gently" 6 (in a nice way), has a sweet tooth (something that might
reflect the "sweetness" of his character) and is admired by his interlocutor
for being "noble" ’ i.e., "good." 7

Physical
appearance is moved to the background and made almost insignificant; we are
told, though, what others think about Dumbledore ’ he is definitely perceived
as "beautiful" from the moral point of view. This impression is deepened by the
headmaster of Hogwarts himself when he produces words and deeds of power and
wisdom during the rest of the series until the end of his life. Although old
and tired, he has definitely been presented as "positive' and the more we
learn about him the more we like him and value his opinions. After all, actions
speak louder than words, and Albus always puts his money where his mouth is.
Rowling herself explained it this way:

Professor Dumbledore, though very
old, always gave an impression of great energy. He had several feet of long
silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles and an extremely crooked nose. He
was often described as the greatest wizard of the age, but that wasn't why
Harry respected him. You couldn't help trusting Albus Dumbledore¦.
8

Trust
and respect are "beautiful" feelings but they are earned mainly by other
factors than your looks. It can be summed up best by the words of J.K. Rowling
herself:

I believe in different kinds of
magic. There's a kind of magic that happens when you pick up a wonderful book,
and it lives with you for the rest of your life. That is my kind of magic.
There's magic in friendship and in beauty and... Metaphorical magic, yes.
9

Dumbledore
apparently had always plenty of it ’ and not only him, to tell the truth. Let's
have a look at Harry now, as he is the hero of the whole series. His creator
hada very precise vision of him even before she wrote anything and she stated
in one of her interviews:

Harry, I saw Harry very very very
clearly. Very vividly. And I knew he didn't know he was a wizard. So I see this
skinny little boy with black hair, and green eyes, and glasses. And erm...
Patched-up glasses, you know, that got scotch tape around them, holding them
together.
10

That
description remained intact in the first book of the series, where Harry is
presented as:

small and skinny for his age. He
looked even smaller and skinnier than he really was because all he had to wear
were old clothes of Dudley's and Dudley was about four times bigger than he
was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright-green eyes. He
wore round glasses held together with a lot of Sellotape because of all the
times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar
on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning.
11

Once
again, no evaluating adjectives here, like "pretty' "nice' "handsome" ’ after
all a skinny little boy, even with brilliant green eyes, can hardly be
described as the paragon of beauty. We might sympathize with the fate of an
orphan, forced to grow up with horrible relatives, but we are not in awe about
his looks. Of course you cannot deny Harry some inner beauty which is reflected
by his deeds and decisions; this is what the others are drawn to, almost
unconsciously, like Ron and Hermione on the Hogwarts Express or Dobby during
his short visit to Privet Drive. Not to mention a few million avid readers, of
course. The description of his physical appearance ’ a skinny, knobbly-kneed
boy with untidy black hair and a narrow face ’ doesn't determine our perception
of Harry at all. It's merely a shell hiding his great and incredibly strong ability
to love. We don't need any coding here to know that Harry is good and the
author didn't provide it, in my opinion, on purpose.

A
very interesting detail is connected with the scar. Harry has a scar on his
forehead ’ the memory of his first encounter with Lord Voldemort. In fact, it's
the only thing he actually likes about his own appearance. Isn't it rather
strange? Usually people don't consider scars as something that makes them more
attractive, and only too often the scarred tissue on your body reminds you
about accidents or other mishaps. In other words, scars are hardly considered
to be beautiful. Harry approves of his scar, though. Without going deeper into
the reasons for this feeling, from an aesthetic point of view it shows clearly
that Harry has nothing against some disfigurement or ugliness. It's not a case
of external beauty coded as a "heroic" trait.

Similarly,
no coding can be found in the description of Hagrid, Harry's first wizarding
mentor and also one of his best friends:

A giant of a man was standing in
the doorway. His face was almost completely hidden by a long, shaggy mane of
hair and a wild, tangled beard, but you could make out his eyes, glinting like
black beetles under all the hair.
12

Although
the appearance of Rubeus Hagrid might be terrifying or even repulsive, his
character traits definitely make up for it ’ he is a loyal, honest and brave
man, and one of the wizards whom Dumbledore trusts the most. His internal
beauty makes us forget about his looks and other vices, like drinking or having
a knack for saying too much in the wrong moment, very quickly.

Are
there beautiful people in the HP series? Surely they are there. Their beauty,
however, is rather misleading sometimes.


The Beautiful ’ Sometimes Even Beauty and Beast In One

The
first really good-looking character is introduced in the second book, Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
. His name: Gilderoy Lockhart. His
occupation: writer (of some kind) and con man. Let's ponder a while over his
physical description:

There was a big photograph on the front of a very
good-looking wizard with wavy blond hair and bright blue eyes.
13 [¦] Gilderoy Lockhart came
slowly into view, seated at a table surrounded by large pictures of his own
face, all winking and flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd. The real
Lockhart was wearing robes of forget-me-not blue which exactly matched his
eyes; his pointed wizard's hat was set at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair.
14

Was
he handsome? Yes, certainly. Was he "morally beautiful?" No, not exactly,
taking into account the fact that he made his career tricking other wizards out
of their achievements and was rather proud of his own ingenuity and Memory
Charms. His own beauty was for Lockhart an object of almost idolatrous and narcissistic
pride. It has been emphasized in the books by the fact that the walls of his
office were full of his own framed portraits.15 Appearances are very
deceptive in his case ’ although good-looking, Lockhart has almost no moral
scruples or sense of decency and shame. Two students' memories and the life of
a little girl was nothing to him compared with his future career prospects.

Here
we see a man who suits the role of a hero only on a physical level, a perfect
example of stupidity and cowardice disguised by his looks; his conscience is
non-existent and his skills are doubtful to say the least. A great lesson can
be drawn from Lockhart's example ’ somebody who judges others only by their
looks may be bitterly disappointed. The pop culture often presents that kind of
hero ’ an empty-headed butterfly ’ and Rowling's criticism is very loud here.
She makes her own character explain his personal success in an honest but
chilling way:

No one wants to read about some
ugly old Armenian warlock, even if he did save a village from werewolves.
He'd look dreadful on the front cover. No dress sense at all. And the witch who
banished the Bandon Banshee had a hairy chin. I mean, come on...
16

It
seems almost like an explanation of a marketing or television pundit.

The
thing about Gilderoy that is perhaps most bothersome is the fact that he has
actually succeeded so easily in the magical world ’ he has been famous, admired
("Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award won five times in a row' 17 as he repeats every chance
he gets), probably even rich, offering no more in return than his treacherous,
distorted books, good looks and a small degree of wit. Like similar people in
the real world, he has plenty of gullible fans. Eventually, he is even employed
as a Hogwarts teacher. Hermione ’ a twelve- year-old girl at the time ’ has
held him in awe, and older women than her make the same mistake as well.
Sensible and down-to-earth Molly Weasley, a happy wife and a mother of seven,
has had a crush on him. Later on, in St Mungo's hospital, where Lockhart has
been a permanent resident due to hislack of memory after the adventure with the
basilisk, he has been treated probably better than the others because of his
looks ’ one of the healers, a motherly-looking woman, actually called him "a
sweetie" and "a poor lamb' which might suggest something more than a
professional sympathy for a patient.18 The power of beauty is
amazing.

The
next case of great appearances presented in the Harry Potter books is
Fleur Delacour, a young French witch and the Beauxbatons Academy champion during the
Triwizard Tournament. Her description leaves no doubts about her appearance and
the reaction of the people around her:

A long sheet of silvery blonde hair fell almost to her
waist. She had large, deep blue eyes, and very white, even teeth.
[...] As the girl crossed the
Hall, many boys' heads turned, and some of them seemed to have become
temporarily speechless, just like Ron.
19

Fleur
is undoubtedly beautiful, but is she "good?" Ron happened to think that this
unusually good-looking girl is a Veela – a creature introduced a few chapters
earlier during the Quidditch World Cup. Veelas were incredibly beautiful
Bulgarian team mascots, too beautiful to be true, as Harry thought when
observing them for the first time.20 During the match,
though, these fabulous beauties revealed their other, different face:

At this the Veelas lost control.
They launched themselves across the pitch, and began throwing what seemed to be
handfuls of fire at the leprechauns. Watching through his Omnioculars, Harry
saw that they didn't look remotely beautiful now. On the contrary, their faces
were elongating into sharp, cruel-beaked bird heads, and long, scaly wings were
bursting from their shoulders
21

In
this way we are introduced to a literal representation of the beauty and beast
concept ’ the fiery character of the Veelas is a good metaphor of inner
ugliness lying dormant in many beauties. We have been told about the mother of
Blaise Zabini, for instance, a famously beautiful witch who has been married
seven times and who, it is strongly implied, has been responsible for the
deaths of her rich husbands. If these rumours are true she would definitely be
this type of a beast ’ like a cross between a black widow spider and a praying
mantis.22

What
about Fleur? Apparently her "beastliness" is limited to commenting in a
contemptuous way about the food, location and everything connected with
Hogwarts23 but it changes very soon. When Harry saves her little
sister, Gabrielle, during the second task, Fleur definitely becomes nicer and
more lovable to him.24 Finally, she proves her good character in choosing to
remain with maimed and disfigured Bill Weasley, her fiancé, and declaring with
amazing resolution that she wants to marry him, against all odds.25 In my opinion they
will be a well-matched couple ’ she partly a Veela, he partly a werewolf. Two
"beauties and beasts in one" joined in a marriage!

Finally,
let's look at the handsome but tragically deceased Cedric Diggory, a Hogwarts
champion like Fleur, and a victim of Voldemort's ruthlessness. The boy is
definitely handsome, but what's more important: he knows what fair play and
gratefulness mean, so he is morally beautiful too. He, like his father, could
have borne a grudge against Harry, who unwillingly "stole his glory" becoming
the second Hogwarts champion, but apparently that isn't the case – he still
wants to repay Harry's tip about the dragons with a tip about the second task.
He shows his real value arguing with Harry in the maize about who should take
the Triwizard Cup first, although he could have taken it alone. His inner
personality is even more beautiful than his looks, and the fact that he is
described as a handsome boy only emphasizes his noble character. Look at his
short but meaningful description: "Cedric Diggory was an extremely handsome boy
of around seventeen. He was captain and Seeker of the Hufflepuff house
Quidditch team at Hogwarts." 26

For
the first time in the description of a character J.K. Rowling uses explicit,
unambiguous words. Is there any beast hiding in the boy? No, apparently not -
Cedric's looks don't make him evil at all, and we pity him even more because he
is "such a lovely boy" and also had such a nice personality. Because of these traits,
he was a perfect person to make the main "baddie" look even worse; by his
pointless death he proved the ruthlessness of Lord Voldemort beyond any doubt.


Speaking of his Lordship...

Tom
Marvolo Riddle a.k.a. Lord Voldemort is a special case here. He used to be a
very handsome man and he decided to change into a beast out of his ownfree
will. He destroyed not only his own appearance but also his personality. Why
has he done so? Apparently he didn't hold his beauty, either internal or
external, in high esteem.

First,
we see a physically attractive, intelligent and highly gifted wizard boy, not
exactly innocent but certainly very promising. He was described this way:
"There was no trace of the Gaunts in Tom Riddle's face. Merope had got her
dying wish: he was his handsome father in miniature, tall for eleven years old,
dark-haired and pale." 27

Riddle
as a young man used to be even more handsome and even more like his Muggle
father, Tom Riddle, Sr. Let's quote one more description of young Riddle,
working at that time for Borgin and Burkes: "He was plainly dressed in a black
suit; his hair was a little longer than it had been at school and his cheeks
were hollowed, but all of this suited him: he looked more handsome than ever." 28

The
resemblance between the father and the son was apparently great, and it
happened to be the dearest wish of his mother, Merope. This broken-hearted
witch, who fell in love with the handsome Muggle man from her village, tricked
him into marrying her, and was abandoned by him shortly afterwards, must have
known a lot about the power of good looks.29 The looks of
Voldemort, however, covered the greed, selfishness and the cruelty of a
sociopath ’ a strong contrast with Cedric Diggory here. Unfortunately, few
people realized that truth. Later in life, Tom Marvolo Riddle used his skills
and charms to make others part with their treasure. We've been shown a short
scene between him and a rich, old and apparently besotted woman called Hepzibah
Smith. Although Riddle at no point made a pass at her or even pretended that
she'd aroused an interest in him (really, did he need to?), he knew perfectly
well why she put out the welcome mat for him. Other sales wizards, his own
bosses amongst them, weren't so warmly invited (most likely, they weren't
invited at all).30 Tom used her infatuation and stole some precious objects,
killing her in the process. Voldemort wasn't as stupid and as vain as Mr.
Lockhart, though ’ his sinister pride hasn't been limited to his good looks. He
had his own schedule and aims and when he needed to get rid of his beauty, he
did it without any regret or second thoughts. The change of looks indicated
here something definitely more profound than aging, difficulties in life or
mood. In the case of Lord Voldemort it reflected a drastic change of his
character – essentially when he made the first Horcrux he stopped being human.
Let's look at the description of his appearance some years after the visit to
Hepzibah Smith:

Voldemort had entered the room.
His features were not those Harry had seen emerge from the great stone cauldron
almost two years before; they were not as snakelike, the eyes were not yet
scarlet, the face not yet masklike, and yet he was no longer handsome Tom
Riddle. It was as though his features had been burned and blurred; they were
waxy and oddly distorted, and the whites of the eyes now had a permanently
bloody look, though the pupils were not yet the slits that Harry knew they
would become. He was wearing a long black cloak and his face was as pale as the
snow glistening on his shoulders.
31

In
this fragment Harry made a quick comparison between Voldemort after his rebirth,
portrayed in the Goblet of Fire book, and Voldemort after making at least some
of his numerous Horcruxes. In both scenes, the main villain of the series has
become a portrait of Dorian Grey incarnated, reflecting the evilness of his
deeds with his facial features. What does it indicate? Maybe the fact that Lord
Voldemort has placed himself at a point of no return and is beyond any possible
forgiveness or mercy. He's become a beast out of his own free will, hoping for
immortality and partly achieving it. Perhaps he thought that the loss of his
great looks was a reasonable price to pay. After all he hated his Muggle father
and therefore, he might have observed the
change of his facial features with something close to morbid satisfaction. He
hasn't noticed, though, that his inner nature, not necessarily totally bad from
the beginning, changed too and with more grave and devastating effects. I
believe that Lord Voldemort, in choosing his path, has destroyed himself.


Ugliness At Its Finest and Possible Reasons Behind It

Harry Potter books are a place where you can meet some really
unpleasant people, but it would be difficult to find anyone as physically
repulsive as the Gaunts, the family of Voldemort from his mother's side. They
are the descendants of Salazar Slytherin, pure-blood descendants additionally,
which might have sounded great to them but really meant years of inbreeding that
left them without wealth, position or even a decent cottage to live in. What a
stark contrast with Hepzibah Smith, the rich lady mentioned earlier, who was a
descendant of Helga Hufflepuff.

The
description of Lord Voldemort's grandfather, his daughter and son is one of the
darkest in the whole series so far. This is the portrait of Marvolo Gaunt:

An elderly man had come hurrying
out of the cottage,
[¦] This man was shorter than the first, and oddly
proportioned; his shoulders were very broad and his arms overlong, which, with
his bright brown eyes, short scrubby hair and wrinkled face, gave him the look
of a powerful, aged monkey
.32

His
son, Morfin, looks, if it is possible, even uglier:

The man standing before them had
thick hair so matted with dirt it could have been any colour. Several of his
teeth were missing. His eyes were small and dark and stared in opposite
directions. He might have looked comical, but he did not; the effect was
frightening, and Harry could not blame Ogden for backing away
several more paces before he spoke.
33

Now,
let's look at Voldemort's mother, Merope, the second child and the only girl in
the family:

¦a girl whose ragged
grey dress was the exact colour of the dirty stone wall behind her.
[¦] Her hair was
lank and dull and she had a plain, pale, rather heavy face. Her eyes, like her
brother's, stared at opposite directions. She looked a little cleaner than the
two men, but Harry thought he had never seen a more defeated-looking person.
34

Why
werethe Gaunts portrayed like this?Just to be coded as "baddies"? In my view it
is not as simple as that. There might have been at least three factors leading
to their nasty looks.

Firstly,
they might have inherited some of the traits of their ancestor. The statue of
Slytherin, most probably being his own likeness or even a self-portrait,
situated in the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts that had been built by him, is
described in the second book of the series:

Harry had to crane his neck to
look up into the giant face above: it was ancient and monkey-like, with a long
thin beard that fell almost to the bottom to the wizard's sweeping stone robes,
where two enormous grey feet stood on the smooth chamber floor
.35

The
likeness to a monkey, therefore, is something that might be a common family
trait. The second factor that should be mentioned here is inbreeding ’ the
Gaunts, according to Dumbledore, had a custom of marrying their own cousins
with disastrous effects for their mental health and stability.36 What's more, it might
have strengthened their likeness to each other and could have enhanced the
ugliness from one generation to the other.

The
inter-family marriages were also very fashionable among the Muggle noblemen of
Europe, but the effects discouraged the practice, mainly because of the genetic
illnesses, incurable at best, deadly at worst, which decimated their offspring
’ if there were any offspring to talk about, of course. You can argue that the
Gaunts got off tolerably lightly as they inherited only repulsive looks and a
very nasty temper in the form of a vein of instability and violence. They were
wizards, though, and I suppose wizards have had their own methods of getting
rid of the more severe side effects of inbreeding. They had to, being not very
numerous, especially those who believed in the higher value of pure-blood
offspring.

The
final factor which, in my opinion, had a bearingon their looks was the Dark
Arts. Although we aren't shown any dark magic performed by any of the Gaunts in
the memory of Mr. Ogden, it seems certain that they were the kind of wizards
who practiced the Dark Arts without qualms of conscience.Some indirect evidence
could be quoted here. The Gaunts hated Muggles and Muggle-born wizards, calling
them "Mudbloods" ’ a more than derisive term in the wizarding world ’ and
believed firmly in their own superiority. Such an attitude only too often leads
to crime, especially if combined with poverty and a sense of injustice.
Certainly it's only speculation, but personally I doubt if the Gaunts had
enough moral force left to know better than toperform an Unforgivable curse ’
if only they knew them, of course. Morfin didn't hesitate to attack an unknown
man because he entered his "territory" and the curse he used didn't seem
innocuous.

It's
easy to imagine that using the Dark Arts might affect your looks and your
personality as well. This branch of magic emphasizes and helps to develop such
negative feelings as hatred, contempt, greed, and even a sadistic pleasure in
dominating other beings, hurting them or killing. Tom Marvolo Riddle definitely
lost his good looks as well as any positive traits of character he'd ever had
because of the Dark Arts. Although you may start as a tolerably nice person,
you'll end up as a monster and, one way or the other; it will be seen on your
face too. Curiously enough, we haven't been shown any really handsome Death
Eater throughout the series, like Bellatrix Lestrange, who, although very good
looking as a young woman, kept only the vestige of her beauty being the Death
Eater, mainly because of long Azkaban stint. Even Lucius Malfoy, played in the
movies by the handsome actor Jason Isaacs, is described in a less than
flattering manner by Rowling ’ a pale pointed face, cold grey eyes, blond hair,
and a drawling voice. Really nothing to get excited about.37

The
only other person whose ugliness could be compared with the Gaunts is Fenrir
Greyback, the second werewolf that we have been shown so far. He is described
as

¦a big, rangy man with matted grey
hair and whiskers, whose black Death Eater's robes looked uncomfortably tight.
He had a voice like none that Harry ever heard: a rasping bark of a voice.
Harry could smell a powerful mixture of dirt, sweat and, unmistakeably, of
blood coming from him. His filthy hands had long yellowish nails.
38

It's
the first description when our senses are practically attacked by the ugliness
’ not only our sight but also our sense of smell and our hearing. An
unpleasantly weird voice, a powerful body odour ... small wonder, though, as it
all has been reserved for one of the most repulsive wizards we've seen so far -
a werewolf who happens to attack not because he has to do so, but because he
wants to. He aims at children, small and defenceless, turns them into
werewolves and makes them join his side afterwards, as usually the werewolves
have no better option offered. I see it as Greyback's personal revenge on the
wizarding world. Voldemort uses Greyback to blackmail those who refuse to obey
him and he usually gets the right results ’ people would rather do something
awful than expose their own children, especially with the knowledge that a
meeting with a werewolf might end tragically. We've been told about the Montgomery sisters and their
younger brother who, being only five, was bitten to death.39 Apparently his mother
refused to carry out the wishes of the Death Eaters. No wonder Fenrir is coded
so unambiguously by his physical description – "ugly" definitely means "bad"
here.

It's
time to present the last of the "ugly faces". Here he comes – Professor Severus
Snape, the linchpin of the whole series. His appearance leaves nothing to doubt
’ he is not very handsome. Here are the quotes concerning his appearance:

¦a teacher with greasy black hair,
a hooked nose and sallow skin.
40

¦even Harry, who hated Snape, was
startled at the expression twisting his thin, sallow face.
41

He was a thin man with sallow
skin, a hooked nose and greasy, shoulder-length black hair.
42

His eyes were black like Hagrid's,
but they had none of Hagrid's warmth. They were cold and empty and made you
think of dark tunnels.
43

Say
what you might, it is a description of a villain born or at least, somebody
with serious psychological problems. Some of his traits might have been
inherited, of course. At the same time, the man has all the specific
appearances of a Byronic character ’ he is a mysterious individual, often at
odds with the law, hiding his real nature and motives of his deeds deep enough
to make the whole lot of ladies sigh and swoon. Not to mention his wearing
these stylish black robes all the time.

Why
is Severus presented in this way? His past experience might be the clue. As a
young boy he was said to be attracted strongly by the Dark Arts and used to
experiment with new spells, later on he joined the Death Eaters and I suppose
he did it out of his free will. Knowing that Voldemort has always ordered his
followers to do terrible things, Snape's face has every right to be pale and
sallow and his character acidic as a result. The other fact is that Severus
doesn't seem to consider his behaviour as wrong in any way.

Human
eyes are known to be the mirror of one's soul ’ what do they say about our dear
Severus? He is a complex character, nobody can deny it. His feelings are
profound but suppressed. Is he evil? Is he simply misunderstood and good? The
appearance could indicate both answers; the most possible answer is that he
just represents complex characters and defies simple classification. It is true
that, contrary to people, mentioned earlier as "undefined by their looks' who
show the sweetness of their character with almost every word and move, he seems
to be coded as a baddie very strongly. Snape's behaviour is usually full of
distrust, venom and prejudice. Now and then, however, we are being led astray
by a comment of Dumbledore, who happens to be the only friend of Snape, at
Hogwarts and elsewhere. In the end, Severus Snape will be presented as an
independent man ’ that's my best guess anyway.


What counts the most?

Researchers report that women's magazines have more advertisements and
articles promoting weight loss than they used to, and over three-quarters of the covers of women's magazines include at least one
message about how to change a woman's bodily appearance ’ by diet, exercise or
cosmetic surgery.44 What can be suggested by these facts? Nowadays beauty is no longer an
extra feature or addition but an essential thing in life ’ or at least it is
presented this way. It seems that nothing counts more than your weight, height,
waist size, bust size, hip size.¦ What seems to be even more outrageous, male
and female models ’ and their body parts ’ are overused and sell everything
from food to cars. Their constant presence in the media makes other people
think that they should look exactly like them ’ or die trying. Teenagers
are the most vulnerable group, but the influence of very thin, very made-up and
very artificial models, doesn't end with them. Popular film and television actresses are becoming
younger, taller and thinner. Some have even been known to faint on the set from
lack of food. J.K. Rowling has noticed the trend, or rather has been forced to
do so. This is an excerpt from her internet diary:

I whiled away part of the journey reading a magazine that
featured several glossy photographs of a very young woman who is either
seriously ill or suffering from an eating disorder (which is, of course, the
same thing); anyway, there is no other explanation for the shape of her body.
She can talk about eating absolutely loads, being terribly busy and having the
world's fastest metabolism until her tongue drops off (hooray! Another couple
of ounces gone!), but her concave stomach, protruding ribs and stick-like arms
tell a different story. This girl needs help, but, the world being what it is,
they're sticking her on magazine covers instead.
[¦] I went to the British Book
Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn't
seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ˜You've lost a lot
of weight since the last time I saw you!'

˜Well,' I said, slightly nonplussed, ˜the last time you saw me I'd just had a
baby.'

What I felt like saying was, ˜I've produced my third child and my sixth novel
since I last saw you. Aren't either of those things more important, more
interesting, than my size?' But no ’ my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid
and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

[...] I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this
skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be
empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were
independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny ’ a
thousand things, before ˜thin.'
45

Although
this was said (or written) some time after publishing the first six Harry
Potter
books, the appearances of different characters in these books
reflect well the sensible approach of the author ’ the mere fact that somebody
is more beautiful than the rest of the population doesn't code them as better,
nicer, or braver and never should do so. In fact, the opposite is true in many
cases. It's the personality which counts the most, your inner value; who you
choose to be, not what you look like. If you are bad, or you want to be so, it
will be seen sooner or later. On the other hand, even if you are physically
ugly, you can choose to be beautiful and it will be seen as well. Let it be the
final warning: you can make a beauty of yourself but, even easier and quicker,
you can make of yourself a beast.

Notes

1. Wikipedia,
s.v. "Beauty."

2.
Ibid.

3. Donlan,
"The Origin of Kalos kagaqos."

4. Wikiquote,
s.v. "Petrarch."

5. Rowling,
Philosopher's Stone, 12

6. Ibid.,
13.

7. Ibid.,
14.

8. Rowling,
Prisoner of Azkaban, 71

9. Rowling,
Interview with Diane Rehm.

10. Ibid.

11. Rowling,
Philosopher's Stone, 20.

12. Ibid.,
39.

13. Ibid.,
Chamber of Secrets, 32.

14. Ibid.,
49.

15. Ibid.,
92.

16. Ibid.,
220.

17. Ibid.,
71.

18. Ibid.,
Order of the Phoenix, 451.

19. Ibid.,
Goblet of Fire, 222’23.

20. Ibid.,
93.

21. Ibid.,
101.

22. Ibid.,
Half-Blood Prince, 138’39.

23. Ibid.,
Goblet of Fire, 363’64.

24. Ibid.,
439.

25. Ibid.,
Half-Blood Prince, 580’81.

26. Ibid.,
Goblet of Fire, 67.

27. Ibid.,
Half-Blood Prince, 252.

28. Ibid.,
406.

29. Ibid.,
201’3.

30. Ibid.,
407.

31. Ibid.,
413.

32. Ibid.,
192.

33. Ibid.,
191.

34. Ibid.,
194.

35. Ibid.,
Chamber of Secrets, 226.

36. Ibid.,
Half-Blood Prince, 200’201.

37. Ibid.,
Chamber of Secrets, 42.

38. Ibid.,
Half-Blood Prince, 553’54.

39. Ibid.,
442.

40. Rowling,
Philosopher's Stone, 94.

41. Ibid.,
Prisoner of Azkaban, 72.

42. Ibid.,
Chamber of Secrets, 62.

43. Ibid.,
Philosopher's Stone, 102.

44.
Media Awareness Network, "Beauty and Body Image."

45.
Rowling Official Site, "For Girls Only, Probably¦."


Bibliography

Donlan,
Walter. "The Origina of Kalos kagaqos." In The American Journal of Philology
94, no. 4 (Winter 1973): 365.

Harris,
Sara. "New Research Reveals Insight Into How We Perceive Beauty, Emotions From
a Face." http://apu.sfn.org/index.cfm?pagename=news_111405c

J.K. Rowling Official Site. "Extra Stuff: For Girls Only,
Probably¦." http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/extrastuff_view.cfm?id=22
(accessed 28
November 2006).

Media Awareness Network. "Beauty and Body Image in the Media." http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls/women_beauty.cfm
(accessed 28
November 2006).

Rowling,
J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998 (2004 edition).

”””.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000.

”””.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005.

”””.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003.

”””.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. London: Bloomsbury<, 1997.

”””.
Interview with Diane Rehm. The Diane Rehm Show, 24 December 1999. Transcript, Accio
Quote!
http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1299-wamu-rehm.htm
(accessed 28
November 2006).

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Beauty." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty
(accessed 28
November 2006).

Wikiquote, s.v. "Petrarch." http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Petrarch
(accessed 28
November 2006).

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Finding Hogwarts

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