Photo Credit of Shell Cottage: Russ Hamer (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re not a fan, or you’re sick of all this talk about “Deathly Hallows,” skip this. Also, Spoilers A Plenty!
I remember when I dismissed the “Harry Potter” series as a fad before I ever read one of the books. I lived in London at the time, and Bloomsbury had redesigned special covers of the first few books to look less childish, so adults wouldn’t be embarrassed to read them. Every other adult riding the tube was reading one. I was in an insufferable book snob phase (it was the year we decided to not have a TV) and was working my way through “The Famished Road”, which…most incomprehensible book ever? (Sorry, “Ulysses.”) I went back to the states for a wedding, and I remember telling my friend about the adult book covers. Her response? “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.”
So I bought “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” at the airport and put “The Famished Road” in my carry-on luggage. And thus began my love affair with all things Harry.
I don’t want to talk about the movies, but rather what I loved, and didn’t love, about the books.
– The messages J.K. Rowling imparted throughout the series. It is our choices that define us, not our talents. Courage Matters, whether through small gestures like standing up for a friend or facing down a major fear, like fear of spiders or by reliving our past mistakes or worst memories. Love is what makes life worth living.
– Hermione. She’s a fully formed, flawed, likable main character who is involved in the main action of the story. She’s a girl/woman who often saves her heroic friends with her considerable knowledge. She’s smart but works hard to be the best in her year.
– NEVILLE! Neville is a nerdy, kind boy whose parents were tortured to the point of madness by Voldermort’s supporters. He’s an unlikely hero, who mainly demonstrates courage in small, non-showy ways. But the courage he demonstrates makes a crucial difference.
– Luna. Wise, unearthly, kind Luna. She’s spiritual, yet strangely practical and is the yang to Hermione’s yin. She reminds me of CookedHeads 🙂
– Fred and George. Maybe I’m predisposed to pay particular interest to twins, but I hearted them before I even got married. Their sense of humor, charm and mischief is wonderfully portrayed and they have the best lines: “Seriously evil wizard coming through!” Poor Fred. Sob.
– Mrs. Weasley. I know she’s somewhat controversial, but now that I’m a mom I’m simply amazed by her parenting skills. With limited resources, she raises seven superstar children, who achieve much success as adults. (Except for Fred. Sob.) She’s bossy, nurturing, a good cook, manages her household with aplomb and darns everyone’s socks. We all know how important socks are in the Harry Potter universe. And she has arguably the best line in the whole series: “Not my daughter, you BITCH!”
– Snape. Rowling had me guessing about his motives until the very, very end. I suspected that he MIGHT have feelings for Lily, but I didn’t see how important they would be. He’s deeply, seriously fatally flawed but he’s a romantic hero in the end.
– Historical echoes from World War II. I noted when I lived in the UK that World War II is a much greater part of the fabric of literature, movies, TV programming and even what’s covered in the news. It’s understandable: the UK stood basically alone against the greatest military power the world had ever seen. So many people died, the country was physically attacked and bombed and WWII is a great, pivotal point in the history of the country. Obviously, Voldemort is inspired in part by Hitler and his creepy “blood” policies were inspired by Hitler’s racist policies. The scariest scenes in all of the books to me are the scenes in “Deathly Hallows” of the Ministry of Magic. The Dark Lord has taken over, and his followers are free to persecute witches or wizards based solely on who their parents were. And Umbridge (shudder) runs a propaganda bureau in a Goebbels-esque fashion. Truly frightening stuff.
– As much as it pains me to say, the books are not perfect. (Although they nearly are ;P.)
– GINNY – Among all of the heroes, she’s my least favorite. I personally think it’s weird that Rowling needed to pair up every member of the trio at the end. And while I know a few people who met their husband/wife in high school, most people don’t. I like Ron/Hermione a lot. But why the need to couple up Harry at age 16/17, too? And Ginny is a cipher to me. She’s MOSTly (but not entirely, as Mommy Odyssey pointed out to me: see the Ministry scene, book five), defined by what others say about her. She’s shy in the first two books, gets possessed by Voldemort in the second so we are unable to decipher who she is, seeing as she’s POSSESSED by, as Fred and George would say, a seriously evil wizard. Then we get a lot of telling, not showing, comments from Ron, Fred, Hermione in the next couple of books. Like: guys think she’s hot, she LOVES Quidditch, her boogey hex is the BEST, blah blah blah. Even when she is showcased, finally, in the last two books, I guess I just didn’t LIKE her. She didn’t seem very multi-faceted or real, but rather a conglomeration of characteristics that Harry might like in a girl. (Like being hot, liking Quidditch, being feisty, etc.) I even preferred Cho, who came across on the page as a real person. I have to admit that if I could trade Fred for Ginny, I would. To me, she is a Mary Sue.
– James Potter. OK, this one is going to get me in hot water. But I think he’s kind of a jerk. At least in the flashback scenes. I’m sure he must come around and be nice, otherwise Lily wouldn’t have fallen for him, but in the flashback scenes with the Marauders, he comes across exactly the way Lily describes him: as a toerag. I know that’s the point, and obviously he becomes the father who sacrifices himself for his son, but…I don’t know. Maybe Rowling will write the story of how he and Lily fall in love someday.
And, that’s really all. Before I read the whole series, I would probably have said that the whole S.P.E.W. subplot annoyed me, but the house-elf liberation front becomes crucial in the last book, and I like the underlying message of why the treatment of house-elves (and goblins too) comes back to bite wizards in the butt, so to speak.
What do YOU love about the Harry Potter series? And what do you NOT love?