Saturday, July 01, 2006

Potter Speculatin'

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Rowling’s intimations of the death of Harry Potter in the last book. Most of the conversation appears to be coming from a moral viewpoint; what sort of lesson does it teach if Harry dies?

I haven’t seen much tackling the literary aspects of it. Frankly, I’ve been pretty certain that either Harry or Ron was going to die before the end of the series. There have been some strong intimations of it since the first book. Remember the life-sized chess match, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were trying to get to the philosopher’s stone? The one where Harry had to sacrifice Ron in order to make it through?


And how far would Harry go, do you think, to slay Voldemort? Or, heavens help us, poor Snape? (C’mon, surely everyone has figured out what was really going on between Snape and Dumbledore in the Headmaster’s final moments. One wonders if Draco will prove worthy of the sacrifice.) Harry’s had a very dark streak in him since day one, and it’s only gotten worse as he’s gotten older. How much of it is just himself, and how much is his link to Voldemort?

Would Voldemort be willing to die if by such an act he corrupted Harry enough to continue his work? Or, for that matter, can Voldemort be slain without killing Harry? I think this is an even more vital issue. The two are linked, by Voldemort’s attempt to slay Harry and the later ritual that used some of Harry’s blood to resurrect Voldemort. Over the course of the books, it’s almost seemed to me that you can’t kill one without killing the other. But can Voldemort be imprisoned? The baleful guards of Azkaban have already proven their allegiance to Voldemort, and so he clearly cannot be incarcerated there. Is there another way, a safe way, to seal him away where he can never escape again?

The triangle is the most unstable shape in literature. Even with the addition of Ginny to the Ron-Harry-Hermione matrix, the shape still feels untrustworthy. But then, misdirection of this sort has always been one of Rowling’s great strengths as an author. What sort of a fall have we been set up for this time? We all know how these sorts of stories are supposed to end. How is Rowling using our expectations to distract us from the important matters at hand? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.


ElfFeather said...

I think that harry WILL die at the end of the last book. I am postitive of this, because since it is her last book; what does she have to lose?

trollsmyth said...

True, but there's also the question of what she would gain by Harry's death, in a literary sense. A lot depends on her goals as a storyteller and where she wants us to be in the final moments of the last book.