Thursday, August 07, 2008

hp7 discussion/2008 book 118

I did reread book 7 while home sick today, just in time for the discussion! Post comments about the final HP books (and any other HP-related comments) here.


wordnerdy said...

I have a ton of stuff to say about book 7, but here are some thoughts to start us off:

This is the book where you and I had th cookies vs cupcake bet about whether Harry would live or die--o course, I was sure there had to be a happy ending, and you were sure Harry had to sacrifice himself. And we were both right! I think I emailed you some interview from right before it wa published where she mentioned something about Christianity ad I started to think you were right. Certainly the sacrifice of himself for everyone else has serious Christological overtones--it does frustrate me that some Christians want to ban these books when they really are comparable to Narnia in some ways (Did I tell you that Kavka is teaching a religion class this fall on HP, Narnia, and Lord of the rings?)

It's funny that even in death, Dumbledore comes in at the end to explain everything! I sort of like the Harry between worlds scene--I sppose it's there for a reason, since Rowling could just have easily have had D. explain everything from his portrait at the end.

There are a couple of great character arcs in book 7--Dobby, who in book 2 was pretty annoying, eventually became likable and then a hero throughout all the books--Neville, of course, finally became the hero he's been becoming since book 5--and even Kreacher has a change of heart and leads the elves in battle at the end! Even Percy finally redeems himself after being a prat for several books.

And although none of the core characters died, Rowling really didn't spare any punches with her beloved secondary characters--three favorites, Fred, Tonks, and Lupin, were all killed off, which made the ending a lot more realistic. After all, the book starts w/ V. killing the Hogwarts Muggle Studies teacher in total cold blood--there was no way everyone could escape unscathed against someone so truly evil.

But love really did save the day--Narcissa betrayed Voldemort and pretended Harry was dead in order to find her son. It's something V. never really understood and never would have suspected could matter, but it directly led to his defeat.

wordnerdy said...

Oh, and I can't believe I didn't mention Snape right away! His story arc is really one of the most heartbreaking throughout the books--he really was a hero! It's nice that Harry realized how wrong he was and honored Snape by naming his only green-eyed child after him.

ahartsell said...

In regards to Snape I totally forgot to mention how in Book 6 we have a nice little hint about Snape's true nature and the task Dumbledore wanted him to do. There's this part where Snape is overheard telling Dumbledore how he doesn't want to do some task. I can't remember exactly what section it's in, but when I first read book 6, it didn't mean much to me. But this last time I read it I was like there's our hint that Snape didn't want to kill Dumbledore.

wordnerdy said...

Ooh, that's the bit where Hagrid is telling Harry about the fight he overheard--I knew right away that it meant Snape was good! Book 7 does add the nice twist that not only was he acting on Dumbledore's orders to kill him, he was actually sparing Dumbledore a long an painful death.

ahartsell said...

I was thinking this time as I was reading how hard the events in this book must have been for Snape. In the past he always had the excuse of having to stay at Hogwarts in order to not blow his cover. But in this book he has to actually participate in the Death Eater activities, like watching the Muggle Studies teacher be tortured while she begs him to help. I know he could still be a jeark in a lot of ways, but don't you think he hated having to do some of the things he has to do in this book?

The cookies/cupcake bet! Good times. Yeah, I loved that we were both right. The death of the hero shows up in other myths, so it's not just a Christian thing. But yeah I've never understood why Christians would want to ban the books. The whole reason that Harry succeeds is because of LOVE, and Voldemort is beyond evil because of what he tries to do to his soul. I wish I could take Kavka's class!

I loved the part about Kreacher. I like that Rowling shows that redemption is possible for characters (again not incompatible with Christian beliefs). And it totally makes sense that Kreacher would view people based on how they treat him. Kreacher sort of reminded me of Lord of the Rings and how Gandalf wanted Frodo to show mercy to Gollum (I'm such a dork).

Tonks and Lupin dying was so devastating! I really liked both of them. Also, Hedwig dies. Sigh.

Good point about Narcissa. It's so telling that it never occurs to Voldemort that a mother's love for her son would trump ideology and even fear of a Dark Lord.

I don't know about you, but reading this book makes me more excited about reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard! I'm glad I already pre-ordered it.

wordnerdy said...

Yeah, I do wonder if Snape had just sort of given up hope at that point--he must have known Voldemort would eventually kill him, thinking that would give him power over the elder wand. On the other hand, even in his death scene, he's asking to go get Harry--undoubtedly to try and help him at the last minute, or reveal the truth about what Dumbledore had told him (though of course, at that point, Harry would not have believed him).

This book is pretty dark in a lot of ways--Umbridge being even more evil, the Muggle-born Registry (echoes of Nazi Germany), all the death . . . it really makes the happy ending feel more earned or something.

And I just love how awesome Hermione is, again! She really is a total genius--being super-prepared for their having to flee with her enchanted evening bag, knowing all those protection spells, knowing jsut what to do at the Lovegoods' . . . she is a bad-ass.

I'm also totally excited for Tales of Beedle the Bard! Also, as I was rereading this--I could totally see why they need two movies. The parts in the woods feel a little slow, but there is really a lot of action in this book.

ahartsell said...

Hermione is so awesome! I love her enchanted evening bag. She's so consistently smart and also a really good person. I think she has really great morals, you know what I mean?

Yeah, I forgot how horrible Umbridge is in this book. Truly awful stuff. I think you're right that the happy ending feels "earned". It's like Rowling gives us a happy ending, but she never sugarcoats things.

Remember how we were talking earlier about whether or not wizards marry at younger ages? When they go to Godric's Hollow, did you notice how old Harry's parents were when they died? They were like 21 years old. That means they would have had to have gotten married at like 18 or 19 years old. Also, I love the fact that Harry is like the exact same age as me : )

wordnerdy said...

Re: the marriage thing--that was one of the other comments I had written down that I hadn't gotten to yet. :) I do wonder how the timeline works--wasn't James an Auror? Didn't Aurors have to do a few extra years of training? What, was he just out of school when Voldemort came for them--or was it an accelerated program due to emergency situations? At any rate, Harry wasn't in such a hurry to have kids--I think I calculated that he had his first kid at 23 or so (still young though!). But considering what we've seen of James in his youth, I do wonder when exactly he matured enough for Lily to like him enough to marry and procreate with. Also, was Lily an Auror too? (We know she had the requisite potions grades!) I remember in the prophecy Harry was the son of a couple who had thwarted Voldemort twice . . .

Haha, ok, I'm rambling.

ahartsell said...

Yeah, the timeline is a little confusing. I thought James was an Auror, but maybe he was just in the Order and not actually an Auror? Or maybe because of the war they rushed the process for certain people? Something that I was thinking about is the fact that neither Lupin nor Sirius would have been that old when Harry first meets them. I always think of them as being like in their 40s, but they would have been like early 30s.

ahartsell said...

We haven't talked too much about Ron yet. The first time I read this book I just felt really frustrated with Ron, but this time I had more sympathy with him. What got me was how it says that Ron had the hardest time dealing with the lack of food. It made sense to me that he would be the least prepared. It's always mentioned how poor his family is, and yet he's the one with the most conventional upbringing.

Hermione didn't experience abuse like Harry, but I always wonder what it was like for her to be a "Muggle-born" wizard. She was caught between two worlds in a way, which I think can make someone tougher. Before she learned she was a wizard, I imagine she would have had a hard time fitting in at a regular school. I'm sure she was still very brainy, and she had these weird powers. And I always get the feeling her parents are very proud of her, but that they don't necessarily understand her being a wizard. It kind of reminds me of how it felt to be a first-generation college student. My parents were so proud of my brother and me, but they didn't always understand what we were going through, especially when I went to graduate school.

Anyway, so Ron would have been the one least prepared to deal with hardship. Besides his adventures with Harry, his life had always been rather predictable. Now all of a sudden it's not so predictable. Plus the internal struggle we see when he destroys the necklace is very moving.

Honestly I think I always give Ron a break because of Hermione. I like that he sees how cool she is. Plus he always seems like the most ordinary of the trio. He's the one that always reminds me that they're just kids.

wordnerdy said...

We're not the only ones who thought that--look at the actors cast for all the movies, in theory w/ Rowling's approval. Like when Harry sees his parents in the mirror of Erised in the first movie, they're totally in their late 30s. Or is he just wishing to see them as they would be if they'd lived? Either way, in real life, Gary Oldman is 50 now and David Thewlis is like 45, so even if they're playing younger, early 30s is a stretch.

I do wonder about the dates Rowling chose though--I remember being a little shocked the first time I read the book and saw that Harry was more or less our age--of course I'd assumed he was sort of aging in real time, turning 11 the year the first book came out (97 i think?). I was trying to think if there was any significance to 1980 but I don't really know much about British politics. (I only assume it's a political allegory b/c there are a few in the books, like Dumbledore's 1945 defeat of Grindelwald.)

wordnerdy said...

On a slightly related note--check out the Weasley family tree. Interesting that only Harry and Ginny's kids get middle names!

wordnerdy said...

Just saw your comments on Ron/Hermione. It's true that as frustrating as Ron's character can be at times, it's b/c he really is portrayed as a regular kid/teenager. I always give him a break b/c I love his family--and it is understandable that, after being outshone by five older brothers, he hates being outshone by his best friend as well. The scene with the locket really gives a good depiction of Ron's internal strife and neuroses--not only his fear that Hermione would naturally prefer the great and wonderful Harry Potter to regular ol' Ron, but also his fear that he's the least-loved of his siblings (and I think his parents do a great job of spreading the love and discipline around, but that's probably a natural fear when one comes from such a large family). I also love that Ron is genuinely impressed by Hermione's intelligence and talents (and not always just following the advice of the how-to-impress-a-witch book!).

I think your points about Hermione's family hold true for most Muggle-born witches and wizards--after all, we see Lily's parents looking around with the same wonder as Hermione's in the first book. I've always thought it was a shame that we never saw more of Hermione's home life, after learning so much about Ron and Harry's--but maybe I'm biased toward dentists. :)

ahartsell said...

Yeah, Dumbledore's 1945 defeat of Grindelwald has to be a deliberate choice. It can't be a coincidence that it's 1945. But I don't know enough about British politics to know the significance of 1980. It makes me want to look it up. The only thing I can think of for this time period is the troubles in Ireland.

Yeah, I would like to see more about Hermione before she went to Hogwarts. There are a lot of characters I'd like to see more of, but that probably shows how great the books are. Even "minor characters" are interesting enough that you want to know more.

What do you think of all the stuff we learn about Dumbledore? It's interesting how he becomes more human, more flawed. I think it works because Harry is growing up. One of the things I remember vividly about "coming of age" or whatever you want to call it is really understanding how flawed adults are, even my parents.

wordnerdy said...

You know, I was almost as disappointed as Harry was in the things he learned about Dumbledore! And I kind of thought his explanation that he shouldn't hold power was a lame one. Just b/c you want power doesn't mean you should support oppressing Muggles--and as Harry frequently pointed out, Dumbledore was their age and really should have better known right from wrong (of course Dumbledore grew up in a much different world than Harry, and perhaps it was easier to be complacent about something so heinous). One part of me gts annoyed with Harry for his Dumbledore-related tantrum--but now that I think about it more, I really do see his point.

Harry finds out more about the foibles of all his parental figures as the books go on (except Lily). First he finds out James kind of was an arrogant toerag, then he comes to see the danger of Sirius' impulsive behavior, then he sees Lupin willing to abandon his child . . . that's a little extreme, even for someone going through the usual teenage/young adult disillusionment.

ahartsell said...

I feel like such a dork when I find parallels with Lord of the Rings, but there's a whole thing about tempting people with the ring and how Gandalf wouldn't even touch it because he was afraid what he might do with the power, even if he was at first trying to do good. Seems kind of similar to me.

I suppose you might be right about Dumbledore growing up in a different world, though it does still seem like he should have known better. It still seems like he would have been a better person than that. Muggle-hating is a perfect allegory for racism (which is of course the point---again why I think these books have a lot of positive things to teach children). I mean there were people who were against slavery, but who might very well have still had what we would consider to be racist views. I think also of Harry's view of house elves. Sure he freed Dobby, but generally he's never as concerned about their treatment as Hermione is. His grandchildren might look back and be appalled that he didn't do more.

In light of Rowling's revelation that Dumbledore was gay, do you think we're supposed to see Dumbledore's relationship with Grindelwald as more than friends? Maybe that's part of the reason he got carried away with Grindelwald's ideas and why he was reluctant to face him later? It would make it even more tragic than just having to face a former friend.

Yeah, Harry does get a lot more shocks in regards to the adults in his life than most of us get. I was so disappointed when Lupin wants to abandon Tonks because I really like Lupin as a character.

wordnerdy said...

Those points are really intertwined though--Lupin wanted to prove himself/help Harry/leave his child b/c he couldn't face what he felt he'd done by bringing a possible werewolf into a world where he was despised for being one. (I'm not sure why he thought werewolfism was genetic, but I guess they don't usually get married.) The wizarding world really does have a lot of bigots in it! After all, Hermione and Ron REALLY get together when he expresses concerns for the house-elves--she's finally made him realize that they have feelings and deserve respect and he gets some serious make-out action.

Didn't I read an interview where Rowling announced Dumbledore was gay and said he'd been in love with Grindelwald? I never understood why that wasn't made even a little more explicit--Dumbledore's voice breaking down, saying he'd let affection get in the way of his better judgment or whatever. I do wonder if young Dumbledore hated muggles b/c of what happened to his sister--and then when he got older realized what a fool he'd been and fought Grindelwald and made a name for himself fighting for the rights of basically everyone.