Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Brief Comments on Deathly Hallows

Spoiler Warning: This blog entry contains many spoilers of the last Harry book. Do not read unless you read the novel.

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I'm going to spend some time giving some reasons why I loved it. The symbolism she uses in this book is so profound and the Vancouver Sun quotation was fulfilled to the letter. I can understand why she wanted to keep her faith under wraps because it would practically give away the novel's climax, namely Harry's death and coming back again. Harry walking through the forest on the way to his death is a throwback to Aslan, although Harry walking with James, Lily, Sirius, and Remus invokes a more powerful image, reminding anyone of the entourage of the dead that accompanied Christ's death and resurrection in Matthew 27.52,53 or the "cloud of witnesses" of Hebrews 12.1. Harry's sacrifice extending to all on the side of good and protecting them is certainly reminiscent of Christ's sacrifice extending to all those who call on his name. This does not make Harry into Christ but it does make him a Christ figure in the novels. Another powerful symbol was Harry taking the Sword of Gryffindor out of the lake reminding us of King Arthur. Powerful imagery indeed.

J.K. Rowling provides clear answers on the nature of evil. One does not even have to glance at the title of the first chapter ("Dark Lord Ascending") that Voldemort is the "Satan" figure (or even "Antichrist") in the novels reminding me of Isaiah 14.13,14. You can add Adolf Hitler to the names you can give Voldemort. In the novel you see Voldemort and his Death Eaters taking over the Ministry of Magic and enforcing the "Magic is Might" act where Muggleborn wizards and witches have to register. A statue of a witch and wizard standing over the naked bodies of Muggleborns (or "Mudbloods") reminds us of the horrors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust. You can substitute Jewish people with Muggleborns and you get the point. I absolutely loved it when Harry, Ron, and Hermione smuggled many innocent Muggleborns, whose only crime was their magical ability without obtaining it biologically, out of the Ministry. The actions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione remind us of the bravery of Harriot Tubman or even those Germans who risked their lives to save Jews.

There are many references to churches in this novel than any other Potter novel. Of course most of these references are in the sixteenth chapter ("Godric's Hollow") where Harry and Hermione visit the graveyard outside a church in Godric's Hollow. It is here that we see JKR quote two scriptures for the gravestones of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore ("Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" is found in Matthew 6.21), and Lily and James Potter ("The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" is found in 1 Corinthians 15.26). Of course if JKR is a Christian then we could expect this but I still find this interesting in light of the many Christians who consider the novels to be handbooks on Wicca (however despite these claims we never find the Wiccan greeting "Blessed Be" or any concept of the Wiccan Rede in Harry Potter). What was awesome was that after Harry Potter visited his parents grave, he was going to suggest to Hermione to take refuge in the church nearby with the parishioners singing Christmas carols but Hermione interrupted his thoughts and they had to press on with their mission.

What about Severus Snape and Professor Dumbledore? We learn that Snape really is Dumbledore's man through and through and that he loved Harry's mother. We also learn that Snape's patronus was a silver doe, which was the same as Lily's. A doe is a female stag, which is a Medieval symbol of Christ because of their afinity for stomping on serpents, their enemies. When Voldemort turned on Snape in order to gain control of the Elder Wand, I was saddened at the death of this complex character in the Potterverse. I am glad that Harry really got to know who this man really was and this will prove to be one of the pivotal scenes in the series. The revelations of Professor Dumbledore show him to be human from his friendship of Grindelwald, a dark wizard before Voldemort, the views of Muggles he shared with his friend, and his temptation over uniting the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore seems almost evil in some of his actions but he has turned from his mistakes and became the man that we all know and love. I loved the part where he said that Harry is a better person than himself in that "afterlife" scene at King's Cross. We truly see a complex Dumbledore.

The deaths of Mad-Eye Moody, Hedwig, Dobby, Remus, Tonks, and Fred were very sad and show that war and evil have casualties. One of the running themes of the novel was how does one face death and JKR's view is that we should face death without fear and that what we do in this life is important. One need only glance at the powerful quotations of Aeschylus (ancient Greek playwright) and William Penn (a Quaker Christian, by the way) and the meaning behind the Tale of the Three Brothers. Harry sacrificed himself for others and the other people I mentioned died for the same reason.

I loved the emergeance of Neville Longbottom. He really came into his own and is truly did his parents proud. Kreacher becoming nice was great since all he needed was kindness and respect. I loved how he led the other house elves to battle. Another crucial piece was Harry Potter extending kindness and respect to both Kreacher and goblins as well. He truly is an odd fellow as Griphook mentioned in the book. Who else can save Draco Malfoy's life and in the same breath command Voldemort to show some remorse? Harry's alchemical transformation is truly complete and he is an image of the Philosopher's Stone.

There is so much that I loved about this novel. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is replete with profound symbolism, great action, moving moments, and ties the whole series together nicely. As I said earlier, I love this book!!!

1 comment:

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Great post! I also thought of the 'cloud of witnesses' passage when those who had gone before witnessed Harry's sacrificial walk to his death.

(found you from a link at Sword of Gryffindor)