Often there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, stubbornness and being willful. Snape, for one, accuses Harry of strutting around Hogwart, arrogant like his father. For the most part, I don’t believe Harry is arrogant at all.
Arrogance is defined as follows:
giving one’s self an undue degree of importance; having or showing feelings of unwarranted importance out of overbearing pride; assuming; haughty (dictionary.com).
This definition much more aptly describes fifteen-year-old James than Harry. From what we saw in Snape’s Worst Memory via the Pensieve, James was always ruffling his hair, trying to impress everyone, especially Lily. He definitely showed signs of “giving himself an undue degree of importance”. James was also a show-off, a fact demonstrated by him catching the Snitch over and over again, and by the comment Lily made about him hexing people for the fun of it.
Harry, on the other hand, has never really displayed such qualities. By contrast, Harry tries to ward off others’ attempts to publicize his fame and put him in the limelight. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry desperately tried to avoid Gilderoy Lockhart’s attempts to put Harry in the spotlight, which only succeeds in causing trouble for Harry. Again, in Goblet of Fire, Rita Skeeter’s scathing newspaper articles painted Harry as an imbalanced boy who was seeking fame with his ridiculous stories. True, Harry may have given himself a bit of unwarranted importance with his “saving people thing,” but I don’t believe this was intentional on Harry’s part.
Perhaps Harry showed something bordering on arrogance when, during his first evening at Grimmauld Place he insisted he could handle the truth, and shouted at Ron and Hermione, saying that he had seen and experienced much more than they had (and indeed more than most grown wizards have). At this point, Harry was very angry and frustrated with being left in the dark and cooped up at the Dursleys’ while his friends were together without him. Harry’s assurance of being able to handle whatever the Order tells him bordered on arrogance and assumption, but actually is true to some extent. Is this arrogance? I think circumstances excuse him whatever arrogance he showed. On the whole, I don’t see that Harry shows many traits or characteristics of arrogance.
Many people have mentioned Harry’s “self-reliance” as a trait that seems to make him believe he can do things on his own without the help of adults. Considering all that Harry has been through, it stands to reason that Harry relies on his own instincts and talents to guide him. I don’t see this as arrogance, but instead, as confidence in his abilities. Though the line between confidence and arrogance is very fine at times, in this case I believe Harry has a kind of “I did it once, I can do it again” mentality when it comes to facing Voldemort and dangerous situations. Also, it seems that not going to an adult (such as Dumbledore) every time he needs help is a matter of pride for Harry. In GF2 he hesitated to write to Sirius about his scar hurting, thinking that Sirius might deem him a bit weak. Not going to Dumbledore in Order of the Phoenix after Umbridge’s first detention seems to have been a similar situation. Therefore, on the whole Harry may be a bit over-confident and proud at times, but I don’t believe he is arrogant.
I would like to propose that a better word to describe Harry’s personality would be “headstrong”, which is defined as follows:
being determined to have one’s own way; stubbornly and often recklessly willful; not easily restrained; stubborn; habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition (dictionary.com).
I believe this describes Harry’s personality better than “arrogant” for several reasons. There are numerous examples of Harry’s determination to stand up for what he believes in without being worried about the dangers of what he feels he must do. And once he sets his mind to something, he doesn’t even let his friends talk him out of it. In this, he is stubborn and determined to do things his way. Harry also is not easily restrained or stopped once he has set his mind on something. And let’s not forget Harry’s propensity for being a bit disobedient (which is not always a bad thing). His breaking “about a hundred school rules” every year is what usually ends up saving the day. Harry is a very strong-willed and stubborn individual, which I believe helps him through many of the difficult times he has had to endure.
Finally, as I mentioned, Harry is proud. He is unwilling to let go of his anger and hatred for Snape and is unwilling to run to Dumbledore every time his scar hurts. But mixed in with his pride, Harry has a fair amount of modesty. When Hermione first suggested that Harry would be a brilliant Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, he was very humble about it. He insisted he was not a teacher and he couldn’t possibly do it. Harry also denied that he’s the best in their year at Defence, saying that Hermione has beaten him at all their tests. Furthermore, he ascribes all of his triumphs over Voldemort to luck and credits all those who helped him achieve victory or survive unscathed.
So is Harry arrogant? Not at all. Headstrong, maybe, and a little proud, although not overly so. Given that he’s stood up to the most evil wizard of the age and saved the world several times by the age of 15, I’d say he has a right to be.