My memory of early Harry Potter (the character) was of someone who had been put down, sat on--poor kid living with that horrible family who force him to sleep in a cupboard. I think this viewpoint was reinforced by Daniel Radcliffe's rather gentle persona. Not that I thought Harry Potter acted like a victim, but I definitely thought he had been victimized.
Listening to the tape, however, I was struck by how aggressive Harry actually is in the books. He is a self-confidant kiddo with an edge to his tongue, the kind of kid who would (in different circumstances) make sotto voce comments that get other kids laughing. I don't think this is an implausible characterization by Rowlings. He has been neglected by the Dursleys but not actually, abused (yes, yes, I know emotional abuse can be a horrible thing but one gets the impression that the Dursleys ignore and grumble about and even fear Harry more than they actively go after him). Harry's father was, we learn later, a rather aggressively confident person himself. And I decided that, given Harry's intrinsic personality, it probably was just as well that he got sat on for eleven years. Unrestrained sarcasm coupled with ebullient self-confidence would have made him a misery to be around (not to mention the whole Harry Potter celebrity stuff) if he'd stayed in the wizarding world after his parents' deaths.
I have no idea if Rowlings intended this kind of character insight in the early books. She may have intended it later (where she gave us sneak peeps into Harry's dad's life). I know people say she had the whole Harry plotline/universe figured out from the beginning, but the books have an uneven feel to me that don't correspond to seven fully fleshed out outlines. Rowlings may have a general idea of where she is going, but I never got the impression that she knew what she was going to do with, say, Snape in the early books.
And I wonder how many character insights actually come more from the fans than from Rowlings: fans reading their opinions about Harry, Hermione, Sirius, etc. into the narratives. There's nothing wrong with that. As Jane Espenson stated about an Angel episode, Thank goodness for the fans. They do all the hard work of coming up with explanations that make sense of the scripts' flaws. In fact, I would argue that it is the ability to do this that attracts fans to certain works. Rowlings has created more a series of myths or fairytales than a group of novels. Myths and fairytales can be played with, molded. Fans have more room to work out their creative desires. We decide whether Harry is best understood from a Jungian or Freudian or whatever perspective. Which is, frankly, a whole lot of the fun.