Sunday, July 22, 2007

Don't worry, no spoilers

I stayed up late last night to finish the last Harry Potter book. (That made it fun to get up for mass, since I was cantoring.) I won't give anything away, but I wanted to express some thoughts on the series of books in general. (I guess if you haven't read up to Book 6, maybe you shouldn't read this afterall, but I won't give away anything that happens in Book 7.)

1) The black, the white and all the grey in between. The thing I like most about the books is that, along with the main characters, the books mature and develop into something more than one dimensional stories of good versus evil. By the last book, it is finally very clear to Harry that, with a few notable exceptions, people are not just "good" and "bad." These are lessons we (hopefully) learn as we become adults. While there might clearly be a side of right and a side of wrong, the players are not always such. Good people are capable of terrible things, and bad people are capable of kindness and compassion. The ability for abstract reasoning comes with age, maturity and development. I once heard a high school teacher discuss such differences between sophomores and seniors. By the time we reach adulthood, we have the ability to understand such things previously lost on us only a couple years prior. Doesn't mean we necessarily ever do understand, of course, there are still plenty of people who don't, but we at least have the capacity.

In Book 5, Harry finds out that his father wasn't this awesome role model he believed him to be (and neither were his buddies). He was a rather arrogant bully instead, and was pretty cruel to Snape, which paved the way for Snape's own torment of Harry throughout school. Harry had wanted to paint Snape as the bully, a grown-up version of Draco Malfoy, but he soon realizes that his father may have had more in common with Draco instead. Harry is disturbed by this, because he doesn't realize that, first of all, people are flawed, including his sainted parents. But mostly he can't yet comprehend how his father could have been this great wizard, a freedom fighter, a hero, but have acted like a prat during adolescence. His belief that his father wasn't "good" is quite devastating to him.

Those themes continue throughout the next two books as loyalties are tested and people are faced with their own limitations, regardless of what side they had already chosen. Fear also plays a role in this.

2.) Fear as a catalyst for choice. In Book 3, Pettigrew is revealed as the traitor to the Order, and to the Potters. A long-time trusted friend of the Potters, Pettigrew betrays his friends. He wants to be on the winning side, but I think maybe not completely for his own glory or what he believes Voldemort and the Death Eaters can provide. I think fear had something to do with it as well. There is a lot about fear throughout Book 6 and especially in Book 7. When faced with the fear, some man-up, some run away, and some crumble. Others simply ignore the problem altogether and try to stay neutral. I noticed a lot of WWII type themes, which is really the historical prototype for the rise of the evil empire and subsequent resistence. In Book 5, the Ministry of Magic provides us with the political element and acts as a stereotypical government would: deny there's a problem; but even if there's a problem, we've got it under control; and blame someone else. All the while acting as inefficiently as only a bureaucracy can.

But again, back to the whole good-bad dichotomy, fear is in many cases what leads to several characters' chosen paths, good and bad.

3.) The theme of love. Here's the heartwarming, squishy one. Although it is clear J.K. wants to use "love" as the ruling element, I would almost say loyalty and compassion before actual love. The whole reason Harry survived Voldemort's original attack is because of his mother's sacrifice. But for a "good" person, and maybe not even a particularly good person, that person might usually kick puppies and cheat on his taxes, but in a crisis, in a life-and-death situation, many people, without even thinking, risk their lives, or sacrifice their lives for another, even a stranger. Isn't a mother sacrificing herself for her child more of an instinct rather than a conscious act of love? Soldiers sacrifice themselves for their countries, and isn't that more consciously about duty and loyalty than about love? I don't doubt that love is a factor, but I think in those moments of choice, that love isn't the main factor.

So, that's pretty much it for now. I liked the last book, I thought it was well-done. Not my favorite, I think Book 4 is still my favorite. I have a soft-spot for the awkward, coming-of-age Harry, who likes a girl he can barely speak to, competes in the wizarding tournament and acts like a "normal" teenage boy, but who at the end, loses the last of his innocence. Oh, and I love Cedric plus David Tennant is in the movie as Barty Crouch, Jr., which just makes it that much more awesome.

But it's over and done. Sad, but I'm excited for the final two movies, and I think the last movie will really require some impressive acting by the kids (who aren't actually kids anymore). Anyone have any thoughts? Just mark any spoilers if you include them.

1 comment:

subrosa said...

i'm planning to resume my membership with the bookclub...not for tomorrow, but probably for next month. :-)