Wednesday, June 18, 2008

hp4 discussion thread!

Post comments on Goblet of Fire here!


wordnerdy said...

Oooh, Goblet of Fire! This is where things really started to get dark and epic! The end really cast a dark shadow over things--yes, Harry had sort of prevailed over Voldemort in a duel, but Voldemort had risen and Cedric was dead. It's not at all a happy ending like the previous books (though it is a satisfying one). And Fudge's reaction to the news of Voldemort's return really sets the scene for the rest of the series--the fear, the unwillingness to believe.

Of course there are lots of other moments in this book that highlight Rowling's more mature sense of story--finally getting some of Neville's backstory, for one thing, and hearing about the really terrible things Voldemort and his followers did. I think this is the bit where people really fell in love with Neville as a character and stopped seeing him as comic relief--I know I did.

And from the very beginning, we're shown the connection between Harry and Voldemort (and the giant snake--another clue to the series' finale). Is this the first book that starts away from Harry? That change in the narrative formula is a jarring start to a very different sort of HP story.

And again, we get some GREAT moments with the Weasleys here, finally getting to meet the two oldest brothers and seeing their great chemistry with the rest of the family (barring Percy, who really is an anomaly). I love all the scenes with the family, especially getting to see magic used on a casual, daily basis.

Another great bit of storytelling is the start of the romantic tension b/w Ron and Hermione. I never thought this was particularly subtle, but I remember when it became clearer in later books, some fans were angry b/c they hoped for a Harry/Hermione pairing, and had never caught on to the Ron/Hermione attraction.

My one pet peeve about the book is the mean and unhelpful librarian! I always hoped she'd get a moment in the sun, but even when she helps them here, it's not really mentioned.

I guess I haven't said much about Moody, or the tournament, or Cedric (whose sense of fair play is again evident throughout), or any of that, but we can always come back to those. :)

ahartsell said...

Oh it's definitely a much darker ending than the first three. I remember thinking wow this series just got really serious, no turning back. It is satisfying though.

Neville definitely starts to become more interesting.

I'm pretty sure it is the first one that starts away from Harry, though it quickly goes back to him. The other ones always start with Harry complaining about being with the Dursleys.

I love the Ron and Hermione pairing and never thought it was very subtle. I think you can even see it a little in the third book. They start spending more time together just the two of them. Plus it's got that kind of boy likes girl, so he pulls her hair thing going on. I always thought they balanced each other out. He brings passion to the relationship, and she brings logic. I think Hermione wouldn't have liked being married to Harry because he would have always overshadowed her. He wouldn't have intended it, but you know it would be "the great Harry Potter and his lovely wife".

I wanted more from the librarian too. I mean the library seemed like such a cool place to go. And the fact that they often go there to get more information reminded me a little bit of how the Scooby Gang in Buffy always went to the library to do research.

ahartsell said...

I love the Weasleys, but as I was reading this time I wondered why Mrs. Weasley doesn't go back to work, if they have such money problems. I can see the need to stay home with that many kids when they're younger, but at this point all the kids are at Hogwarts for the majority of the year. Don't get me wrong I like Mrs. Weasley, and she shows in later books that she's more than "just a housewife". It just seems like a kind of logical thing to do if you have money problems.

I love how Hermione feels such compassion for the house-elves. In that first scene when she's protesting about the treatment of Winky, I could just see her thought process at work. She would see it as unfair and that it just didn't make much sense to treat thinking beings with magical skill like that. I was always a little disappointed that SPEW is sort of seen as a joke. Jeff said before the last book that he wanted there to be a house-elf uprising!

wordnerdy said...

That's a really excellent point about the house-elves. I mean, we start to see here, and certainly see later, that they have really, really powerful magic. Actually, we even saw this in book 2, when Dobby closed the magical barrier to prevent Harry from going to Hogwarts. There's this weird dichotomy b/w Hermione's quest for justice on their behalf--and their unwillingness to go along with it. How weird is it to have a powerful magical creature LIKE being a slave? Maybe in the HP future Hermione's law career involves these issues?

I don't necessarily agree that Harry would overshadow Hermione--I've always thought they were pretty equal players. He really does depend on her intelligence, skills, and reasoning. But yeah--I think having her be with Ron makes more sense. She can't be super serious all the time, and he helps bring out the more human and fun side of her. I never thought there was even a hint of romance between her and Harry--she really is more of a long-suffering sister (especially when his own romantic longings come into play).

As for Mrs. Weasley . . . Not to get all up in the semantics of your point, but back to work? Do we know that she had a career or job before popping out seven kids? I always wondered what kinds of wizarding jobs existed for people with lower intelligence and skill (like Stan Shunpike, the Knight Bus conductor--he's really one of the only ones we see). I honestly never even thought to wonder why she didn't get a job, except that it's probably superfluous to the story--plus as their kids became independent, they'd have fewer money problems. I guess sometimes we overthink this sort of things. :) Certainly Rowling isn't against working mothers--Hermione's little-seen parents are both dentists, after all. I always imagined them as so practical!

Since we're talking about parents, this isn't strictly related to HP4--but did you see the article about the prequel Rowling wrote on some index card that was auctioned for charity? It involved some youthful escapades of James and Sirius. But what was weird was that it was specified that the events took place three years before Harry was born--and that James and Sirius were still teenagers! It seems odd, but maybe these characters all marry really young and have babies immediately? I always assumed James and Lily were in their late 20s when they died, but I don't know where I got that impression. So maybe the Weasleys did have kids right away and Mrs Weasley never worked?

ahartsell said...

I love your idea that Hermione goes on to help the house-elves as a lawyer! Hermione the civil rights lawyer.

Good point about Mrs. Weasley. We don't know if she's ever worked before. I too have wondered what other wizards do. Also, do they all go to Hogwarts? And if they don't, what do they do? Wizard vocational school?

I didn't see that article about the prequel. I really want to read it now. I always assumed that Harry's parents were in their mid to late twenties too. If they do get married really young, then it is quite possible that Mrs. Weasley never worked, which would mean it's been like twenty years since she graduated from school. That is a big gap. I do tend to overthink these things. I think because she's built such a rich world. I want to know all the background of characters.

It would be a bit of a digression to have a whole chapter of a book devoted to Mrs. Weasley starting a new job. Rowling has lots of female characters working and doing things, so I don't think she means to suggest at all that women should be housewives. I just kept thinking how in several points of the book how Rowling mentions how the Weasleys are poor, and I just thought if this is true, why couldn't Mrs. Weasley start working? Though at the same time they clearly have enough money to feed the children and everything. I wonder if we're supposed to see it in some ways as just typical kids whining because they want stuff their parents can't afford. My family didn't have a lot of money. We always had all the essentials, but I remember whining when friends had televisions in their rooms and had all the latest fashions and I didn't. Sorry for the total Mrs. Weasley digression. I actually really like her as a character.

wordnerdy said...

You're right--it IS really a rich world. And I bet Rowling does have backstories for all these characters--I remember reading some interview where she said she had a whole backstory for Dean Thomas that she never could fit in anywhere (and was maybe going to write an encyclopedia someday to put all that stuff out there).

Also . . . we do see that the Weasleys are pretty poor, especially compared to Harry (we see their empty vault, etc). But it seems to me that a lot of the mentions come from Draco Malfoy--who is a total jerk, as well as being abnormally rich. I know we have Ron here being bummed about his secondhand robes (and in book 2, bummed about his broken wand, though that went without replacement partially as punishment for him stealing the car and thus breaking the wand), but I do see the logic of not buying your kid some fancy robes he'll jsut grow out of. Though why couldn't he have worn old ones of Bill's or Charlie's? Ah well. It is very easy to imagine these scenarios, isn't it? :)

wordnerdy said...

You know, I was just thinking about the character of Moody/Barty Crouch Jr, and I'm never really sure what to think. I mean, for the whole book, Moody is really this awesome guy, teaching them valuable lessons and punishing Malfoy for being a dick (though of course he hated Malfoy for other reasons), and then the whole time he's really this psychotic villain! I can't imagine how Crouch could sink so effortlessly into playing someone who hated him, fooling even Moody's closest friends. And then when we see Moody in later books . . . it's easy to understand the cognitive dissonance his former students must feel, not really knowing a man they thought they knew and respected.

The movie of the 4th book finally has made it to basic cable--ABC family's showing it in a couple weeks--so I might watch to try and remember why I dislike it. (Probably b/c I hate Michael Gambon as Dumbledore.)

Oooh, and you know what else we can talk about? The Pensieve! What a great way to throw all those helpful flashbacks into the story! It makes things a lot more exciting than when Dumbledore just explains everything. It's all so much more vivid! And it really sheds light on how even the good guys can turn to terrible methods when times are that bad. (Another political allegory? Or should we wait till book 5 to discuss that?)

wordnerdy said...

Since we're talking about GOF--it made number two on Entertainment Weekly's list of the new classic books! (Mainly for the reasons we're discussing here--b/c it's when a series of kids' books became a much darker epic.)

ahartsell said...

I was thinking the same thing about Moody/Barty Crouch Jr. Like the scene where he has tea with Neville to make him feel better about seeing the Cruciatus spell. I know he did it partially in order to give the books about underwater plants to him, but still he was so nice to him. I really don't know how he could be so good at imitating Moody. I do love the scene where he turns Malfoy into a ferret. You can definitely see where it would be hard for the kids to trust the real Moody later.

The pensieve is a great way to give background information. I always thought it would be cool to have a pensieve---you could store your less happy memories in there. You're right about even the good guys turning to terrible methods during those awful times. That leads of course to the character of Barty Crouch Senior. I always felt really bad for him. What choice did he really have when his son turned out to be bad? What do you think of his choice later to try to rescue his son? Do you think he really thought his son could be rehabilitated?

What do you think of the fight between Ron and Harry in this book? I always thought it was very believable.

Oh, something I had wanted to mention before. I love how Rowling is never afraid to use "advanced" vocabulary in her books. Like at one point she uses the word sycophant. I think it really shows why she's so popular with kids. She never patronizes them. I think I have a really good vocabulary because I always read things that were a little advanced.

wordnerdy said...

I think you're right about the vocabulary thing! (I like the Lemony Snicket books partially for the in-text vocab definitions--educational AND fun!)

The characters of the Bartys really do merit further exploration. Do you wonder if Barty Jr was nice to Neville b/c he was partially responsible for destroying Neville's parents? Though it seems to me that Barty Jr doesn't have a conscience at all. And his father . . . are his actions more justified when we know his son was actually guilty and was a bona fide Voldemort supporter? When we first see the scene, it's very ambiguous, and there's a hint that Barty Sr. sent his son to Azkaban to avoid sullying his own name. But of course, his son was terribly guilty--especially since Voldemort had already disappeared! He helped torture the Longbottoms for nothing.

I'm not really sure we can see Barty Sr as trying to rehabilitate his son--he wasn't really trying to help him be a good person, he was just jailing him at home instead of at Azkaban. Did he even care enough about his son to try to redeem him? I'm not even sure he did it out of guilt for putting his son away--really he only did it b/c his wife was heartbroken about her son being in jail. It's a little odd he'd even break the rules to that extent, but I guess it's hard to argue with a dying wife. I wonder about the invisiblity cloak her used to hide Barty Jr too . . . . maybe it was partially b/c he couldn't stand looking at him after all he had done?

I do think the Ron/Harry fight is believable here--though it's interesting how Hermione is so quick to figure out what actually happened, and Ron refuses to see it--but I do think maybe Rowling relies on that tension a bit too often throughout the series. Ron spends much of book 3 fighting w/ Hermione, much of this book (and book 7) mad at Harry . . . though I guess it's in character! He's soooo insecure; it can be a bit trying at times. (I imagine more so for his friends.)

ahartsell said...

Yeah, I don't think Barty Jr. has much of a conscience. He did kill his own father after all. I wonder if in some ways we should see Barty Sr. and Jr. as being more similar than it seems at first. They could both be accused of being so zealous about what they do that they are willing to sacrifice family for it. I still feel kind of bad for the decision Barty Sr. had to make, but it does seem like in that scene he's most interested in keeping his good name. I wonder about the wife. I know she was dying, but I can't imagine dying in prison for someone else, especially someone who is guilty.

I really love how Rowling manages to have these characters who aren't so black and white, a rather rare thing for a children's book (especially a fantasy book). Sure Voldemort is clearly evil. And there are lots of clearly good characters. But then you have all these other characters who are more complicated. Take Krum. It's stressed how the Durmstrang school is heavy on the Dark Arts, and Harry is warned to watch out for Krum and the other students. And yet Krum turns out to be a decent person.

Speaking of slightly shady characters what do you think of Mr. Bagman?

I was thinking how honorable Harry is in this book. I always remember Cedric as being so honorable. But it's Harry that starts things off by telling Cedric about the dragon. Cedric is suspicious at first. Though we still see Harry acting very childish at times, I think we really start to see him grow here. Of course soon we'll have pouting teenage Harry : (

wordnerdy said...

Ah yes, I'm soooo looking forward to teen angst Harry Potter. Haha.

Ludo Bagman is an excellent character simply for being such a great red herring! You really start to wonder if he i involved in something nefarious--and it turns out to be a gambling problem. Which is nefarious enough, I guess, but nothing compared to working for Voldemort! The terrible relationship b/w him and Barty Crouch Sr. is an interesting one--I always did wonder if maybe Bagman DID know what he was doing and DID get off just for being a good Quidditch player. Just b/c he wasn't one of Voldemort's major minions doesn't mean he wasn't up to no good. Yes, definitely lots of shades of gray there!

Krum is a great character too. It's nice to have my love of Hermione validated by an international star! International magical cooperation indeed. :)

Cedric was super honorable in the past books, which was referred to here as well--in the early scene where he's embarrassed f his dad bragging about how Cedric beat Harry, when it wasn't a clean win. Anyway, how much would we hate Harry if he didn't tell Cedric about the dragons--especially when he knew the other players knew. It's important that even when Harry is a whiner, he still has a good moral center.