Back in the day, I thought that JK Rowling was a brilliant writer, and that years of anticipation were going to end in a glorious resolution, where Harry’s status as an unreliable narrator was going to pay off in the final installment. I firmly believed that there was no possible way for there to…
While I’d certainly argue that JKR lacks a certain talent in comprehensive and realistic world-building (I shudder to think of a world where a government like the MoM and society could exist exactly as depicted), I don’t think she ignores the character flaws in Harry or the deeply flawed society she constructed.
After all, Dumbledore himself wonders whether they don’t ‘Sort too early’, upon seeing that Snape has (what he perceives to be) some measure of bravery. And I think the book has quite a few implications that the 1/4 children are ostracized, either reinforcing their prejudices or pushing them in that direction (Snape). And we’ve certainly seen instances where that ignorant mindset of ‘Slytherin-bad, everyone-good’ has been of great detriment, as was the case with Peter Pettigrew and Barty Crouch. At the opposite end, we have the ambitious, almost unscrupulous Slughorn, whose somewhat grayer morals doesn’t stop him from defending Hogwarts and innocent children.
Even without those anomalies, I don’t think JKR meant at all to portray some children as inherently bad - it makes perfect sense that they would be a product of their upbringing in some respects. Draco is certainly an insufferable brat, but I don’t think he was doomed to commit real savagery beyond your typical but damaging schoolboy cruelty. Though he certainly was toeing the line, as any bully does. But then, the Marauders were more cruel, imo, and Sirius at least almost responsible for manslaughter - and all of them Gryffindors!
I personally think the Sorting was a horrible idea, archaic and hideously counterproductive, especially at a developmental stage in a learning environment. Worse still, these impressionable students are encouraged to essentially Sort themselves and believe that they lay claim to exclusive character traits, pigeonholing themselves and their peers in competitive and stifling roles.
The Sorting Hat itself cautions against focusing on these differences, though he does so only under threat of war. As we’ve seen historically, that is usually reason enough for an otherwise divided population to band together under one greater in-group identity. It doesn’t actually resolve any of the differences between the “pure” and “impure”. Tie those differences to a cross-cutting cleavage in economic standing, and it explains why families like the Weasleys, poor and disenfrachised, align with the ‘impure’ versus the Purebloods.
That pureblood families would protectively manifest ethnocentric/anti-Muggle tendencies, as a way of marginalizing the threat of an ever-growing majority, seems entirely plausible and natural to me. When JKR added that the Malfoys had previously ingratiated themselves with rich Muggles, until the Secrecy Statue, I thought that was further evidence of it. I think there are some parallels to be seen in real life tensions there too, as with many immigration issues world-wide.
I think it helps explains the Wizarding World at large, or at least why it remains the same. Whether that falls in line with social identity and group theory because it is so unavoidable in human relationships, or because JKR was aware enough to write it that way - well, I guess that is a matter of debate. I can’t help but think she is a good observer, though maybe I give her too much credit.
So my biggest bone to pick with the last book/ending isn’t that Harry is too heroic or flat, but that no real change occurs to actually impact that society (or that any change mentioned in the epilogue is far too easy, far from meaningful, and lacks any real substance).
That said, I definitely have mixed feelings about Harry, and even now I’m still not sure where I stand with him. He could certainly be impetuous, short-sighted, and at-times self-centered, but I personally did not think Harry’s flaws were so large as to cast lasting doubt on his status as the hero of the story. I’m not sure if that is a product of me not examining things thoroughly enough and being too prejudiced, or if that is some disparity in JKR’s writing.
What flaws do you think he had?
I’m actually not even sure I can honestly say Harry being a hero, in sacrificing himself, is actually a good thing, coming from a perspective that holds the WW and its irresponsible authority figures in very low regard. I think that quandary is both bad and good - I think the uncertainty is true to the complications of real life, but I’m not sure if that ambivalence should show itself similarly in literature. I suppose it depends on what you want from a story - a mirror or a moral? I’m not sure.
ANYWAY, what I really wanted to get around to, because I love to pick brains, and yours is especially fine, is this:
I can see where you’re coming from, but I wonder - what would you have done with Harry? Where did you get mixed messages, and what were they?
I enjoy unreliable narrators myself, and when I tried rereading the first two books, I often wondered at the narrative style, particularly when it seemed to lapse into Harry’s personal feelings and judgments (most notably the Snape v Quirrell scene).
There is certainly an odd tension there, where you have to wonder at the extent of bleed occurring between the objective and subjective. But I admit I never really attributed any cohesive message to it beyond JKR using it to create red-herrings or mislead us, and to hold her cards close to the chest. Then again, I’m no writer at all, and I was not only a careless reader, but a rather stupid child, so I’m certain I missed some major overtures, haha!
It would be fascinating to hear your experiences as a reader, and perspective as a writer.
I’m very curious where you thought JKR might have been planning to go with that and why. It might’ve been cool to play off the Horcrux-in-his-head bit some more, but I’m not sure where else it might’ve gone, thanks to a sadly limited imagination.
I loved HP as a child too, but more and more I can’t but feel there is an odd duality - it is at times perceptive, but can also feel surprisingly shallow. Your feelings seemed reminiscent of own post-nostalgia reflection on the series, and I think it’s really cool and illuminating to see where you find different flaws.
EEK! Sorry for the essay, but damn, I haven’t seen the opportunity for a good discussion of HP & JKR’s writing in a long while! Sorry to word vomit all over you, but once I get going it’s very hard to stop a train of thought! o.O Feel free to ignore & continue writing more awesome chapters of The Mediator.
(EDIT: okay, final addendum - agree on popular authors being fallible, and seeing the poor quality in recent popular YA series, a sometimes painful fact to live with)
all I can think when Thorin rushes Azog
Azog: It’s over, Thorin, I have the high ground!
Thorin: You underestimate my power!
Azog: Don’t try it!
Thorin: *charges and faceplants*
i’m so embarrassed for them and me
Can you see her?
How is she?
She searches for you.
Have a very happy birthday, Ashley! :D
Twinkling raindrops ran down the otherwise dark windowpane. They glittered like crystal beads, catching and teasing her sight. It was late evening, and so the water droplets just reflected the lights of the street below. Yellow and white… And a little bit of blue.
Jane sighed and sat up on her bed. She had thought she had been tired, so she had sought the comfort of the sheets, however, somehow the slumber refused to take over.
Put me to the floor
Please don’t resist anymore
I’ll never leave you a l o n e
Happy 19th Birthday Ashley!
happy birthday, ashley
Kings, 1x01 “Goliath”
magic and science; a lake of stars
- sheba - reach in
- search party - wintersleep
- comes and goes (in waves) -greg laswell
- strange and beautiful (i’ll put a spell on you) - aqualung
- pretty wicked things - dawn richard
- sleepsong - bastille
- song for jesse - nick cave & warren ellis
- patience - low roar
- boy of the stars - glint
- in the pines - widowspeak
- this one - snowmine
- falling hard (featuring meiko) - the crystal method
- nobody else - low roar
- crystallized - the xx
- prehistoric - now, now
- pieces - cider sky
- the past is the prey - raised by swans
- lies - trifonic
- underhelped - elsiane
- soda - the cinematic orchestra
- event horizon - i am waiting for you last summer
- longer shadows, shorter days - raised by swans
- climbing up the walls - radiohead
- heaven - lamb
- sinking - sysphye