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How The Structural Balance Property Interprets Peter Pettigrew’s Betrayal to the Potters


The link attached above shows a network in the world of Harry Potter. As one could easily imagine, the main character Harry Potter is represented by the red node that has connections with almost everyone else. However, what interested me is when I paid special attention to Scabbers, I found out that the old pet rat Ron brought with him almost throughout the entire third book of the series (namely Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) shows no connection to his “beloved owner”. It took me no time to realize that the true identity of Scabbers is the notorious traitor Peter Pettigrew, who has an edge with not only Ron, but also Lord Voldemort, Harry, and most importantly, Harry’s parents.

Pettigrew is, undoubtedly, a hated character in the whole series, as he betrayed the Potters, resulting in the murder of Harry’s parents. After learning about the Structural Balance Property in class, I find the betrayal, though still repulsive, has become nonetheless more understandable. Initially, Pettigrew was in such a good relationship with the Potters that he was even made into their Secret-Keeper. He was also a member of the Order of the Phoenix. These mean that he simultaneously had a positive edge with the Potters, and, just like the Potters themselves, had a negative edge with Voldemort. This is a balanced structure as only one positive edge between Pettigrew and Potters remained in the triangle.

However, as Pettigrew later was coerced into following Voldemort, the edge linking him and Voldemort changed into a positive one. This resulted in an unbalanced structure, as there were two positive edge, and one strongly negative edge between Potters and Voldemort. The stress entailed this unbalanced structure, along with the possible tortures he suffered, forced Pettigrew to change the positive edge he had with the Potters into a negative one – in other words, to betray them. The balance was hence restored, with new alliance (one positive edge) formed between Pettigrew and Voldemort, and two negative edges representing hostility between the Potters and Pettigrew, as well as the Potters and Voldemort.

However, although the SBP provides an explanation for Pettigrew’s betrayal, it by no means justifies his behavior. He could remain the originally stable structure by choosing not to follow Voldemort at all, though that option could have cost him his own life. Yet in the end, this seemingly balanced structure did not manage to spare him. When Pettigrew was ordered to strangle Harry, he showed a moment of mercy. This mercy, to some extent, reconstructed the edge between him and the Potters, and hence brought back the unbalanced structure. However, this time it was Voldemort who restored, or rather, destroyed the balance by killing Pettigrew with the silver hand he gave to him.




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