Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Post-Potter Post II

It's now been three weeks since I've completed the final Harry Potter book, so before blogger memory - and reader interest - fades entirely, here are a few of my final thoughts.

Obviously, spoilers follow for any who intend to read the book, yet have not yet managed to finish it!

Before anything else, I will state that I unreservedly found the book nothing short of excellent. It was thrilling, well-paced, and self-consistent, it dealt with mature and sophisticated themes of guilt, self-sacrifice, and redemption, and most of all, it provided a thoroughly satisfying closure to the series. The seven Harry Potter books, and particularly "Deathly Hallows", stand at the peak of modern children's literature, and can hold their own amongst the best of "grownup" works as well. Let none of my additional comments, questions, and (relatively) minor gripes imply otherwise!

One of my earliest posts discussed similarities between Rowling's magical sub-created world and our own. An extremely vivid example from book seven was the interrogation of the muggle-borns by the Voldemort-infiltrated Ministry of Magic, chillingly reminiscent of the darkest events of modern Jewish history. Compare the following two snippets of dialogue, the first from chapter thirteen of Deathly Hallows:
"Could you please tell me from which witch or wizard you took this wand?"
"T-took?" sobbed Mrs. Cattermole. I didn't t-take it from anybody. I
b-bought it when I was eleven years old..."
..."No," said Umbridge, "no, I don't think so, Mrs. Cattermole. Wands only choose witches or wizards. You are not a witch."
And now, this exchange from the 1978 TV miniseries "Holocaust", when one of the Jewish protagonists is called in for "routine questioning" by the Gestapo:
"The whore who was your mother?"
"My mother was not a whore!"
"Come now, all Jewish women are whores"
I wouldn't be surprised if this similarity was intentional, given what Rowling has written in the past about the analogy between wizard and Nazi blood-purists.

There were two aspects of the book that I think could have been done better. First, some important episodes were only described and not experienced directly; in particular, Hermione's destruction of the cup-Horcrux, and the deaths of Tonks and Lupin. Obviously, the author was somewhat constrained by the book's length, as well as the need to show events from Harry's point-of-view, meaning that not all action could reasonably be on-stage. Still, Deathly Hallows was more than 100 pages briefer than book 5, and even 25 or so short of its own advertised length - so there was certainly room to add another scene or two. And there have been exceptions to the POV rule as well - e.g, chapter 1 of this book, and chapters 1-2 of book six. As rich as Deathly Hallows was, I felt somewhat piqued at not having these missing scenes portrayed.

My second complaint, an issue I had already foreseen in my last pre-Potter post, was the fact that literally not one member of the Slytherin House stayed to fight against Voldemort and his Death Eaters in the climactic battle. This, despite the fact that their own head of house, Horace Slughorn, did join the battle, albeit reluctantly. When McGonagall threw down the gauntlet to Slughorn, saying in so many words "The time has come for Slytherin House to decide upon its loyalties", why was this not extended to the students? I think this was a definite, and happily uncharacteristic, example of oversimplified, stereotyped, and one-dimensional characterization by Rowling.

A few brief questions:

1) Why was the loss of Harry's beloved Firebolt broom, during the early chase scene, utterly ignored? Granted that this was quickly overshadowed by more significant events, the deaths of his pet owl Hedwig and of Mad-Eye Moody. But there should have been at least some mention of the Firebolt deprivation as an additional grief for Harry, given its significant role in his past joyful activities (Quidditch, the first Triwizard Tournament task), and especially because it was a gift from Sirius. And it certainly would have been useful to have for many of Harry's later adventures in this book!

2) When Narcissa Malfoy saved Harry by playing along with his feigned death, it's implied that she was doing it in return for his saving her son Draco's life earlier. But how did she know - Harry never told her, and it would have been quite out of character for Draco to do so?

3) In the epilogue, Harry and Ginny's kids are obviously named for Harry's dad and mom, Dumbledore, and Snape. But who were Ron and Hermione's kids - "Rose" and "Hugo" - named for? I was expecting "Fred" for one of Ron's children.

And I guess that's it. Like the series itself, my writing about it has to end somewhere. Once more, thanks to author JK Rowling for bringing so much reading pleasure to myself and tens of millions of other readers! May the joy of discovering this modern-day classic be renewed for many generations of young readers yet to come.

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At 9/19/07, 2:24 PM, Blogger benning said...

I liked the series, too, and enjoyed the finale. Yes, your complaints are valid, but as you noted, the sheer length may have had something to do with it, and led to the editors cutting some things which we would have enjoyed reading.

I think what kept me coming back, as I did to Tolkein's LOTR, was what I saw as the exposure of the eternal battle of Good versus Evil, and what I saw as parallels with the modern real world. I wonder if you or others noticed that?

In the Potter series we see the same venality of the press, and the near-automatic acceptance of anything the press publishes, by the public. I see the same thing in our real world. The blindness of so many to the approaching Evil, despite the very obvious evidence of it, seems to match what we see everyday in our leaders and so many of the public.

I saw so many of the same kind of parallels in LOTR. The majority hoping the Evil will miss them or just go away, while a minority takes it on themselves to "gird up their loins" and fight that Evil.

Does any of that make sense? Anyway, that's how I see those series. And I enjoyed them and will re-re-read them! LOL


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