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? 😉