SPOILERS! SERIOUS SPOILERS!!
DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE GOING TO READ THE BOOK!! CLICK AWAY NOW!! DOOOOOOO IT!!
IF YOU STILL HAVEN’T DONE THAT, THEN HERE IS A BARRIER BETWEEN THESE WARNINGS AND MY ACTUAL WORDS TO GIVE YOU SOME SPACE TO TAKE YOUR EYES AWAY — AWAAAY!!
Okay. I’m not going to get into a lengthy review of the book, really. I’m gonna talk about the ending.
I haven’t read any reviews of the book, online or otherwise, so this is all meeee.
First, let me say that I’m a big Harry Potter fan. Not the biggest, I’m sure. Not rabid or crazed. Not walking around at this weekend’s SD freak show, International Comic-Con, dressed up as, say, Mad-Eye Moody or something.
No. Just someone who loved the books, allowed herself to be swept up in that whole world, and who really looked forward — really looked forward — to each new book. In a completely normal, non-obsessed way, of course.
So I kind of hate that I may be about to rain on the Potter parade here, but I finished the book late yesterday, fell into a deep daze from all the late-night reading, and then, later ….. I got to thinkin’, you know.
OH, AND — IF YOU’RE STILL READING THIS POST AND PLAN ON READING THE BOOK, UM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? I LITERALLY CANNOT HELP YOU ANYMORE. THERE IS NO HOPE FOR YOU.
Okay. Here goes. Here’s the thing:
The ending really disappointed me. Actually, kind of annoyed me. And maybe I will now have my soul sucked out by rattly-breathed Dementors or be killed by evil Death Eaters for uttering this, but there it is.
“So, why, Tracey? What is your problem? I thought I liked you. Why so negative? You suck, we’re through, etc.”
The “Nineteen Years Later” epilogue? Ugh. Yuck. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I see, at the heart of Harry Potter, a tale of self-sacrifice. Harry himself wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for his mother’s self-sacrifice, throwing herself in front of the curse directed at him. As the series progressed and Harry grew into a courageous young man willing to risk for those he loved, I felt certain that the theme of self-sacrifice would come full circle. So in all honesty, as I read the last book, I was prepared for Harry to die. I thought, “Well, I’ll be sad, but it just seems right.” It all started with a sacrifice. It seemed — to me — that it should end with one. There was even Harry’s own realization, own admission, as he trudged through The Forbidden Forest to meet Voldemort that “This must end. I must die.”
So I was bracing for it.
And then — he lived.
And after the encounter with Voldemort in the forest, there was a verrry long roundy-round explanation from Dumbledore in the weird empty hall as to what was going on, why Harry wasn’t dead yet, etc. It felt like J.K. Rowling had been ready to kill Harry — to have him sacrifice himself — and then she backed out, couldn’t do it. Maybe I was too tired when I read it or something. Maybe if I read it again, I’d feel differently, but I don’t think so, really. I mean, I think once any reader gets to that scene between Harry and Dumbledore, they know that Harry will be safe. And you keep knowing it and knowing it and knowing it because, again, that scene is pretty long. It was almost like I could feel Rowling furiously writing herself out of that desperate deadly corner.
So when the second encounter with Voldemort occurs, it’s almost anti-climactic. “Oh, wonder what’s gonna happen here, hm …… oh, Voldemort’s dead; Harry’s fine. Cheers all around and whatnot.”
I guess the whole thing felt rather pat to me, a little too neatly wrapped up. I mean, she threw in some deaths along the way, but none of them really choked me up much because I’m basically heartless — okay, Dobby got me the most, actually — but they just felt like deaths thrown at us to give us DEATH so she wouldn’t have to sacrifice Harry.
Or maybe I’m just a crankypants.
And in the end, for me, Severus Snape emerges as the truly heroic one: Spending all those years living dangerously undercover. Spying for Dumbledore. Protecting Harry not for Harry’s sake but all for the love of Lily. And doing all this without, it seems, much magical assistance.
Although, this could all be coming from the very clouded depths of my little I Heart Alan Rickman soul. There’s always that.
Let’s just say it’s not that, okay?
Right. Proceed, Tracey.
Harry, on the other hand, has lots of help. Alway does. He’s able to kill Voldemort because he’s master of the Elder Wand. But only because he wrests a wand from Draco Malfoy, who is briefly the unknowing master of the Elder Wand — and only then because of the curious, random crashing of the chandelier (Dobby??) at Malfoy Manor that causes Draco to double over to protect himself from the flying shards of glass. Phheew. So Harry, assisted by a crashing chandelier, disarms Draco and in so doing, becomes master of the Elder Wand which means he can ultimately kill Voldemort. Which you know already if you read the book. I’m just saying there’s always lots of help for Harry.
But who’s there helping Snape? Dumbledore?? Doesn’t really look like it. Not that I’m down on Dumbledore or anything. I love Dumbledore, although he’s a much more ambiguous figure throughout much of this book. But I feel oddly moved by Snape’s plight. His complexities. His loves and hates. I see much more to him than I ever imagined. Even after the last book, I felt fairly certain that Snape wasn’t all bad. But he isn’t all good, either. And I like that. I think, now that all is said and done, he may actually be the most compelling character in the series for me. And, if you look closely at it, isn’t what Snape did actually more sacrificial and more heroic than what Harry did? I mean, what was in it for him at the end? He suffered an ignominius death at Voldemort’s hands. Or really, Nagini’s, er, hands. Defintely not the cheering crowd that Harry got. And it was all because of Lily. Because of his love for Lily. Snape’s allegiance initially was to Voldemort, but he agreed to protect Harry, to secretly work against Voldemort, to look after the son of the man he hated, the man who mistreated him, all for love of a dead woman. His life’s best friend. And I think at the moment of his death, when Snape is murmuring, “Look at me, look at me” to Harry, he’s saying it because he wants Lily’s eyes to be the last thing he sees on this earth. Maybe not, but that’s just my feeling there, the way I choose to see it. But, in the end, who really ends up knowing how truly heroic Snape was? Who? Okay, Harry, Ron, Hermione. Oh, and okay, Harry throws in the name Severus as his kid’s middle name, so I guess we can assume his middle-namesake will know his story. But other than that, does the rest of the wizarding world know the truth? Put that in yer “Nineteen Years Later” epilogue, Richest Woman in Britain!
Speaking of which …..
I was really annoyed by that. That epilogue. But I have a tendency to dislike the “X number of years later” thing as a literary device. It can seem really tacked on and superfluous. And especially here, I felt like Rowling was completely pandering to her audience. Throwing out too much bland information all in the name of a happy ending.
What’s wrong with ending it where the story actually ended? Much as I really didn’t like Harry’s last line of “I’ve had enough troubles for a lifetime” because I thought it really didn’t sound like Harry, I would have much preferred the book to end there. The story arc is over. End it. Respect the story. Respect your reader’s imagination. Respect the reader’s ability to flesh out whatever ongoing saga he or she wants. All those extra details weren’t necessary. It just felt like biographical data to me. It didn’t add anything to the tale of Harry Potter, did it? Not really. Well, maybe for 13-year-old girls who might read it and squeal, “Oooh! Harry marries Ginny!” and “Oooh! Ron marries Hermione! And they all have kids!! Who are all cousins!!” I guess for them, it’s an adolescent girl’s fantasy come true, being happily settled with your high school McDreamy and having your best friends married to each other, too, and having all your kids be friends with each other and “OMG!” “Like, SO perfect!” But I felt condescended to, frankly. Leave something to my, uh, grown-up imagination. Please.
Hm. I am clearly a crankypants. I’m sorry.
All right. As an example here. I think one of the classic book endings of all time is “Gone with the Wind.” We all know it, right? Rhett in the doorway, immune to Scarlett’s pleadings, her declarations of love, saying, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” He vanishes into the grey mists, leaving Scarlett sobbing on the stairs. But moments later, she raises her head, determined, “I won’t think of that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow. I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Typical Scarlett. “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Scarlett’s mantra through the whole book, actually. She’s true to her nature to the very end, which I didn’t think Harry was with his last line — in the actual story. For me, Harry suddenly sounded like a grizzled 80-year-old man complaining, “I’ve had enough troubles for a lifetime. And my sciatica is acting up.” It just kinda clanged for me. Didn’t sound like Harry.
And what’s wrong with some questions unanswered at the end of a book? I’m not talking about plot points left dangling or glaring omissions. I’m talking about mystery. Things left unsaid, unknown. Things left to the reader’s imagination. What’s wrong with wondering, for instance, if Scarlett gets Rhett back? What’s wrong with imagining a million different scenarios on your own? What’s wrong with filling in some blanks yourself and enjoying it?
What’s wrong with all that?
As I read the epilogue, it actually felt like my eyes were rebelling, “No. No. No, no, no.” I was happy to leave Harry where he was, as the 80-year-old man moaning about his troubles. I personally didn’t need to see almost-middle-aged Harry clucking over his kids. I didn’t need to see everyone perfectly paired up like the end of a Broadway musical. And I certainly didn’t need to find out –later, online — that J. K. Rowling has fleshed out the epilogue even more. And I didn’t need to click on the link to READ it. Dummy. But the information is there for anyone who cares to read about what middle-aged Harry — The Boy Who Lived, the boy who killed Voldemort and saved the wizarding world — does for a living now, er, Nineteen Years Later. I’m not giving the info here. Go find it yourself if you want. But when I read that — dummy! — I felt as if Harry had been castrated. If Harry’s gonna live, which he clearly did, shouldn’t he be great, given his history, his achievements? It’s like having Batman give up the cape to be an IRS agent. I just — I don’t know — hated to read about mundane Harry. Normal Harry. For a kid who clearly wasn’t normal. My own scenarios of Harry’s future would have been quite different. But we weren’t really given the chance to imagine those. It’s been forever shaped for us.
Reading that epilogue, I couldn’t help but get a very “Harry Potter: The Next Generation” vibe. Look at all the characters she referenced in just that one chapter. Potter kids. Weasley kids. Malfoy kid. Lupin kid. I mean, give a character a big ol’ name like Albus Severus and kiddos everywhere will be clamoring for more about him. And speaking of the Lupin kid, what’s with him? Teddy Lupin. I mean, what was with Tonks’ pregnancy anyway? She and Lupin were both killed off, so why make her pregnant in the first place? Why make an orphan? I thought that whole scene with Harry where Lupin freaks out about her pregnancy was just weird. Another kinda clangy moment for me. Like, um, what are you talking about, Lupin? Calm down. What do you want Harry to do about it? You’re weird. You’re a werewolf. And you’re having a baby. So you’re lucky, you little freak. Please calm thyself. I dunno. It just seemed completely tangential to everything, basically. Out of place. I mean, so we have an unwanted pregnancy and threatened parental abandonment. Wonder what all the kiddos thought about that. I’ll have to ask my 12-year-old nephew his thoughts.
Okay. I said “brief thoughts” in the title. Clearly, that is a misnomer.
I sound like I’m bitter and I’m really not. I liked the book, overallish. These things didn’t work for me — uh, obviously — and since they’re at the end, they’re stuck in my head right now. A final impression, I guess. And I do think a lot of readers will be relieved that Harry lived and that he finds happiness. I just felt like the books — especially the later books — were growing darker, slanting a different way. I expected, and maybe even hoped for, something else. Something that matched the shifting tone.
On an unrelated note: What the heck was UP with that raw little lump writhing on the floor in the Harry/Dumbledore scene? Rowling never says who or what that is. Are we supposed to think it’s a soon-to-be-dead Voldemort? Is it evil itself? Is it a chihuahua? WHAT?? Thoughts on that, anyone?
Phhew. I’m tuckered out from all this rambling.
All right. I’m ready. Lemme have it.
But don’t hit too hard. It’s me birthday tomorry. Harry Potter’s, too.
Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! Sorry you got castrated!