I have, for some time, been speculating on just why Voldemort would single out a child for destruction. There is, of course, the much talked about “Heir of Gryffindor” theory, but for me, this doesn’t hold with JKR’s theme of our choices making us who we are, and not innate qualities. So, like any good HP fan, I have my own little theory, which, I have come to jokingly refer to as my “Unifying Theory” (a pun which makes me chuckle, and that, hopefully you’ll understand shortly, especially if you are familiar with the social sciences).
I asked myself, firstly, what could have been Lord Voldemort’s motivation. It seems obvious that he is attempting to get rid of an obstacle impeding his path to power. Does he need any other reason? Sheer malice or sadism, maybe, but why be so specific about Harry and his family? The existence of James and Harry (but, it appears, not Lily) seem to be in the way of Lord Voldemort’s plans, but, why?
A core theme of the books, thus far, I believe, has been schisms within a people due to groups they belong to or things associated with them. Not only do we find race issues in the wizarding community (Mudblood vs. pure-blood), but we also see very distinct and purposeful separations between the Houses at Hogwarts, socio-economic classes in the community (Malfoys vs. Weasleys), and between those afflicted with “non-human” characteristics (e.g., werewolves and half-giants) and normal wizards. Lord Voldemort feeds off of these prejudices. He uses them (the preexisting prejudices within the community) to promote his own causes and hatreds, and to create strong and powerful allies with established wizarding families, through which, he will gain power.
What could possibly destroy these dark alliances he has created more so than “unity” within the wizarding community. Could it possibly be that Harry’s place is not to destroy Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters in a final, apocalyptic duel of archetypical proportions, but to, rather, destroy what is at the core of their evil ways: hatred and mistrust of those who are different.
I offer for evidence the scene of Harry’s sorting in PS7.
“Hmm, Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes—and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting….”
I find this interesting, because, in my interpretation, the Hat is quite literally saying that Harry could be placed into any one of the four Hogwarts Houses. “Plenty of courage” is an obvious reference to Gryffindor House. “Not a bad mind” is a nod towards Ravenclaw, the House of intellectuals. “Talent”, I believe, is a quality belonging to Hufflepuffs, who, are “unafraid of toil.” I see, with the thought of talent, that prematurely departed hero of Hufflepuff House (and his father) Cedric Diggory, who seemed to excel at everything through his talent. Finally, that wisest of hats mentions “a nice thirst to prove yourself” (referring to Harry). This, to me, seems like a very Slytherin quality, as a need for approval and recognition could very well fuel many attempts to gain those things by any means accessible.
There has already been much play on the similarities between Harry and Lord Voldemort (especially in CS17 by Tom Riddle and Harry, himself). These musings, as well as the Sorting scene, I think, are reflections on the duality of Harry. He embodies two worlds. The Muggle world he grew up in, and the wizarding world that has cherished his existence since that fateful Hallowe’en. Who better to serve as an intermediary between two worlds than someone who walks in both of them (this certainly explains one of the reasons that Dumbledore may have had for Harry staying with the dreadful Dursleys)? It is interesting to note that Lord Voldemort also was raised in a fashion much like Harry (as an orphan and completely separate from the wizarding world).
Not only does Harry stride both in magical and non-magical worlds, but within him also resides the essence of the heir of Slytherin (due to Lord Voldemort’s reflected Avada Kedavra, as indicated by his status as a Parselmouth), and that of Gryffindor (Dumbledore says that “only a true Gryffindor” could have pulled the sword from the Sorting Hat in CS18).
Begin to look at the people Harry has chosen to surround himself with, also. A half-giant, a werewolf, a Mudblood, a very poor wizard, and an escaped convict (not to mention a freed house-elf and a pseudo-Squib, a.k.a. Neville Longbottom). Why should the shining star of the wizarding world, born of such beloved and powerful parents, associate with those so far “below” him (at least by the magical communities social standards)? Because he chooses to.
So, Harry has had to find an equilibrium with his dual natures. Why would his greatest accomplishment and gift to the world not be to help it do the same?
Harry is already on a very different path than Lord Voldemort, who faced, I am sure, many of the same problems due to his duality as Harry has (the disbelief, confusion, prejudice, and feelings of inferiority). It has been quite clear ever since Harry’s sorting (“Not Slytherin, not Slytherin!”) from the choices they have both made that, though they may be taken from the same mold, Harry and Lord Voldemort are of very different qualities altogether. Lord Voldemort as the proprietor of separation, and Harry as the unifier of opposites. Destruction versus Creation. Yin versus Yang. Death versus Life.
Though the path which will lead to it is unclear at this time, the archetype of the divine marriage may very well reside in the pages of future books.