Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The last book in a series is always one of the hardest to pull off. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JR Rowling finishes the biggest book series in decades, and does so in a grand fashion that will leave you wanting for more.
I decided to reread all the Harry Potter books after watching the first part of the film adaptation of The Deathly Hallows in theatres. I bought my copy of the book version of The Deathly Hallows in either December 2008 or January 2009, on a cold winter day from a small yet cozy (if hipster-ish) used bookstore on the University of Minnesota campus. I needed something to read as all of my books had been packed up to be taken back home; I saw the book sitting on a shelf, realized I hadn’t read it yet and that my chances of borrowing a friends’ copy at that moment were slim, and since the price was decent, I picked up.
I don’t think I started reading it for another few days, but once I started I couldn’t finish. I spent every waking moment reading through that book, bundled under a bunch of blankets with space heaters surrounding me. I felt a little lost reading it, as I couldn’t remember who people like Tonks and Lupus were, and especially didn’t remember anything about Bill or Percy Weasley. People were dying who I didn’t care about, yet I pressed on and still enjoyed the story, blown away by the ending and subsequent coda. The storyline felt like it was closed up nice and neat.
Yet part of the problem of reading a book that quickly is that often I tend to not remember it very well some time later, despite it being a page-turner at the time. When the film version came out, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, I only vaguely knew what was supposed to be happening. If you had asked me, I couldn’t have told you what all of the Horcruxes were. I couldn’t have told you all who died. But I could have told you that there was a lot of sitting in tents, something that I think fits the storyline perfectly, is not much of a problem, yet I understand many audience members have short attention spans. A quest like the one Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on takes time; consider it lucky that they finished within the typical school year. If this hadn’t been a children’s book, JK Rowling may have done the “Flash Forward a Decade” bit a few times to really bring up the tension. If there is anything that betrays this series as a series written for everyone but through a lens of children, it’s how the tension and dramatic events happened so quickly and eventually resolved so quickly.
Reading through The Deathly Hallows this time around, I understood so much more about what was happening and who all of the dramatic personnel were. I made the connections between all the books and the characters, where Mundugus fit in, how the kid on the bus kept showing up, Kreacher’s evolution as a character (which is lacking entirely from the film), how important Dobby was to the story, the significance of the bar keeper, etc. (Plus I kept an eye out for more evidences of Dumbledore being gay; didn’t see any, but I accept that he is according to JK Rowling. And I have no problem with it at all.)(Jesus Juke!! “That just proves these stories are evil and demonic and leading kids into witchcraft and the homosexual lifestyle! Burn them!”) It’s a remarkably tight-knit story. I can’t think of any character or event that is not resolved in some way…although I imagine the film version will manage to ignore certain points, such as the significance of the Patronus leading Harry to the Sword of Gryffindor.
Speaking of which…I will raise holy hell if Snape is not given his due in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Coming out of The Half-Blood Prince, the only thing anyone would talk about about the Harry Potter series is whether Snape was evil or good. Books were written about it! Everyone assumes Harry will triumph over Voldemort, but we need to know if Dumbledore was right or wrong to trust Snape! Is Snape a Death Eater? Will Snape help Harry Potter kill Voldemort?
Am I ok with spoiling the book and last movie here? Yeah, I think I’m ok with it.
Snape is a tragic figure. While being perfectly responsible and accountable for his own actions, he nonetheless was directed toward those actions by factors beyond his control. He is a figure controlled in large parts by the Fates. Born into poverty and an abusive home, his demeanor and personality were warped and twisted by a lack of love and grace, and when he eventually found some resemblance of hope and life, it was denied him by the results of that upbringing and warped worldview. He found a treasure in a field and devoted his life to pursuing it, but it was denied him.
Snape’s hatred of Harry is perfectly understandable. Harry represents all that was lost to Snape. Harry could have been Snape’s son if circumstances had been more favorable for Snape. When he looks at Harry, all he sees is James Potter, the man who stole (won) Lily from him, a man who is the near opposite everything Snape is, a man who is just so normal and cliché, a man whom Lily disliked but was eventually coerced (seduced) into loving. It’s hard to picture James as any type of hero throughout the series, a fact Harry slowly awakens to. James, in death, is good toward Harry; in life, if James had still been around while Harry grew up, Harry would be a lot closer to Draco in personality than to anyone else; Harry certainly wouldn’t have been friends with Ron and Hermione.
Perhaps that is one of the lasting legacies JK Rowling gave to the readers of Harry Potter. Life is messy, and not always black and white. People have the capacity to do both good and evil. Children will need to eventually grow up, sort out their own code of ethics, and try to live life as best as they can. Throw in Christian theology in to the lot, and it gets even more messy. Christians believe all humans are born with a sin nature, absolutely corrupt; those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior are called righteous in God’s sight (legal standing), but still retain that sinful nature. And while some through elaborate self-deception try to convince themselves that that sinful nature is done away with, or, even more wickedly, can be absolutely controlled through some combination of self-will, bodily discipline, and the Holy Spirit, life has a way of proving that false.
Are James and Snape good people? Perhaps, in their own ways. Both had done things they regretted. James to a large extent was at heart a bully, and only wasn’t a bully to those people he valued, such as Lily, Sirius, Lupin, etc. Snape, to put it mildly, had racist tendencies, viewpoints that could have been changed and probably would have been if people like Lily had half an idea what grace was all about. Both racism and bullying are wicked things, yet both men also did much good as well. If you were to judge them on a perfect standard, they both come out looking awful; Christians would then say grace is the only difference between them both getting what they rightly deserved. And in the end, both were judged, which in the book meant they both had to die. But, their actions…let’s just say their sacrifices…led to much good.
I feel bad for Snape. I really do. His life would have been much different if Lily had shown him some love and grace and understanding. But, they were children, and those are things that come with maturity. And often the actions of the past can’t be undone, much to our chagrin.
I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Again it was a page-turner, yet this time I was able to follow along much more closely. I’m not afraid to admit that I was a little teary eyed near the end. Like all good things, it must come to an end, but of course we don’t wish it to be so. JK Rowling wrote a masterpiece, and I’ll always be a champion of these books to anyone, especially Christians who may have been exposed to some bad rhetoric.
I’m sure I’ll write more about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Part 2 comes out in theatres.