Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


So. It's happened.

We have a Harry Potter book with true substance, a Harry Potter book that finally allows the boy to become a true hero, someone who must think before giving up his life rather than rushing into hot-headed action.

My main critique of the character has always been that he has shown bravery, not courage. The distinction in my mind is simple: bravery is when one is placed in a certain situation and must simply respond. It is bravery when one is suddenly attacked and must fight back, when you are simply responding to stimuli. Courage, on the other hand, is when you must choose. You know the choices and your options and you choose to do what is right, knowing the cost, knowing exactly what it is you must lose.

It is exactly the choice Harry must make in this book; he must choose to completely and utterly surrender himself. He must choose to die.

It does not work unless you mean it. He has to think and believe and truly be willing to die, and it is only that and that willingness that will ultimately save him (taken from all the great works of literature, by no means an original idea, but nevertheless a profound one.)

This book is filled with beautiful messages. We have Ron, who is initially cowardly but then returns, Snape, whose Patronus haunts and surprises us, and we finally find that even Dumbledore was not quite the man he seemed throughout the rest of the books. We have Luna's transformation into a heroic, astonishing person; we have Neville to some extent fulfilling his part of the prophecy when he kills Nagini. We have so much in this book. It's a truly beautiful book.

There's so much...where do I begin?

First of all, I was right about Snape, down to the very conversation, so I am quite pleased at the moment.

    Snape raised his eyebrows and his tone was sardonic as he asked, "Are you intending to let him kill you?

    "Certainly not. You must kill me."

    There was a long silence, broken only by an odd clicking noise. Fawkes the phoenix was gnawing a bit of cuttlebone.

    "Would you like me to do it now?" asked Snape, his voice heavy with irony. "Or would you like a few moments to compose an epitaph?"

    "Oh, not quite yet," said Dumbledore, smiling. "I daresay the moment will present itself in due course. Given what has happened tonight," he indicated his withered hand, "we can be sure that it will happen within a year."

    "If you don't mind dying," said Snape roughly, "why not let Draco do it?"

    "That boy's soul is not yet so damaged," said Dumbledore. "I would not have it ripped apart on my account."

    "And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?"

    "You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation..."

    (page 682-683)

And of course, that conversation in the forest with Hagrid was exactly as I thought it'd be, Snape pleading with Dumbledore and saying that he would rather not kill him.

It's so fitting to hear Harry tell his son, who he has named after Snape, "One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew" (758).

There's a lot that's beautiful in this book; I'd have to think it over some more. The last passage with Harry and Dumbledore reminds me very much of an extended scene in Green Rider; I love the idea of Snape's being in love with Lily the entire time (so now we know why Harry's green eyes were so important), that Neville has a part to play in striking the final blow, that Luna is so strong and helpful and comforting. I love it all.

Snape's my favorite character, but I have a lot of respect for Neville, Luna and Harry of course. I'm glad that Dumbledore is flawed. His power speech rings true for me. I like him much better now that I know his past.

But the most touching part of the book is Snape's memories in the Penseive and the relationship between Snape and Lily. I can completely understand Severus Snape and oh! He is more than and everything that I wanted him to be.

Beautiful conclusion by J.K. Rowling. I honestly didn't care for most of the action bits, and her book is still overly simplistic for my taste (grand themes of love, hatred, remorse, sacrifice and the like) but I think its message is lovely and it's an incredibly good book for kids all over the world to be reading.

Bravo, J.K. Rowling. You have made the world a much better place simply by writing this last, touching, beautiful book. And you can believe me, I never thought I'd be saying that.


Erachet said...

Agreed, agreed, agreed. I shall now have to write my own review of the book. In a few days, at least. Once I digest it more.

Ezzie said...

Basically all agreed. I was kind of hoping that Neville would take out Voldemort for a nice twist (and even for a second thought that he might near the end when Hagrid was forced to hold Harry), seeing as how the prophecy was possible to be of either of them, but she closed that loop with Voldemort's having chosen Harry.

Gotta love the 19 years later bit. :) Draco ended up being an interesting character, Snape I thought was obvious (though the seeing Harry and giving him the memories in that last second as he was dying was a bit forced, while the Voldemort killing of Snape was actually quite smart), and Tonks/Remus dying was unnecessary (should have picked someone who didn't just have a baby). I like that she didn't feel the need to overdo killing of main characters, even while allowing plenty of killing, and I loved (though expected) the Dumbledore having his own flaws. (If you know my favorite lyrics... :) )

sara said...

personally i was a bit disappointed with rowlings happily ever after ending. i felt that she was so hell bent on tying her themes together and packing the books with as much action as possible, that she skipped over the emotions. i felt like the book was extremely superficial.

Anonymous said...

I was very scared for Ron and Hermione. They were the only characters who could top Dumbledore's death.

J. K. Rowling pulled out every stop and vaulted the series into timelessness with this one. It can stand proudly with Narnia.

Anonymous said...

What will I read to my husband now?

Anonymous said...

"His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik is a Hugo nominee this year and a real possibility.