Sunday, November 25, 2007

Entry for July 30, 2007 -- Rich on So Many Levels

I've had a few days now to think about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. The more I think about it, the more there is to think about. For this blog entry, I'm just going to go through some random issues related to the book, not try to give any kind of coherent "review."

Where to start????

First of all, it was a great adventure story. There were several times when I found myself so tense as I was reading about the situations the "trio" got themselves into, I had to laugh at myself. My arms would actually be weak after I put the book down, ha ha! At various times during this whole series I've found the "old fogey" in me scolding Harry for getting into situations that put him in so much danger -- in this book, though, the danger and the situations are a natural culmination of the earlier action -- this book is about a war. It's thrilling and fun to read.

I guess now I'll talk about what I see as the overall message of the book, although as I try to come up with that message I think the book is sort of like the Mirror of Erised -- a person sees what he/she desires to see -- or is predisposed to see. To me, this book is about faith. SPOILER ALERT!! This theme struck me most clearly when I was reading Harry's thoughts as he is trying to decide whether to follow the task Dumbledore set out for him or to pursue the new angle he's sure Voldemort is up to. "He felt that he was still groping in the dark; he had chosen his path but kept looking back, wondering whether he had misread the signs, whether he should not have taken the other way. " He's angry and disappointed that Dumbledore didn't spell it out for him so that he knew what he should do. In the end, he must trust that Dumbledore has told him enough, and he has to act on that faith. Isn't that an appropriate allegory for the Christian life? How many times in my own life have I wondered if I'm doing the right thing, wishing God would put an unambiguous message in neon letters in the sky so I could know? But if we know, it's not faith, is it? The power of faith is acting on the basis of trust -- to give up our own need to know and see how everything fits together, and to follow the path the Master has set our feet on. We have to trust that the Master has given us enough of whatever it is we need to do what He asks of us.

I have loved the character of Harry since the first book. Over the series, it's been fun to watch his growth both as a "normal human being" and as "the Chosen One." In the climatic chapter of Deathly Hallows, it is touching to see how he deals with being both of those when the roles are mutually exclusive. I've seen articles since the book came out that compare Harry to Christ, and I don't know about that -- I'm not really comfortable with that comparison. But that chapter did relate to something I've thought about lately, and that is, what was Jesus thinking about as He went to the cross and while He was on the cross? Maybe there were some parallels to Harry's thinking as he walked into the forest to meet Voldemort. I have wondered lately if the cry "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" was not so much a cry of despair as it was the beginning of a recitation of Psalm 22 (which begins with those very words), a clinging to something that gave strength and comfort, just as Harry's --- well, don't want to give away TOO much!!

(If you're wondering why I said that about Psalm 22, it's because the last section of the psalm describes the Lord's -- and thus the Lamb's -- victory. I believe Jesus would have been well-versed in the scriptures, to the point of having much of it committed to memory. He would know the psalm that began with despair ends in triumph. But I digress too far!)

There's also a really interesting discussion-starter for students of ethics. Was Dumbledore right or wrong to treat Harry the way he did? His behavior is a good example of utilitarian ethics, and generally, I think, we would argue he's right. But seeing it from the viewpoint of the one chosen to suffer for the many is interesting.

The only thing I was disappointed in about the book was that Rowling didn't bring the four houses together in the end in a rejection of evil. The Slytherins still didn't join in. I read one posting on HPfGU (Harry Potter for Grownups) that explicated the book as confirming the power of labels and of underscoring the notion that some people are just "good," while others are just "bad," and that can't be changed. Yeah, I kind of wish there had been some change of heart for at least some of the Slytherins.

I also did not care for the epilogue, but that's because the wrong people ended up together -- in my opinion, anyway! And I despise Mrs. Weasley!! I can't really understand why -- I try to intellectualize it, but I can't seem to do that. I just have a gut reaction of truly disliking that character. I hope it's not as people say -- the things we despise most in others are the faults in ourselves, ha ha.

Oh, there's much, much more to think about and talk about. But I think I'll let this post go at this point. I'm sure there's a limit to people's tolerance!!!But I'm left with one burning question: Was Dolores Umbridge an agent of Voldemort, or was she just a bully?

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