Albus Potter and the influence of our parents

August 22, 2016

How fortunate I was to attend the opening night of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the new two-part play by Jack Thorne.

The play staged at the Palace Theatre and based on a new story by JK Rowling is brilliant, and rightly received five star reviews, with critics calling it “game-changing” and “thrilling”.  Audiences are delighted to see Harry Potter as a grown man working at the Ministry of Magic, while his son Albus Severus Potter heads off to Hogwarts.

At school, Albus – named for Dumbledore and Snape – encounters Scorpius Malfoy, son of his father’s enemy Draco Malfoy, and the scene is set for an extraordinary, almost Dickensian look into the entirety of the Potter world.

But this blog is no place to discuss the plot – I would not want to ruin the night for other fans. However, I find it fascinating to reflect on theme of parental legacy as it affects us all – muggles or not.

Our parents endow us not just with genes and an education, but intangibles: family history, traditions, experiences and attitudes. Very often the names they choose too are redolent with personal heritage and hints of expectation.

One only needs to think of the American tradition of naming sons for their fathers – the Bush presidential dynasty, the Gettys, the Rockefellers. And a look at those American names also reminds us instantly that being your father’s son is not always easy. Sometimes we cannot live up to their expectation. Sometimes we do not want to. We resist it, fight it, choose a different path.

In Chinese culture, the influence of family is even more obvious as the surname or family name comes before the individual or given name. This is to signify that the family stands above the individual, and that we must see ourselves from the perspective of family and community rather than looking to one’s own individual journey and life purpose.

Personally, I do not believe that we are defined by our heritage. I understand, too, that it can be difficult to reach that point where one can empathise with one’s mother or father’s desire or ability to influence your life, let alone accept it.

As children, contesting the family and standing up for oneself is an important part of growing up. But the process is not complete until we are able to understand the ways of our parents, and accept their lessons with good grace. This, perhaps, is the wisdom of age.

Bruno Wang, founder of the Pureland Foundation