Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry

SPOILER WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (BOOK 7), DON'T READ THIS POST.

***

So, what is there to say? Overall, I'm satisfied. I shut the book with a wide grin and a soul at peace. Even though the final novel in the series took time away from Hogwarts, Rowling still kept to her formula, and it was as pleasing as ever. Yes, sometimes a formula just works. There were some elements I didn't like and many I did.

Lupin: I was not happy with what Rowling did to Lupin's character in the chapter when he shows up trying to abandon Tonks. That just didn't seem like Lupin at all. He's always been a good mentor to Harry, and it was painful having Harry blow up at him.

Neville: I was missing Neville throughout, so when he appeared in that portrait all scarred and smiling, I was positively giddy. And when he yanked out that sword and beheaded that snake, I either cheered aloud or clapped or both, I don't recall which because I was in a state of euphoria. And when his granny told him she was proud of him, I cried happily. Jackamo described Neville as the "quintessential courageous Gryffindor" and "the Sam Gamgee character," and there's not much more that needs to be said. I think Neville is the person with the most perfect integrity in the entire series.

Kreacher: Kreacher's story was so sad, and I was absolutely thrilled that he cleaned up his act. The house elves reached an all-time high in this volume.

Sirius: I still miss him more than anyone else who's died in the series.

Ron: I'm still mad at Ron. I don't care if you have self-esteem issues, or a Horcrux around your neck, you DO NOT abandon your friends. You just don't. I forgave him a little when he explained he wanted to pop right back but was detained by Snatchers, but Ron has cut me deeply and that will not heal soon.

Ginny: Not enough Ginny. I thought she was going to get herself killed under the frustration of her family's constraint during the battle. Sure, we knew if Harry survived they would marry, but she's such a snarky, tough redhead, I would have loved to see more of her and Harry as a fun couple. Instead they received pretty bland treatment in the epilogue.

Molly Weasley: This just goes to show you that you DON'T get between a mom and her children! When Molly transformed from a worrisome homemaker into a snarling mother bear, spouting profanity and spells, I laughed gleefully. I couldn't have chosen a better person to do away with that sick tramp Bellatrix.

Draco: I loved that Harry saved him and Goyle (such a noble sort, that Harry), and I laughed hard at his befuddlement when Harry saved him a second time and then Ron punched him from under the invisibility cloak. I did think the cool but not malicious nod to Harry and Ginny in the epilogue was a nice touch.

Snape: Oh, poor slimy, awkward Snape. I think we all knew he'd prove to be on the right side in the end. His death didn't pain me as much as thinking about how miserable a life he had. I was bemoaning to Jackamo that Harry was only reconciled with him after his death, but as Jackamo pointed out: "Well, we know they could never really be friends." And the more I think about it, I don't think Snape could ever be happy either. He would always be consumed by his grief for Lily.

Snakes exploding out of old historian's corpses: Seriously? Ewww.

Hermione's useful little handbag: I must get myself one of these. I'm not sure if it would take me more or less time to get through airport security, but I keep thinking of all the items I'd put in my own. Ickie makes fun of me for my copious lists and packing early prior to trips. Well, I think he'll learn his lesson if we ever need to go on the lam as a result of a government coup, evil wizards in pursuit, or a horde of zombies (contingency plan still in the works).

Christmas: Most. Depressing. Christmas. Ever.

Dumbledore: Well, it was a bitter pill finding out about Dumbledore's tragic mistakes in his youth, but I suppose it makes him more of a real person instead of the type of powerful, benevolent, omniscient saint he seemed like in the earlier books. And it was effective juxtaposing his temptation for the hallows with Harry's ability to overcome it. When Dumbledore pointed out that he knew Harry was the better man in the end, I got a bit choked up.

Aberforth: When his blue eye appeared in the mirror shard the second time, I was really fooled into thinking it might be Albus. He was an irresistible curmudgeon.

The manifold deaths: Right. I think I cried the hardest when Dobby died (he went out with glorious heroism), but Hedwig really hurt, as did Tonks and Lupin, and Fred. Oh, alas, Fred! I can't even imagine George without Fred, and maybe Rowling couldn't either, since we didn't see that scenario.

King's Cross: As soon as I saw this chapter title, I thought to myself, "Well, all those religious fundys who have criticized these books as anti-Christian aren't going to have an argument any longer." I'm not completely positive it worked, but Jackamo's husband had already theorized upon finishing book 6 that Harry was the final horcrux, so we knew he was going to die as a sacrifice, but I strongly suspected Rowling would formulate a loophole so that he didn't have to stay dead or actually be dead. It's easy to pull a deux ex machina when it's a book about magic ("That's just how magic works!").

The Elder Wand: Ok. So, Draco didn't actually have Dumbledore's Elder Wand, he just expelliarmursed it from him. Hence, the Elder Wand traces its master by who has bested its master, not by who has expelliarmused the actual Elder Wand from its master. Burrr. I had to read that bit a couple of times, plus reread the death chapter in book 6 just to make sure, and I'm still not convinced the explanation is airtight. It's hard to fit in detailed exposition during the climactic duel with the world's most evil wizard, but the explanation was still a bit rushed and vague. All the same, when Harry delivered the phrase "...then I am the true master of the Elder Wand" in an overly dramatic, Hollywood reveal, I LOVED it and clapped like a trained seal.

The Deathly Hallows: Jackamo and I agreed that we wished hints about the deathly hallows had been worked in more throughout the series instead of its mythology appearing right at the end. We liked that fairy tale about the three brothers--if only it had popped up sooner. Sure, the invisibility cloak was always there, so that worked better than the stone and wand, but still. Also, the triune hallows first made me think of the holy trinity, but then seemed more to suggest the temptations of Christ in the desert. None of it was so obvious as to distract from the story. Rowling seems to borrow the general ideas of Christian ideology more than using direct symbolism, so you have these hints that point you in that direction, but they aren't as transparent as the Narnia Chronicles (not that transparency didn't work beautifully in those, of course).

The Epilogue: I thought it was weak. It was nice to know Harry's second son was named after Severus, but other than that, I would have been happier without it (we all knew who was going to marry who, for goodness sake) or with some alternative. It felt rather flat, sloppy, and tacked on.

Voldy: It was scary that he could fly and all, but he didn't turn out to be especially bright, did he?

Harry: So glad you didn't have to die, Harry, but the scenes of you walking willingly to your death were just lovely. His bravery and sense of honor and right has remained consistent throughout the series, but in this final book his intellect finally catches up with everything else. He's never been studious and has shown some cleverness, but in the final duel, when it's his mind against Voldemort's as much as anything, he was not only triumphant, he was transformed into the strong, confident, whole adult of whom we've seen the glimmerings all along. It was elating to see his character come together like that.

Harry's adventures are intriguing, his world is detailed and creative, his friends and enemies are colorful, his story is tragic and blissful (and full of symbolism), but the most gratifying element of this series, as in most good children's fiction, is seeing a child grow up. So, yes, it's a great story for children: they see a boy endure dreadful hardships but in spite of them show strength and integrity even at a young age, they see him make errors but ultimately divine the right path, they see him sacrificing his life for the people he loves.

I've left a lot out. Even after mulling over the end of the series for several days, I can't quite get my thoughts in order. Please feel free to point out my grievous omissions with your scathing wit in the comments.

3 comments:

Jennifer said...

Where to start! I really wish that I could sit down with you and Nikki and discuss this properly. If only we could all get together and Skype.

I pretty much had the same feelings that you did and enjoyed reading your thoughts on the final book of the Potter series.

I too, was glad that Neville stepped up and started kicking some serious butt. I was also glad to be introduced to his spunky "Gran" finally, even though it was only for a few short moments in the end. She sounded like a really great lady. I also felt that Neville somehow vindicated his parents in his last acts against old scaly face.

Kreacher: Hmm. I was glad that he finally came around and connected with Harry. However, it would still kreep me out living in Sirius's family house with him skulking about - happy or no. I was glad to see that he led the ankle-stabbing house-elf revolution at the last battle.

Ron is a ding dong but I wasn't surprised considering that he acted like a baby in some of the previous books. I still like him though.

Yes, I really loved the fact that Molly Weasly opened up a huge can of whoop-ass on Bellatrix. She so had it coming to her and Molly was the perfect one to give it to her.

Oh the agony that is Snape's life! I too, thought that there was something behind Snape's eariler actions. I agreed with Dumbledore and trusted him as well, but was reading on to see just what was up. I was also glad to see that Lily was a true friend up until Snape betrayed their friendship. That made Lily more real to me and made her seem like a good-hearted person. Exactly the same trait Harry inherited.

MUST get a handbag like Hermione's. Did you get the impression that is was a fancy beaded handbag that probably went with the gown she was wearing to the wedding? It cracks me up thinking about her dragging around a fancy beaded purse through all this.

Okay, the snake in the old lady thing. That truly gave me the creeps. I read that passage around 1AM when Ava decided that she wanted some awake time. After I finished the chapter and put Ava down, it was about 2am and I couldn't go to sleep. In my mind's eye, I kept going back to that room with the little woman staring hard up at me with all white eyeballs, hissing, in that really creepy and smelly upstairs bedroom. It was too much.

The graveyard. This is where I finally got some dates and then got really confused. Lily and James, I think, according to their headstones, were killed in 1981, right? So Harry was born in 1980. That would make it 1997 during the time of this last book. So, the epilogue was in the year 2016? Am I figuring this wrong?

Kings Cross: Agreed. I didn't get a chance to go back yet and re-read all that confusing stuff like you did. So, was that crying little baby-creature Voldemort? I was glad that Harry was able to get a final chat with Dumbledore.

The Epilogue. I agree that it did seem that this was thrown together at the end, but I felt like I, as an HP fan who has followed the boy who lived, through this whole experience, that I needed it. Yes, we all knew that Ron would marry Hermione, and Harry would marry Ginny. We all figured that Draco would marry some pureblood snobby gal just like his mommy, but that isn't what struck me in this epilogue.

Harry, throughout the series, had no family, no one to care for him. He had endured abuse from his Muggle family and never really had a parental figure in his life save Sirius who was in and out of the picture very quickly. In all of the books, there is a longing for that connection, that sense of home. Hogwarts provided some sense of home, but it was never a true home as Harry struggled there too with acceptance and the quest to defeat old Voldy.

At the very end of the epilogue, we find little Ablus Severus worried about being put in the wrong house. Harry, as a man and a father now, bends down to reassure his son by telling him that he was named after two very great headmasters from two of the houses in Hogwarts but if it came right down to it, he could choose if he wanted to. And he let Albus know that is exactly what happened to him. Reassured, Albus boards the train and Harry follows his son along the tracks as it leaves, waving, oblivious to any recognition by the crowd, feeling a little bit of bereavement for his child.

As a parent, I know some of what Harry the character must have felt. At that moment in time, he was truly home. He had a family in his sons and daughter as well as his wife. He was finally whole as a person.

Reading this passage had a lot of finality for me as an HP fan. Harry was now a father and his biggest worry was what any other parent would experience for their children. His battles were over when he defeated V and his new life, his real life, began. This is what I think about when I think of the end of the HP series. Not the fights, not the losses or the victory over Voldy, but of Harry running down the track after the Hogwarts Express, waving last goodbyes to his son.

Watoosa said...

Jenn, love the long commentary. Yes to the beaded handbag. Yes, I think the baby creature was part of Voldy's soul. And if you think the snake coming out of the old lady was scary, you should have seen that creepy little green-eyed baby that lived under Jackie's bed in college.

I forgot to mention that I liked Dudley being decent to Harry early on, but was sorry Petunia never was.

I heard Rowling say this morning in an interview that originally the whole series ended with the word "scar." Basically she said that only the people who loved Harry could still see his scar. Ickie & I like that idea. She also said that as far as careers, Harry and Ron revolutionized the Auror Dept., and Hermione was high up in Magical Law Enforcement. I think I would have preferred to see the 3 of them go independent (working for the GOVERNMENT? pleeese), you know, like auror P.I.'s! But I guess if you don't own a business or teach, the MOM is the only way to earn a living in that world. Really, Hermione should have like 4 wizarding PhDs and be a scholar.

I want to cry though when I think about George trying to run the joke shop on his own. Maybe he got Lee Jordan in as a partner. That would make me feel better. I'm just going to assume that's what happened.

Jennifer said...

I wanted to cry too at George running the joke shop on his own. I'm kind of glad that Rowling didn't address the twins, it would have been too sad.

It has been good to at least discuss this with you via your blog. I am waiting anxiously for my husband's cousing to finish so we can talk about it.

Yes, it's time Dudders gave Harry some respect. I wonder if they ever made it back to Privet Drive...