Harry Potter Talk — Spoilers

I thought it would be nice if those of us who finished and are so inclined could talk more specifically about HP7, our reactions, and our kids’ reactions, without fear of spoiling the book for any random person who happens to pull up the page.So: here are some potential topics for discussion.

1. The death of Hedwig: Violet told me this morning that she woke up 1/2 crying after a dream about Hedwig. She was a bit angry about Hedwig’s death. I had heard this about other children and was surprised, so I was equally surprised that Violet felt that way. In any case, I took the opportunity to talk about symbolism: I said that, to me, Hedwig was kind of symbolic of Harry’s school days, which were coming to an abrupt end as he was thrust into the adult world. She smiled broadly and seemed very pleased at this idea — go figure. (By the same token I saw the early death of Moody as the loss of the failsafe guardian, a sign of how dangerous the world had become, just as the death of Dumbledore was the “loss” of a mentor and surrogate parent, and then end of Hogwarts as a safe haven.)

2. Snape: I confess that Alan Rickman has made me love Snape’s character more than I might otherwise — I can’t tell. But I really liked that Snape was neither good nor bad, and was a mixed bag to the end. I was taken aback that Harry gave his child Snape’s name, but overall I thought it more realistic that Snape did it all for Lily than that Snape would have some secret, very well-concealed concern for Harry himself. I found Snape extremely sympathetic, in the sense that he was a sad little man living only to redeem himself in the eyes of Lily Potter. Like so many of the adult charaters (Narcissa Malfoy, Luna’s dad, maybe Mrs. Weasley), his motives were far more driven by private feelings than by concern for the fate of the wizarding world.

3. Favorite scenes: Everything involving Dobby, who is a great character. His death was handled with the most genuine emotion of any of the HP deaths I can recall, and it was really moving. (I thought a lot of the transformation time at the Shell Cottage, though rushed, was nicely done.) Kreacher’s change of heart–I would really have loved to see Harry back in Grimmauld place post-Voldemort, hanging with Kreacher, maybe remodeling . . . Ron’s return to Harry and Hermione. Everyone was so in character. Maybe it’s me, but I loved watching Ron face his deepest fears and seemingly come into his own. I liked that Hermione did not melt at the return of her true love but continued to be her somewhat self-righteous, high-minded, slightly priggish self, and I liked that her friends accept that about her and carry on. I liked how competent they seemed, and I liked their loyalty to each other.

4. Surprises: Obviously was not expecting anything relating to the Deathly Hallows. I kind of enjoyed that subplot so I’m not thinking too much about whether it was necessary. I did like the contrast between Horcruxes and Hallows as means of cheating death, and I liked getting the backround on Dumbledore. Dumbledore had alluded to his “correspondingly bigger mistakes,” and we got a sense of what that was. I was not expecting the scene at the Lovegood’s to go as it did. I did assume that Snape had loved Lily, but I was genuinely surprised by the patronus thing.

5. Disappointments: Primarily, I wish there had been more and better resolution. Either keep Fred alive or give enough attention to his death to make it meaningful. Same with Tonks and Lupin. I think we needed a stronger sense of things immediately post-Voldemort before jumping ahead 19 years. I don’t mind the jump ahead 19 years in itself–it’s better than pretending that Harry & friends are really grown-ups at age 17–but honestly I almost would have preferred a less narrative version. Harry: married Ginny, had 3 kids, became famous Quidditch player. Professor Mc Gonagall served as Headmistress of Hogwarts for the next 20 years, until she was replaced by — let’s say — Ernie MacMillan. Neville Longbottom discovered the 13th and 14th uses for dragon blood. etc.

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6 responses to “Harry Potter Talk — Spoilers

  1. 1. The Hedwig thing was the first to bring tears to my eyes. Z was most upset about Fred. I think your take on what the different deaths mean is a good one.

    2. I guess I was kind of hoping for more about Snape. I would read a whole book about Snape. *grin*. I didn’t like that he died so ignobly. I would have preferred something more heroic. Like having him kill Nagini or throwing himself in front a Voldemorts curse to save Harry or even Hermione. But I was really glad to learn more about his history and motivation though.

    3.Dobby’s death, Snape’s Chapter, Dumbledore finally explaining some things at Kings Cross Station, Harry coming into the Room of Requirement, anything Luna.

    4. Surprised by Snape’s childhood assciation with Lily, Dumbledore’s history, that nothing was at Godric’s Hollow, the Malfoys being allowed to live at the end, Snape’e sudden death, Kreature’s change of heart. I was not surprised that Harry was a horcrux.

    5. Disappointments – I think they spent too much tme on the three kids doing nothing. If I would have written it McGonagal would have taken over Hogwarts and the kids would have gone there the last year and gone out on nights and holidays to find the Horcruxes and work with the OotP

    Now I will add my own 2 cents

    I really would have liked to see more of all the other characters we have come to care about. Also she should have let Ginny do more, especially since Rowling made a point in making her so powerful. And I want to know what happened to everyone – George, Luna, Neville, etc. but I am happy to hear Rowling is going to come out with that info at some point.

    There is probably more to talk about but I can’t think of it right now.

  2. Oh yay, I have been waiting for a chance to discuss this with other people. You may have read my monologues on my weblog and so know my general opinion. Really good book, totally engaged my heart and most of my time for two days (I’m rereading it more slowly now) but disappointing on an intellectual level. However, to address your points …

    1. Hedwig’s death made me feel sick inside. It was such a shock. Dobby’s death made me cry. For some reason I feel strong connections with the animals and strange little creatures in stories. There was one in Elf Queen of Shannara which was killed and it makes me cry everytime I read that scene. I appreciate what you said about the symbolism of Hedwig’s death but to be honest I thought it was a mean thing to do. She deserved to be set free or something more noble than that abrupt death.

    2. I thought the infodump about Snape near the end was awful writing – it would have been so much more touching if she’d done it through a conversation or at least while Snape was alive! I also thought his death was handled badly. There was a great opportunity for him to sacrifice himself, that would have been mythic and appropriate to his role, but no he just got swindled by Voldemort and bang he was dead without even one final grasp of Harry’s hand or anything. By the way, I can’t believe ANYONE ever thought he wasn’t going to turn out to be a hero! I do think she could have showed more of his courage, sacrifice, and how he felt.

    3. Favourite scene – Dobby’s death and Harry digging the grave. Also equally loved – where Harry was walking into the forest with his dead loved ones. I actually huddled up with my arm over my head so no one would interrupt me while reading that! Favourite line in the whole entire series – when Harry asked his dead family, “Does it hurt?” Brilliant, brilliant bit of characterisation. I loved the Kreacher scenes too.

    4. Surprises: nothing really. I guess Dumbledore’s background was a surprise, but I think it was badly inserted into the storyline so that kind of spoiled it for me.

    5. Disappointments: I think she could have used Ginny more and certainly got more mileage out of that relationship. That was a very big disappointment to me because Ginny was a great character and she ended up just being a love interest. I thought the epilogue was a HUGE disappointment and completely fell flat, but now I understand she is writing an encyclopedia so she is stringing us all along so we buy that and find out what Harry’s career and future were! As I said, I was disappointed with Snape’s death. I thought Fred’s, Lupin’s, and Tonk’s death had no emotional impact. And I was very disappointed in the infodumps and unnecessary complications in what was otherwise a great story.

    There is so much to say about this book and indeed the whole series, I won’t go on and on. But the one point I do want to stress again here, even though I wrote it also in my own post, is how deeply disappointed I am that JK is so compassionless towards the hurt and damaged parts of Voldemort. I would have loved to have seen Harry trying to comfort that twisted, cast-off part of Voldemort’s soul. I would have loved to see him wrestle more with his spirit of sympathy (even empathy) with Voldemort and his need to kill him. This would have made a deeper and more spiritually satisfying book and to me is the major difference between Harry Potter and a book like Lord of the Rings, where it goes beyond adventure into the realms of the soul, and it is Frodo’s compassion and pity which save his soul, not to mention the whole world.

    Thanks for the opportunity to rave on!

  3. shaunms

    Snape’s death: I confess I thought Snape’s death appropriate. I was expecting more, but in the end it seemed to fit with his character as kind of a walking dead man. It made sense to me that his death showed that however powerful, however smart he was, he pretty much at the mercy of others, because of his past mistakes.

    Re compassion: That’s an interesting point. I may not have the best memory for LOTR — is that Frodo’s compassion for Gollum? That does turn out to be a saving grace in a rather backwards, but obviously important, way. But that seems mirrored in Harry’s compassion for house-elves and (to some extent) goblins, which does in fact save the day. Watching the LOTR *movies,* I have been struck by how handy it is that the primary bad guys are all inhuman (Orcs, Sauron, Ring Wraiths), and so there is no need for compassion for them. I thought that was what Dumbledore set up with Voldemort all along — Voldemort had rendered himself basically inhuman (hence his inhuman appearance). He’s practically a zombie, brought back to life by unnatural means in book 4. I kind of saw that as protective of Harry, from the author’s point of view — she went to great lengths to make sure that what he was killing was barely alive, hardly human anyway.

    So I wonder, do you mean the lack of compassion for pre-Voldemort Tom Riddle? (I did like that Harry called him”Tom” in the end and asked him to try to feel remorse, which was the only way to repair the damage done by horcruxes.) You could argue that he was set up as intrinsically evil even as a boy–Harry shows some sympathy for him as he discovers more about his early life and his parents, but in the main even Dumbledore seems to think from the get go that this is one seriously twisted child, and he doesn;t get a very sympathetic portrayal.

    Thanks for the chance to think more about LOTR and HP — Obviously HP begs for comparison to the former, yet as I think about it, LOTR is so much more about Big Ideas (which is what I like) and hardly at all about personal relationships. Even Sam’s great love for Frodo–which is one of the best things about the story–feels much bigger than the private love of one individual for another, and is more about Love that gives and gives and serves and serves the Other. Love in HP, on the other hand, is much more about the color of the particular beloved’s eye, the funny way a girl memorizes Hogwarts: A History, how a person slowly gets under your skin, the way parental/protective love goes beyond all reason and often drives the parent to big mistakes. And of course HP, to me, is above all a coming-of-age story rather than a good-and-evil story — perhaps the flaws in the book come from the difficult merger of the two or from Rowling herself being not quite clear on which she was writing? That’s why I never in a million years thought that Harry could die–how do you end a story about growing up with the death of the protagonist. So, e.g., Harry’s “death” is not an Aslan-like scene of rebirth and sacrifice as much as it is a mark of the passage from childhood to adulthood, putting away childhood things, etc.

  4. You make such great points, Shaun. You’ve really read HP deeply. The reason I compared it to LOTR was because I believe that book was a huge influence on JK and her books contain many references to it (giant spiders, male friendship, etc). She admitted so herself – apparently she used to carry it around with her everywhere.

    What you wrote about the inhuman nature of the enemy in LOTR was also noted and discussed by a couple of critics of that book in the past. I see what you’re saying about protecting Harry (and no doubt young readers) by making Voldemort as non-human as possible. I think it would have been more interesting if that wasnt the case – but perhaps that would have changed the tone of the book altogether, made it more YA.

    I do mean compassion for Tom Riddle – mainly that I’ve always been astonished Dumbledore tells Harry not to feel pity for him, even though he also tells Harry it is his ability to love which will overcome Voldemort in the end. I always felt Harry went against his better instincts when he listened to Dumbledore and didn’t pity Riddle – but ha, listen to me, talking about Harry as if he was *real* 😉

    You’re right about how compassion towards house-elves saves the day to some extent – and how it gets Ron his girl! When I read their changing attitudes to house-elves I felt they were really becoming adults.

    I love the way you describe the books in terms of the relationships within them, both relationships between characters and their changing relationships with themselves. This is absolutely JK’s strength and on that level she does brilliantly. I do think she got it wrong about how a child raised with neglect and abuse would turn out – Harry is way too solid in his sense of self, way too capable of making friends, standing up to authority, being confident, considering his upbringing. But in general she does an excellent job with her characters.

  5. J

    You know it’s strange that you mention compassion towards Voldemort. Harry might have had compassion, but it got lost somewhere in the action.

    Remember the ugly choking baby in the train station? It’s poorly implied that if Tom Riddle dies as Voldemort, his soul would spend eternity as the ugly choking baby, abandoned, forever crying, helpless and unloved on the cold hard floor of a train station. However, if Harry gets Voldemort to feel remorse, then his soul may integrate all the ugly choking babies and teenaged Riddles stuck inside the various Horcruxes and be whole once more. That’s why Harry calls him “Riddle” at the end instead of Voldemort and that’s why he tells him to try for a little remorse.

    Honestly, I just thought “Try for a little remorse” was just a cool line until I reread the passage. Sort of like “I once killed a man in Reno just to watch him die.”

  6. Pingback: The End of Harry Potter | Red Sea School

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