Severe Betrayals
July 21, 2005

If you haven't finished reading the newest Harry Potter book or you're tired of the whole Harry Potter obsession, scroll down and look at the pretty frog pictures I took at the Shedd Aquarium. Or, patiently wait for your 30 seconds to be up and click on to the next Blogexplosion blog.


Okay, with that out of the way, I have to say a few things about some objections I've read about the book. First, I thought the book absolutely wonderful and just what it needed to be.

Things that surprised me:
1) I didn't expect Harry to state that he wasn't coming back to Hogwart's for his final year.
2) The amount of snogging. (But this often surprises me - mind you, given the whole story arc, I think it was necessary to have it there, but it did surprise me.)
3) That we find out about Snape's double-cross in this book instead of book 7. (But, given the first few chapters and the knowledge that since Riddle was denied the Defense Against Dark Arts post, no DADA teacher has lasted more than a year, it wasn't surprising.)
4) The surprise that some people have shown in Snape's actions.
and finally,
5) That the whole Snape and Dumbledore ending smacked strongly of Obi-Wan and Vader from Star Wars: A New Hope. (Odd to have to put the New Hope bit in now when I talk about the original movie.)

My random thoughts on the whole war:
Andrew over at Half-Blood Prince dot net was crushed at the book's end. Like many folks, he seems unable to fathom Dumbledore's death and the betrayal of Snape. (After reading more posts from Andrew even as I write this entry, he's made it clear that his first reactions were simply reactions - I don't want to imply that he was being critical of Rowling - he seems to be reacting like we all tend to do with the best written books: like it was all real and we're there, a part of the world. This connection is one of the things that make Rowling's books so good - and makes this book so real and devastating.)

Now, as a writer and a reader, I have a bit of an odd take on the whole thing. I literally can't see any other way for this book to have ended. The school had to be invaded -- Voldemort is a serious enemy and he absolutely loathes and despises Dumbledore. And Dumbledore wears his love and trust on his sleeve for a very distinct purpose: he knows that you can often reach people with that demonstration of perfect trust and love far more than with logic, or pleading or bribery or even fear.
And, honestly, I never expected poor Dumbledore to live through this book.

Having said that, there are ways that Rowling could possibly reverse some of this in the final book. I don't particularly expect her to do so -- she's treated this whole series very realistically and refused to sugar-coat anything just because it was a kid's book. There is room, however, to argue that Albus was asking Severus to kill him because he knew he was too weak to live. He could have been asking Severus to put him out of his misery and to carry on the battle directly to Voldemort . . . or more correctly, directly to Tom.

And, even in Severus Snape's name, Rowling keeps us guessing. Is Snape just "severe"? or is his name a compound word "sever us"? It seems a bit silly and over-academic to look at Snape's name so closely, but Rowling has well established that she plays with at least some of the characters' names.

I actually want to believe in Snape's betrayal. I don't really think he was ever fully on the side of Dumbledore. I'm not sure he had completely made his mind up from the beginning, though. I think he did a lot of equivocating and changing of his mind/heart before finally setting upon this path.

Ultimately, the last war ended - more or less - with the betrayal of the Potters by Peter the petty. Someone who was supposed to be a trusted friend to James. So it only makes sense that this war has its major betrayal, too. Now maybe Snape will be able to redeem himself like Anakin/Vader does . . . and maybe he won't.

I'm already focused on what will happen in the last book. Will Harry and the rest really forego school? (Oh and WHAT is Mrs. Weasley going to say about that???) Does giving up that final year mean that Harry won't become an Auror? Or will the practical experience he gains take the place of his final year of schooling? Or will Harry no longer be the boy who lived? There's always a chance that both Harry and Tom will die in this final book. After all, Harry is the boy who lived. Now that he'll be coming of age in just a few months after the close of the sixth book, can he also be the man who lives?

And perhaps the most interesting thing of all, to me anyway, is the theme of keeping oneself open to others. If you've had a really crummy or crappy life, the tendency is often to not trust other people, to only rely on yourself. This comes up in Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald-Mage trilogy time and time again. A rather abused/neglected young man tries to isolate himself from others, then, when he does finally fall in love, he loses that love within a few short months. Not ever wanting to feel that depth of pain again, he tries to shut everyone out. Likewise, in The California Voodoo Game, Griffin wants to shut everyone out and take out the bad guy on his own, without the help of others (who might get hurt). Miriam (??I think that's the wrong name) tells him at the end of the book that the real difference between Griffin and Bishop (the bad guy), is that the Bishop lets no one in. Griffin does and instead of making him weaker, it makes him much, much stronger than the Bishop.

Even though Lily and James opening up to Peter leads to their deaths, it's that connection and openness which lets Lily protect Harry and nearly kill Tom.

The connections and relationships we form do leave us open to terrible, terrible pain. But they also lift us to heights we could not reach alone.

And in case we forget that lesson in our shock and pain over Dumbledore's death (whether we expected it or not), Rowling reminds us again as Harry determines to finish off Tom Riddle. He is prepared to go out, alone, so that no one else gets hurt. But Hermione and Ron insist that they will be right there with him. And they remind Harry of other ties to the greater wizarding world -- they still have to (want to) attend Bill's wedding. Even though the book is dark and grim and foreboding . . . even as our world often feels today, life does go on. We fall in love, we snog, we tease each other, we love and we proclaim that love.

And eventually, that will wear Tom Riddle and all those like him, down to nothing.

Posted by Red Monkey at July 21, 2005 6:24 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Storm said:

I just finished HP 6 this morning... I started it this morning, too. I couldn't put it down once I started and never went to bed last night.

I must admit, I am of the mind that Dumbledore was asking Snape to kill him. Throughout, Dumbledore was adamant that Harry was the most important. Snape seemed to be disgusted just before he killed Dumbledore--much the same way as Harry was disgusted while feeding Dumbledore the poison.

I have to wonder if Dumbledore was silently telling Snape that Snape must kill him. Afterall, what better way to insure Snapes position as right-hand man to Voldemort? I also have to wonder if Dumbledore was dying anyway--not, perhaps from the potion, though that didn't help, but from the curse on the ring that blackened his hand.

It could go either way. I don't really know. I'm going to re-read the book, as reading a book overnight does not really allow one to grasp some of the finer concepts :)

July 21, 2005 10:20 PM


Christie said:

My hubby and I think (more my hubby than me) that Snape is still good.
Why else would Dumbledore freeze Harry at the moment right before his death? Obviously he wanted Harry to see something.
I didn't expect Harry to not come back to school either.

July 22, 2005 11:06 AM
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