Harry Potter & The Cursed Child: Why Are the Sins of the Parents Laid Upon the Children?


My daughter needed someone she could talk to about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the play by Jack Thorne based on a story by J.K. Rowling, Thorne, and John Tiffany. So, I read it during my commute to and from work this week.

It took me a little while to get used to the script format, in which dialogue drives the plot and much of the setting is left to the imagination, but, soon enough, I found myself sucked into the story. It features Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, two boys limited by their fathers’ reputations. One cannot live up to his father’s heroism, while the other cannot escape his family’s association with Lord Voldemort, the most infamous wizard of all.

Scorpius’s plight reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice: “The sins of the fathers are to be laid upon the children (Act 3, scene 5, line 1).” Justice Brennan of the U.S. Supreme Court (from 1956 until 1990) quoted this line in his dissenting opinion in Tison v. Arizona (1987), a case in which the court reviewed what punishment the state could constitutionally impose on the two sons of a murderer for their lesser roles in their father’s crimes. As Brennan noted in this opinion, “an intuition that sons and daughters must sometimes be punished for the sins of the father may be deeply rooted in our consciousness.”

I agree with Justice Brennan. The actions of parents often tarnish their children’s reputations, even when the children have done nothing wrong. This belief is so ingrained in the culture that we have numerous idioms to describe it: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; like father, like son; a chip off the old block. Even Harry Potter and the Cursed Child revolves around this concept — that, spoiler, a part of Voldemort may have survived in an heir — despite encouraging sympathy for lonely outcasts like Scorpius, who is “guilty” by association.

Why do we impose expectations and limitations on children because of who their parents are? I suppose it relates to the assumption that parents have a strong and influential bond with their children. As Stephanie from The Eclectic Scribe aptly observed:

Raising a child is kind of like a love story in reverse, a rom com on rewind. It starts out with an intense bond so all-consuming, so dizzyingly intense that it’s simultaneously overwhelming and perfect in every way. Then there are all the ups and downs, the great moments and the many missteps. And it ends with someone who seems to view me as a stranger.

During “the ups and downs, the great moments and many missteps” in this process, we hope to impart enough wisdom to help our children lead their independent lives.

However, we’re not the only influence on our children during their formative years, contributing to why our children often end up viewing us as strangers. They also have other family members, friends, teachers, movies, television, the Internet, and, of course, books (among other influences) in their lives. These sources introduce children to concepts that may reinforce or counter the messages they receive at home, making it less likely that children will turn out to be just like their parents.

All children deserve a chance to forge their own way in life, including Scorpius, no matter who his father is or might be.

I am glad I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which fueled a healthy discussion with my daughter. She expressed her sympathy for Albus and Scorpius and her belief that children are not simply extensions of their parents. She added, “You’re a lawyer, and I definitely don’t want to be one too. I want to be a writer instead.” Ha. Maybe the apple hasn’t fallen so far from the tree after all? 😉


  1. Amazing! I read it a while ago and didn’t give it that much thought – now I’m inspired to do so…lovely written!

  2. How wonderful that you read the book so your daughter could discuss these issues with you! I haven’t had that since I was 12 or so since no one around me read the same books, basically why I started book blogging 🙂
    So great how you also chose to expand on the issue of sind of the father etc! I don’t really see myself readingCursed Child, but love your take on it.

    1. My daughter is going to be so happy when I finally let her have her own blog (she has been asking)! She wants to be able to talk to people all over the world about books. She can already tell how much fun it is. 🙂

  3. Very good post Amal. Very deep thinking. I do think it is rooted in culture too. In some countries, whole families pay for the crimes of one. Of course I agree with you where children are to forge their own way into the future, but it is difficult to shake off eons on tradition for some.

  4. I loved Cursed Child, and although it was a bit of a painful read (as a parent), I think it’s a valuable reminder (as a parent!) – that my actions will forever influence the boys. Can’t wait for my boys to grow up to where they can read the HP series!

    1. Yes, it was a very good reminder of the longevity of our reputations and the impact it can have on our children. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed The Cursed Child. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I haven’t read The Cursed Child and don’t plan to. Interesting that your daughter wanted you to read it so you could talk about it with her. Sounds like she is independent minded, a good thing! And probably has you to thank for it 🙂

    1. I didn’t plan on reading The Cursed Child, but I’m glad I did. It was nice to see what the characters were up to as adults, and it was fun to talk about it with my daughter.

    1. You summed up parenting in such a beautiful and poignant way. It’s been rattling around in my brain since I read it.

      As for The Cursed Child, it’s different from the other books–in part because it has the conspicuous influence of other authors and in part because it’s a play–but it’s an enjoyable continuation of the Harry Potter story. However, those who are the most attached to the original seven books probably won’t like it as much as I did.

  6. Wow that thing about raising children being like a love story in reverse is so painfully accurate. My heart! 😦
    But I suppose it is also beautiful.

    And I think it is appropriate to share it on a JK Rowling topic post, because that is the kind of feeling all her work raises, at least in me. Her themes are so dark and deep and true, and I think that is why her work is popular. I’m happy to see this new book pays homage to that.
    My kids have not read it, but only because they have moved along to Percy Jackson, lol.

    I am planning to read it at some point. I am still a sucker for all things Harry Potter 🙂

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