Monday, July 23, 2007

Deathly Hallows 2

Tried and failed to get onto some of the discussion boards at the best known Harry Potter sites on the web, so here's a few reflections, now I've finished the book. They're fairly random, from unanswered questions to bits of the plot/Rowling worldview which struck me.

Plot spoilers follow.

1. Question: why is Snape's picture not on the wall in the headmasters study when Harry goes there at the end of the battle, given that he's a deceased Hogwarts headmaster?

2. Question: how does Griffindors sword end up in the Sorting Hat, given that it was last seen in possession of a goblin, or does it belong to the school and just magically turn up when it's needed.

3. Families valued: there are virtually no broken families in these books. There are orphans aplenty, or people in single parent families because parents have died, but I can't think of a single major character who is from a divorce or broken relationship. I don't know whether this is significant, given Rowlings experience as a single parent and her advocacy of support for single parent families.

4. Bruce Almighty: if you've seen this film, Bruce dies, goes to a white place, talks with God, gets sent back. Harry 'dies', goes to a white place, talks with Dumbledore, is given the choice to go back. Maybe the difference is the significant thing here, because all along in HP it's about the choices you make. Harry's choice first to die for his friends (which protects them) and then to go back to finish the job (which delivers them), are key.

5. Cross and resurrection: a hero offering his life to save others, or someone back from the grave (or near certain death) to save everyone, are such regular motifs in film, book and drama that we often hardly notice them, or the way they play on the Christian roots of our imaginations. I'm struggling, though, to think of a single piece of work which has both the substitutionary death and the 'resurrection' working together as they do in Deathly Hallows. Both of them are crucial to Deathly Hallows, just as they are crucial to the gospel - Jesus atoning death is not complete without his resurrection, which vindicates him, makes him Lord of all creation, and is a precursor to the same power of resurrection being at work among his followers.

6. Choice of tactics isn't always just about tactics: Harry faces a choice at one point between 2 ways of defeating Voldemort: one is the way he's been asked to take by Dumbledore, the other is a way he's uncovered, with clues left by Dumbledore, which would seem to make him invincible to death. In the end Harry chooses the path of obedience (and also the path with the greatest cost). Choice of tactics is also about obedience, integrity, and character - Harry's greatness is that he never seeks power for it's own sake, his focus is on doing what is good and right, not on accumulating weaponry to do what is good and right, but which itself will corrupt him. He gives up the Elder Wand at the end because he's not interested in power or greatness. Rowling makes the point in the book that it's those who have greatness or leadership thrust upon them, rather htan those who aspire to it, who are most suited to greatness. Not sure if that's always true - Churchill seemed determined to be great, and achieved it, but was also the right leader at the right time.

7. Friendship and community: Harry has recognised at the end that going it alone doesn't work - he leaves instructions with Neville to finish the job if he's not able to do it himself. Shades of Jesus commissioning Peter? He recognises that there has to be a team of 3, whether he is part of that team or not. Rowling never highlights it, but by the time all the Horcruxes are destroyed, Harry has only every destroyed one of them (Riddles diary), and even then didn't really know what he was doing. Every horcrux is destroyed by someone different - Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Crabbe (unintentionally - bit of a deus ex machina that bit), and Voldemort himself (if I understand the last bit right). On one level it's a solo quest, but actually it's a team effort.

8. Great magic: some cracking imaginitive stuff here. I particularly like the bit in Gringotts, the goblin bank, where to protect stuff from being stolen any treasure which is touched instantaneously multplies into dozens of worthless replicas and becomes scorching hot. Great parable on money there, though now that Rowling is worth millions, I wonder if she'd agree with her own prose. I guess it's more about the desire for treasure and what it does to you and your attitude to money, rather than having money per se.

9. Human behaviour - the sense of anticipation of people wanting to get the book and know how the series ends caught me up as well. I got my book at about 7am on Saturday and finished it last night. What's this all about? Something to do with secrets (witness the massive amounts of online speculation about the plot and what might happen) being revealed, something to do with wanting to be the first to know what's going on (aren't we all?), and something to do with the gripping nature of the novels themselves. The cliffhanger ending is a stock part of any serial, soap etc., all the more so a cliffhanger which leaves you waiting for 2 years.

10. Not in front of the children. My 4 1/2 year old wanted to know all about this book that Daddy was reading, and asked me to read her some of it. Given that someone dies, or is maimed, in just about every chapter (the wikepedia article on the book suggests something like 50-60 deaths), I searched in vain in the section I was in to find something that wasn't either too nasty, or too much about spells and wizards, to read to her. This is a different book, for a different audience, from book 1 - the writing has grown up with the audience, and this is more of a horror book in some places than a childrens fantasy adventure. It would be interesting to re-read the Narnia books, before I get too squeamish, to see how they compare for content and levels of violence.

11. Following on from the last posting on the book, the Bible quotations aren't followed up, though musing on 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' in the light of Harry and Voldemorts actions is, in some senses, the subtext for the finale of the book.

finally, clever way of closing the book, which takes us to an adult Harry and an intervening 19 years where nothing has happened, is a good way of shutting the door on any 'what's going to happen to him now' stuff.

if you read it, what did you think of it?

No comments:

Post a Comment