Thursday, July 24, 2008

hp6 discussion

Post comments about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince here!

9 comments:

wordnerdy said...

Ah, HP6. This is another one that starts away from Harry--he doesn't appear till the third chapter--and the first two do a great job of settling us back into the HP-verse. First, we have the scene in the Prime Minister's office, which answers some questions about how wizards function vis a vis the Muggle world as well as giving some exposition of the havoc Voldemort and his posse have been wreaking. Next, we have the very important scene where Snape takes the Unbreakable Oath to help Draco complete his mysterious mission.

Harry's obsession with Draco--though he turns out to be right!--gets a little wearing, and Hermione and Ron's exasperation is very understandable. It's interesting that we get a little big more understanding of Draco here, since he's basically been a little shit for the entire series so far. Of course he does like feeling important by bearing the Dark Mark--but his terror for his family and himself is real (as we see him crying to Moaning Myrtle, truly a last resort). And as Dumbledore knows, he doesn't really have it in him to be a murderer. More shades of grey--he's a jerk, but he's not really evil.

One of the major themes of this book, to me, is the importance of friendship and love. Dumbledore certainly hammers this home, saying on p. 78 to Harry, "You need your friends" and on p. 444, being scoffed at by Voldemort (in flashback) for thinking love is the most powerful kind of magic (and it's this magic that vanquishes Voldemort when Harry is just a baby).

Of course, we also have all that awesome teenage love and angst here--Harry finally falls for Ginny, Hermione asks Ron out, only to have him get involved with Lavendar (b/c Ron is jealous that she kissed Krum all the way back in book 4)--plus we find out Tonks and Lupin are in love and Bill and Fleur are engaged.

And then, of course, there's Snape. I was one of the people who was accidentally spoiled before the book came out to the whole Snape kills Dumbledore thing, so I never read it blind and always figured that a) that's what the oath was about, and b) that Snape was the Prince. It's funny that Harry admires Snape so much in this form and realizes what a great potion-maker he is (though also the inventor of some pretty crappy spells) when he so much hates the Snape he knows.

As a side note--it seems to me on these rereading that Harry misses more Quidditch matches than he actually plays!

ahartsell said...

Yeah, I really like the beginning of this book. I think it's this nice reminder that all these events that are going on aren't just important to Harry. There's a wider world out there than Hogwarts.

We do get to see Draco in a different light here. You're right that his terror for his family is understandable. And there are lots of people like Draco out there---not really evil but certainly jerks. And it begs the question, considering Draco's upbringing, could he have turned out any differently?

I think rereading it this time reminded me how cool Ginny is. Sometimes when I think of her, I think mostly of how she was in the second book and forget the cool things she says and does. Like when she "loses control of her broom" and rams into Zachariah Smith during the first Quidditch match. The descriptions of how Harry starts to become aware of his feelings for her are amusing. It seems so true for teenage boys.

Poor Hermione. It's like she's just waiting for Ron to mature enough to understand their relationship. It's also true that Ron can be kind of a jerk, as Luna points out at one point when she says she noticed he can sometimes say mean things.

It is really interesting that Harry admires the Snape he sees in the potion book. It's also interesting how much Hermione dislikes the book. Not just because she thinks Harry is cheating, but she thinks the spells that are in there are mean and petty.

I feel like I've read some explanation of this before, but what exactly is butterbeer? When I first read the books, I thought it was like root beer because they were drinking it in like the first book. But then in the last book at one point Dobby says Winky is getting drunk on butterbeer. And in this book it seems to be described as being a bit stronger. I know this is a minor point, but it always confuses me a bit.

wordnerdy said...

Haha, nature vs nurture--the great debate. Clearly much of Draco's behavior is learned, especially from his father, who is also a bigoted snob. However, I don't think his father would have hesitated to kill Dumbledore, who he clearly hated (trying to get him fired in book 2, etc). And though Draco parrots his father's feelings, clearly he was a slightly nicer person by nature--unwilling to commit murder for a cause he's not sure he really believes in.

Ginny is really a bad-ass--totally Harry's match. Slughorn, the arbiter of all that is, well, whatever it is--recognizes her talent right away. He's another interesting character--really the nicest, least evil Slytherin we've met. He has the ambition, but none of the evil--though he is slightly biased against Muggle-borns and more interested in people from prominent families, he also recognizes Hermione's intelligence and talents. Some of that may be her friendship w/ Harry, but clearly that's not all it is or Ron would be in the inner circle too. And he makes a concerted effort to avoid minions of Voldemort--Draco is clearly not someone he's interested in.

I think I say this every book--but Hermione is right about everything! Even though it is partially motivated by jealousy, she's right about the spells in the Prince's book being pretty awful. Too bad she didn't figure out who the Prince really was earlier--though I guess she was busy fending off that Cormac guy for a lot of the book. :)

I think butterbeer has a little bit of alcohol in it--doesn't it make Harry feel warm? But I guess not enough that kids can't drink it--or maybe that's just a European thing.

ahartsell said...

It's interesting that you should mention the nature vs. nurture thing since we get to see it with Voldemort and Harry. Two orphans, both have traumatic childhoods, and yet react in very different ways. Harry could very well have hated Muggles after his treatment. And Riddle was abandoned by his father and the orphanage was a grim place, and yet one could argue that he wasn't abused the way Harry was. Rowling makes a point I think to say that the orphanage was grim but it wasn't horrible. It was threadbare but clean, the woman who ran it was overstretched but not mean. So why did they make such different choices? Is it because Voldemort is the heir of Slytherin? I don't think there's necessarily an answer, but it's fascinating.

Speaking of Voldemort, even though there really isn't a big confrontation in this book, I find him terrifying in this book. He's not just a cartoon villain, but truly scary. There's the fact that he kills his father and grandparents without even waiting to hear their side of the story. There's the way he divides up his soul...

"He has the ambition, but none of the evil" is a great way to describe Slughorn! You really can't dislike him that much. Sure he got influence and stuff from his favorites, but arguably he also helped out a lot of those students over the years. We're always told networking is good. His bias against Muggle-borns kind of reminds me of that "slightly" racist older relative. That relative isn't necessarily a bad person, and part of you wants to give them a pass on it because they're from a different time period, and yet part of you gets really angry at the stuff they say. And you might even see them have really nice interactions with exactly the people they say stuff about, so you wonder why they say that crap. Look at how he goes on and on about Lilly. You notice he's one of the few people in Harry's life who talks more about his mother than about James.

Hermione is always right. That's why she's so awesome!

wordnerdy said...

Ooh, excellent point about nature and nurture when comparing V. and Harry! We see right away that Voldemort just has an evil disposition--torturing people for fun as a child, etc. None of the other orphans turned out that way. And sure his uncle and grandfather were kind of evil--his uncle tormented Muggles for fun too--but his mother seemed to be a nice, if weak, woman. (OK, not that using a love potion is really super nice, but I imagine Dumbledore's theory that she stopped using it out of love for Tom Sr. and believed he would love her is a true one.) It's so interesting to get all this Voldemort backstory and exposition--it really contrasts his nature and Harry's. Harry relies on his friends and their relationships through all the books--he genuinely likes people, and isn't just using them tog et ahead as V. did. And it is true that Harry had a similar childhood to Voldemort--though one's mother died more of weakness and one more of strength, they both had fairly unpleasant upbringings. But Harry is just a good kid! Maybe it was genetic in Voldemort's case--but he really went beyond his uncle and grandfather in terms of pure evil. Maybe that's where the nurture--or lack thereof--came in . . . And he is very scary--when we see him in the flashback with the ring, he seems cocky and proud for having murdered his family and framed his uncle. You'd think he'd be more interested in knowing more about his uncle, but maybe he was beyond even that basic humanity already.

I like that you brouht up Slughorn's affection for Lilly. It's true that in the previous books Harry and the other characters were always talking about his father, and his mother was just nice or whatever. (I guess b/c most of the other characters were his father's friends--but we know they were close to his mother too, so it's odd never to hear any stories about her.) So now we know she was smart, too. And of course we'll get a lot more details about her in the next book. But really, until this book all we ever know about her is that she had green eyes . . . sheesh!

wordnerdy said...

You know, speaking of Hermione--I think it's really awesome that not only is she book-smart and much more street-smart than Harry or Ron, but she's depicted as a desirable girl. Krum, the international superstar, liked her, Ron obviously likes her (and is driven crazy by jealousy over Krum), and Cormac is all over her too. I jsut think it's really nice that such a smart girl character also gets to be popular with boys. That's really pretty rare in fiction (barring Gilbert Blythe's admiration for Anne of Green Gables and her intelligence, I can't think of any others).

ahartsell said...

Very true about Hermione. If I had read these books as a child, I would have ADORED Hermione (I mean I still adore her, but it would have been on a whole different level). She mellows a bit as the books go on, but basically continues to be very smart and is never ashamed of it.

The 4th movie bugged me a bit because I thought they made too big of a deal about her "makeover" for the ball. The "makeover" is generally the only way a smart girl becomes desired by boys in popular culture. But in the books I felt it wasn't that she drastically changed her looks so much as that she just grew up a bit.

wordnerdy said...

I HATE thoe makeovers in movies--get contacts and straighten your hair and now you're hot!--but I never felt like that was the case with Hermione in either the book or the movie. In the book, she's fixed her teeth, pulled her hair back, and is wearing something pretty--but otherwise is the same Hermione. I feel like it's the same in the movie--suddenly she's in a nice outfit instead of all buttoned up in her uniform and they're noticing that she's a pretty girl.

Have you seen the trailer for HP6? Looks good!

wordnerdy said...

Ooh, you know what else we need to talk about? Horcruxes! Another difference b/w Harry and V.--V. is so desperate for power and eternal life that he's willing to split his soul into a bunch of pieces. Killing doesn't bother him at all.