Takeaway: I take it back, this is my favorite Harry Potter
Just like Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, this is the first time I have re-read the book since it first came out. And I have only watched the movies once in the theater straight through (but I have watched pieces of them on TV a couple of times) prior to watching them this week. (Well I watched the first one, tried to record and watch the second, but my DVR recorded the first one a second time.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is far removed from Harry Potter and the Sorcerers’ Stone. They are clearly from the same universe, but one is a children’s book and one is as engaging as any other piece of fiction I have read. (I am not knocking children’s books, I read children’s books for pleasure, but they are rarely as compelling as adult fiction.)
I would not suggest someone that has never read Harry Potter start with Deathly Hallows. You would have no idea what is going on. You really do have to start at the beginning. But anyone that is reluctant to read Harry Potter because it is a children’s book, should think about just starting with the Goblet of Fire and going on from there. This is a series that really grows with the reader.
That being said, it is clear that Rowling had plans for the ending from the beginning. It is just too well planned and pieces fit together too well for it to randomly fall into place.
There are some complaints (especially from Christians) about the Messiah Complex of Harry Potter. But I think like Tolkien suggests to Lewis in their famous dialogue, some myths are just true. The story of someone giving themselves so that others may live, with reluctance or not, is a Christian myth (using myth in the more academic sense of origin or story with a deep meaning that transcends mere fact and not in the sense of ‘made up story’.) Christ gave himself up so that we may live and the trueness of that impulse, to die on behalf of others, is and will always be a significant literary theme.
Reading this again, I am struck by a couple of themes. One is that Harry and Hermione are able to have a friendship that is not based on sexual attraction. They travel together for nearly a year without a chaperone and except in the movie and in Ron’s fears, the relationship is chaste. I think we need more platonic friendships modeled in real life and literature, especially young adult literature. Platonic relationships are not only possible, they are healthy in order to get to know someone of the opposite sex that is not a romantic interest.
And it is why I think so many reacted so strongly against the dancing scene and the temporary sexual tension between Harry and Hermione, because it is not a part of the book. (Ron’s fears of an attraction between the two are something different and are a part of the book.)
The weakness of a mentor is a significant theme of this book. Harry is almost from the very beginning concerned with who Dumbledore really was. Dumbledore was a flawed character and that is a part of the real coming of age. We all have to come to terms with the fact that our heroes are flawed. I think Harry’s path is common, the mentor/hero/parent can do no wrong, then they façade cracks, then they become a horrible person, then you regain your senses and realize that they are broken but still worthy of the love/respect/admiration that you gave them before. For some people that love/respect/admiration never can come back and I think that is a real problem. When you do not have flawed elders around you that you still love/respect/admire, then you can start to believe that there isn’t anyone that is worth emulating.
The Deathly Hallows also reminds me of the role of something greater in our lives. Harry and the others have a purpose. Something that they are willing to live and die for. It is not explicitly God, but there is purpose and meaning. What I hated about the Magician and the Magician King was that there was no meaning or purpose. In spite of really good writing, in those books, roughly based on the Chronicles of Narnia, the characters had everything they wanted but they kept throwing it away because what they had did not have any actual meaning. Meaning in literature is important, not just in young adult or children’s books but in adult fiction as well.
And as much as I enjoyed the movies, and I really did think they were about as good as could be expected, I am reminded that books and movies are just different mediums. Books are naturally more detailed and movies do more to show instead of tell you the story. But so often the book is just better because there is more too it. A movie has at most 3 hours (or in this case the two movies have about 7 hours). Yes it has visuals and can give you rich imagery in a way that is difficult in a book. But books have imaginations and that is something that movies have a hard time competing with.
Related Bookwi.se Posts
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling (#6)
- Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
- How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (#2)
- Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
- The High King by Lloyd Alexander
- The Alchemist by Michael Scott (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)
- The Magician by Lev Grossman
- The Magician King by Lev Grossman