Friday, May 30, 2008

hp3 discussion thread (2008 book 74)

Here's the place to post comments on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!


wordnerdy said...

This is one of my favorite of the HP books--I remember in the dull days waiting for books 5 and 6 to come out, many debates were had over whether book 3 or book 4 was better. (I always contended that 4 was better, but I loved 3 more--we'll see if I still feel that way!)

This is the book that starts the transition from what was really a kids' series to something that was a lot darker and more complex. (Though Rowling still had awkward moments--for some reason, when Harry says of butterbeer, "Yeah, I like that stuff!" it makes me cringe.)

And of course, here's where we also start to learn more about Harry's parents--or at least his father. I've always thought the scene where he realizes his father could transform into a stag, and that his own Patronus is a stag, and thus he does have a tangible connection to his father, is really one of the emotional lynchpins of the series. I actually hate the 3rd movie b/c they never bother to explain that. As Dumbledore says, something of James is indeed in Harry.

Plus Hermione gets to help save the day again, after spending much of book 2 as a statue. Hooray for time-turners! I do awlays feel bad for thinking so, but between Hermione's brain and Harry's skills, there never is much for Ron to do.

And this book introduces another father figure for Harry--Sirius. Not to mention Lupin, who is one of my favorite characters! I love the moral complexities at work here.

Then there's Snape . . . he really is pretty hateful and unbalanced here. Misdirection? More gray areas of characters? I did always wonder why every single book mentions that Harry has his mother's eyes--of course that's a topic best saved for later!

ahartsell said...

This is quite possibly my favorite one too!

Since we learned in the last book that Harry has some of Voldemort in him, it seems like a good balance that we learn he has some of his dad in him too.

I love Lupin too. He always seems so nice. I never cared for Sirius that much as a character, but I do like how through most of the book you're scared of Sirius and then there's this big surprise.

But we do learn more about Snape and start to understand why he treats Harry the way he does. Of course we still have so much to learn about Snape, which is why he's one of my favorite characters. I thought it was great that we get to learn more about Harry's parents and their friends and enemies, which helps us understand Harry better.

I always thought it was interesting that this is the one book that doesn't have a Voldemort show-down. What do you think of that?

ahartsell said...

Something I've always wondered. Why do wizards need the Knight Bus? I can see that the floo network maybe doesn't go everywhere, but why can't they apparate? Does not everyone learn to apparate? What kind of wizards use the Knight Bus?

I love how she throws in little things that will have more meaning later. Like how we get introduced to Cedric, which I never really paid attention to before. But he's already established as a character who cares about things being fair: "When he looked back and saw you on the ground, he tried to call it off. Wanted a rematch" (180).

On a slightly related note. I just got this book at the library called Second Thoughts: A Focus on Rereading. It's really interesting.

wordnerdy said...

I totally agree about Sirius. I always feel like we're supposed to love him as a character, as Harry does, but I never really did. Rowling does do a great job of painting him as believably flawed, after all he's been through.

I never really thought about the Voldemort thing, though that is really interesting. Maybe it's to get geared up for his big return in book 4? Maybe having a showdown with him in Every. Single. Book. would get to be a little unbelievable after a while? It's nice to have Harry being heroic without having to risk his life, I have to say. It's still really exciting just to have a climax involving magic and good deeds, without having th defy death yet again.

And I never really thoguht about the Knight Bus either! Maybe you can't apparate or use Floo Powder with a lot of luggage? Like the characters always have to take cars to the train station on the way to Hogwarts.

You do raise some good points about Snape--but we're still so strongly in Harry's camp. where he hasn't really learned about shades of gray--so it's hard as a reader to sympathize with Snape before seeing more of his POV.

So what does your book say about rereading?

ahartsell said...

I think you're right it would be a little tedious to have a showdown in every single book, and it does get you ready for book 4 because you know a bigger showdown has to becoming. Maybe it's also to give Harry a chance to grow in a different way in this book by learning more about his family and his history.

Oh yeah I bet it is the luggage thing. Doesn't Hagrid have to use the Knight Bus when he goes to the trial with Buckbeak? That must have been a fun bus ride.

You're right about Snape, though I remember thinking he was really interesting right from the first book when we find out he was actually trying to save Harry's life. He does act pretty horrible in this book, and you can see why Harry feels the way he does. Of course knowing now how Snape felt about Lilly, I can see even more reasons why he really hated Sirius in this book.

I've wanted to post more about this book because it's one of my favorites, but I've been kind of busy lately. Sigh. Even though this book isn't as long as some of the others, there's still a lot to talk about.

I thought this book showed how Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship was changing a bit. You get to see them fighting and working through their problems. Poor misunderstood Crookshanks. I thought about what you said about Ron never seeming as necessary as the other two in their adventures, which is kind of true. Still I thought he sort of balanced the other two because he was so ordinary.

wordnerdy said...

ah, Ron's ordinariness is probably crucial to the series--how would a normal kid act in those totally bizarre circumstances? I do think Rowling has always done a good job with Ron--balancing his loyalty and friendship with his desire to be in the spotlight for once (being the youngest of like a hundred high-achieving brothers and then best friends with a boy with a capital-D Destiny can't be easy, really). We've seen this part of Ron's character since book one (his interaction with the Mirror of Erised) and it's pretty ntoable here, too (like how he LOVES being the center of attention after Sirius slashes his bed-curtains!).

I was always pretty sympathetic to Snape (I totally always knew he was a good guy, albeit sometimes a jerk), and Harry really does break a lot of rules and cause a lot of trouble. He's really a little bit frightening at the end of this book though.

Isn't Crookshanks half-cat, half-some other magical creature? I remember figuring out what he was from Rowling's little book on magical animals (one of the little ones she did for charity). I'd look it up but of coruse I don't have it on me at the moment . . . I always attributed his extra-intelligence to that. Plus doesn't Sirius say something about him being a special cat?

Something I noticed on this rereading--the Sneakoscope keeps lighting up around Scabbers! They think it's malfunctioning, but it knows the truth.

I think this is one of the books where Rowling starts sneaking in a little bit of political activism (which is much more apparent later, with Hermione and SPEW) with mentions of all that hateful anti-werewolf sentiment! Poor Lupin can't even get a job b/c he's a werewolf. I always wondered why someone didn't bottle the potion to sell to werewolves so they can stay human, but I gathered from later books that most werewolves are kind of jerks. Lupin's certainly the only one we ever see trying to maintain a normal life.

ahartsell said...

So true about Ron. I like how Rowling never seems to forget that they're kids. Yes, they have special talents and they're in extraordinary situations. Yet sometimes they can't help but be kids. Like when Harry went sneaking off to Hogsmeade. How stupid can you get? And yet what a kid thing to do.

And Hermione taking more classes than she can handle. I fell into that trap once or twice. It's not so much that I took too many classes, but I would take too many tough classes all at once.

Snape is definitely scary in this book. I love how my opinion of him was constantly shifting as I read the books, which is why he's so fascinating.

I noticed the sneakoscope thing too.

Sirius does say something about Crookshanks, but it's a rather vague explanation. I have some of those little charity books too. I'll have to go see if I can find anything about Crookshanks.

I think you're right on the werewolf thing. It always reminded me a little of the fears about AIDS. I wonder if the potion Snapes made was just too complicated to be marketed widely?

Did you think Rowling handled the time travel thing well? I think she did a good job not delving too much into the time travel paradox stuff, just stressed that this was a risky complicated thing to do.

wordnerdy said...

And now that you mention it--Harry and Hermione don't really have ultra-special gifts. She's just really smart (yay for smart girls!) and he has a talent for fighting and being brave or whatever. OK, he's also extra-special at Quidditch. And he does have a destiny. But still, he's a really likable KID in so many ways! (Like every scene ever with the Dursleys, and all the candy he eats, and Christmas, and how happy he is to have friends.) And as you mention, him still being a kid (only 13 in this book) does lead him to do some really silly things. That's a thread that goes through all the books--Harry growing up, learning to be a wizard, learning to be a man.

I do think Rowling handled the time-travel thing really well--I always just wondered how Hermione handled being in the same spot, but an hour earlier. Didn't people notice her suddenly appear? Did she find a handy alcove to hide in? But Rowling/Hermione do explain the need for care--b/c really, if suddenly you appeared in front of yourself, it'd be pretty startling. Anyway, most complaints about the concept can be written off to "it's magic!!"

I forgot to look up the Crookshanks thing--I believe the creature started w/ a B? Beazle? Is that a thing? A cat-like thing? I could be misremembering this whole thing.

wordnerdy said...

Oooh, and you know what else we haven't discussed? Trelawney! And her actually real prediction! ("The servant will join the master, etc.") It's interesting that while Trelawney's general methods of divination are scoffed upon (we see the other teachers scoffing more than once), she actually does have a psychic gift (or whatever it is in the magical world). Of course she and her prophecies become more important in later books--but it's interesting that fortune telling and psychic-ness are part of the magical world--and a fairly unusual part of the world, at that.

I also just love her character's interactions with people, and how amused Dumbledore is by her. I think Rowling has fun naming her characters, and Sybil Trelawney is a perfect example of her sort of in-joke! (On the other hand, Lupin's secret was a giveaway for anyone who'd studied Latin, as I did in middle school.)

wordnerdy said...

Oh, and Crookshanks is part Kneazle.