Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

To continue where I left off on my thoughts regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows…

T

U

R

N

.

B

A

C

K

.

N

O

W

.

I

F

.

Y

O

U

..

D

O

.

N

O

T

.

W

A

N

T

.

TO BE SPOILED

That should be enough space.

I loved the change in Albus Dumbledore’s character. He was no longer the omnipotent, benevolent, ideal wizard that he appeared to be in the first six books, instead his white beard started showing shades of gray.

He had flaws, weaknesses, and had succumbed to temptation.

Rita Skeeter’s attempt to besmirch his name and his legacy came as a surprise to me. I hadn’t expected anything like that in Book 7. However, it added a sense of mystery and intrigue to the story that made you re-evaluate a character that had previously been seen as purely good whose only fault was in trusting people too much.

This time, you began to wonder what, if anything, Dumbledore was hiding from his past.

I liked that a lot.

Having Dumbledore and Grindelwald being friends who had parted ways and then later dueled was much more satisfying to me than having had a story of where Wizard 007 took his wand and smoked out the roughest, toughest bad guy in the West.

Which is what the Chocolate Frog card in its brevity implied. Good = Dumbledore triumphed over Evil = Grindelwald.

Instead the truth was much more complex than that simplistic summation.

The assault on Ariana, Dumbledore’s sister, added a chilling dimension to the story. It explained why her father went to Azkaban for attacking three Muggle boys. It wasn’t simply Muggle-baiting like what was done after the Quidditch World Cup, it was a case of vigilante justice.

One is left to wonder what exactly was done to Ariana. Was she gang raped? We don’t know. That kind of detail seems unlikely to ever be specified by the author, but one that readers who are aware of such horrible acts are allowed to consider.

Or maybe they just beat the living snot out of her and left the child in a semi autistic-like state.

One that would be embarrassing for the Dumbledore family to admit.

Either way, they chose not to publicize what had really happened to Ariana and because of that, her father died in Wizarding prison. He refused to defend himself in court because he would rather be confined in Azkaban than have his daughter confined to St. Mungo’s.

The revelation of that back story by Aberforth was brilliant. It showed a lifetime of remorse and regret of an incident that occurred at a time when most youngsters think of themselves as immortal and invulnerable.

Grindlewald and Dumbledore shared a common obsession with the quest for the Deathly Hallows, but they seemed to have differed on what they planned on doing with that power if they had accumulated all three aspects.

Then again, there’s the old axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Would Dumbledore have resisted temptation to use absolute power in the manner which Grindlewald wanted to wield it? We don’t know.

I like that uncertainty. It gives the story depth.

Another thing that I liked about Book 7 was that there was an additional mystery to be solved. I wondered if it was merely going to be a hopped up Horcrux scavenger hunt. It wasn’t, because there were these additional layers of mystery regarding Dumbledore’s past and the Hallows.

The additional intrigue regarding loyalty of wands was something of a surprise for me. I don’t recall anyone ever questioning “the wand chooses the wizard” statement from book 1 and that “you will never get such good results with another wizard’s wand.” The idea that you could win a wand through a duel and then the wand would then switch loyalties to the victor that was a new twist.

It was a trump card that she had kept carefully up her sleeve.

People had wondered whether or not Neville’s poor magical performance in the earlier books was due to using a hand-me-down wand, but it appears that it was simply his lack of self-confidence. I had liked the entire Memory Charm theory that he, as a small child, had witnessed his parents’ torturing and that someone gave him a memory charm to cover their tracks. Nah. Doesn’t look like that happened. Nor does it look like Trevor had any other significance in the series than being an unpopular pet given to a child who was frequently afraid of his own shadow. Trevor was useful for some plot points, but he was not an Animagus or a transfigured wizard. :Shucks:

I loved the evolution of Neville’s character through the series. The idea that he continued to resist tyranny at Hogwarts and kept the D.A. alive made me smile.

Having him pull Gryffindor’s sword out of the Sorting Hat was as if the story was making full circle. The prized artifact belonged at Hogwarts and belonged to real Gryffindors. People like Neville Longbottom. Having him cut off Nagini’s head with the Sword of Gryffindor was satisfying.

I also loved Luna in this story. She didn’t seem to be batty anymore, simply quirky. Quirky, but fiercely loyal. I adored the image of her having portraits of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, and Ginny in her bedroom linked with friends, friends, friends.

I don’t think that I can read that passage without my throat getting constricted.

The thought that she was from another house at Hogwarts, but didn’t have such a shrine to other friends made me think that for once she found people who valued her.

That’s something that we all need in our lives: affirmation of our own worth.

Okay, I guess now I should move on and talk about Snape. It did not surprise me that Snape loved Lily was at the heart of why Dumbledore trusted Snape, and why the greasy haired git turned to the Only One Whom Voldemort Feared.

Tabouli had predicted that years ago on the Harry Potter for Grown Ups List Serv.

She gave it the acronym of L.O.L.L.I.P.O.P.S. (Love Of Lily Left Ire Polluting Our Poor Severus.)

Here are two links where she spells out her reasoning, and note that these were written prior to the publication of Order of the Phoenix:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HPforGrownups/message/28782

and

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HPforGrownups/message/33258?threaded=1&l=1

I think she was marvelously prescient in her prediction as to it being one of the integral mysteries in the series. To me, the most compelling evidence is that Snape never uttered a word about Lily in front of Harry. James? Oh, yeah, the sneering of insults about James started out in Book 1. Lily? Not a word. It was the Snape that didn’t snarl.

That was what convinced me that Tabouli was probably correct.

So what are my overall thoughts on the character of Severus Snape?

Umm, I don’t like him. I’ve never liked him. He’s a nasty, evil git.

I can’t even place him in the “Villains you love to hate.” I’ve never been fascinated by him. Not to the point that so many others have venerated and adored him.

Perhaps that’s the thing that stops me from giving JKR's incredibly complex and flawed character his due. It’s the adulation I’ve seen given by many people in the fandom. Adulation that tinged on an unhealthy obsession.

I just did not respond in the same way where I would want to spend hours on end contemplating things about that character. Tabouli had provided a plausible explanation to his actions back when I was only 4/7ths of the way through the series and it worked for me. I didn’t see any evidence presented to change my opinion, and well, I didn’t care to spend much more time thinking about him.

I didn’t care at the end of Half-Blood Prince to theorize whether or not he was fulfilling a plan with Dumbledore when he used the AK curse. I just didn’t really care whether or not Snape was someone who betrayed Dumbledore or not.

Because I just didn’t want to think too much about him.

The theory that Snape helped keep Dumbledore alive through Stoppered Death was something that seems to have proven its worthiness as well.

Do I see Snape as a hero? No, not really.

He would not have done anything to stop the murder of Frank and Alice Longbottom if Voldemort thought the prophecy indicated Neville.

Snape would have stood by and allowed them to be killed without any warning.

He also watched Professor Charity Burbage be murdered and fed to Nagini. And he did nothing to stop that horrific crime. Because? It was for the Greater Good. He had to remain as a spy and keep in Voldemort’s good graces until Harry could try and kill him.

Yeah. That kind of willful neglect in order to serve a better greater good later on makes my stomach turn.

It does however, serve as a moral lesson. So no, I do not view Snape as a hero.

I still prefer the character of Sirius Black to Severus Snape any day or night of the week.

I also came to appreciate the character of Regulus Black even if we only learned of him through Kreacher’s testimony. He seemed to have a similar honorability that his older brother had, and a determination to try and set things right. Even if he did not succeed, he tried.

Next installment, I shall talk about my thoughts on the ending, on the romance, as well as things that seemed unresolved or unanswered.

Please feel free to share with me your reactions to my review.

Linda



4 comments:

Janet said...

I agree with you about Neville and Luna. I identified so much with Luna, I'm pretty quirky myself and treasure my friends because they don't care about that...or even better, embrace it!

We'll have to agree to disagree about Snape, tho. I think that many people have done things, even horrible things, they regret when they're young; then something happens and their eyes are opened.

I give Snape props for being able to remain in that life he thought was so fantastic after he realized it wasn't so fantastic at all. And yes, it was horrible that he had to watch Professor Burbage be murdered...but what else could he have done?

Great reviews!

L.C.McCabe said...

Janet,

I understand that Snape has regrets, but I don't think it extends much more than what happened to Lily.

I don't know if Snape regretted having traveled with his Slytherin friends. In one of JKR's post publication interviews she said something to the effect that Snape thought that being a master at the Dark Arts might impress Lily.

It did, but negatively.

I don't know if he truly wished that he could go back and change his friends and his mannerisms in school. He regretted using the "M" word to describe Lily because that careless slip of the tongue ended their friendship.

And he regretted her death.

He might not have regretted much else if she hadn't died the night that James had. Of course, it is doubtful that she would have just fallen into his arms looking for comfort from him, but...who knows?

I just don't share the fascination for him as a character that others in the fandom have for him. I truly think that had I not sought out others in this interactive cyber-medium, that I might feel differently about his overall character arc.

I might be just as fascinated with him as others are.

I also might share some love for Hagrid. Instead, I find him to be an annoying drunkard, and was a little disappointed that he survived to the bitter end.

mary said...

I don't see how you can possibly blame Snape for Professor Burbage's death, horrible as it was. He was there with Voldemort on Dumbledore's orders, and knew he had to maintain his cover in order to help Harry. That is the "greater good" you refer to - helping Harry.

Along with Luna and Neville, Snape is my absolute favorite character in the series; I guess I am drawn to outsiders, after all. And I have another essay in me about what I had seen in the character through HBP (and, in a sense, still do) and how and why Rowling sought to minimize his undoubted heroism.
It's pretty complex. So let me just say that, in spite of what you say about Dumbledore, *no* character grows and changes in this series. No one truly repents their sins and decides to act differently - except for Severus Snape.

You may argue that Dumbledore does, but I am not so sure. It isn't clear to me how much he actually changes. He is incredibly cruel, callous and manipulative toward both Severus and Harry, IMHO. I don't mean that Dumbledore is evil - though he's a lot more evil than I had thought he was - but I no longer like Dumbledore as much as I did previously, and cannot understand why Harry forgives him so readily.

But I'm sure you won't agree with any of the above, so I expect we will have to agree to differ.

ERiCA said...

I just read the book last week. Interesting comments regarding Snape! I never loved him either. =)