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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Harry Potter Retrospective Part 7

With a content smile he closed the last volume and replaced next to its older siblings on his bookshelf, smirking a little at the book's pristine condition compared to the first one's marked form.

He surveyed all seven books together. The experiment had been a success. His understanding and appreciation of the scope of the tale was now greater than before. It was with pride and happiness that he displayed the collection in his room.

And so, with this part of the experience over, until he would choose to do it again, there was but a few things left to do.

One day, or maybe slightly less. That's how long it took me to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the first time. I bought it at midnight one day, read a little in bed, slept and then sometime late the following day I was done.

That was dumb of me. It meant that I couldn't really quite grasp all of the intricate ways in which the events in the series and machinations of characters like Dumbledore and Snape all tied together in a most well-planned and cohesive narrative. That's not to say that I didn't understand what was happening and what referenced what in the other books. Just that my understanding would've benefitted a little more from a slower reading.

But how could I have read the thing with any kind of restraint? Not only was it the very last book in the series that esstentially got me into reading. It brooke the series' formula of the majority of events happening at Hogwarts. Hell, the entire school thing is thrown out until the very end when the final battle takes place in at Hogwarts.

Instead we're treated to a kind of treasure hunt, where the treasures have to be destroyed otherwise evil wins, that takes us to various unvisited locations of great importance in the HP. Interestingly enough the majority of these locations are vizarding homes we haven't seen before. Probably because this book is all about Harry going away from the, relative, safety and comfort of his first true home, Hogwarts, and his increasing aggitation and uncertainty are narratively realised as other peoples' homes that don't really fill the same function for Harry himself. That alone created a feeling of unpredictability that kept me from putting the book down and pushed me through it at a rapid pace.

Another thing that I did notice, not that anybody could actually miss it, is of course the rise to badassness of Neville Longbottom. One book he's a nice, clutzy, brave, forgetful and nervous teenager with a talent for herbology. Next book he's a confident and driven Hogwarts rebellion leader that stands tall as one of Harry's firmest supporters. Dude even stands up to Voldemort and gets the most epic horcrux kill while doing it. It's been a slow but steady character progression for Neville. But I think that you can ask just about any HP fan and they'll agree that it was well worth it, and reading through all the books like this just makes me appreciate it that much more.

Re-reading the book with some pauses to think more about the content I found myself particularly interested with the exploration of Dumbledore and Voldemort's inner thoughts. The first is a sort of deconstruction of the old-fashioned wise old man archetype simply by giving him a mysterious and tragic past. That alone is a bit more than other wise old men get in other fantasy stories. They're usually just some wise old dude that's... you know... wise and old, probably powerful. And for a long while we just kind of assumed that the same about Dumbledore. In this book we find out that he used to be a normal person who was arrogant because of his extreme talents who in the end ran for a long time from his problems because of his emotional attachement to fellow wizard Grindewald. And yes, the whole thing about Dumbledore being in love with Grindewald, another male for those that don't know, is fairly evident when re-reading the book. And it just adds another tragic and human element to the character. Especially after just discovering that Rowling said that Dumbledore dedcided to live a celibate life since love made him lose his moral compass. So he knows first hand the power love can have on a person. See, it all ties together.

In this book we get a much deeper look into Voldemort's psyche as Harry takes longer looks into his arch-enemy's mind than ever before. In them we find out that Voldemort isn't even close to being any sort of deconstruction or anything. He's an evil, arrogant, selfish dark lord archetype and this is just a glimpse of what goes through the head of such a person. As an individual who loves villainous characters I did not mind this little mental excursion in the least. It lets the reader see that beneath all the horribleness there is some remnant of a human that feels fear, rage and has a silly dream like all of us, though his is more ambitious than most others. It's nothing mind blowing or anything but I think that it's nice that Rowling went the little extra mile of making both Voldemort and Dumbledore into actual people with their own definable feelings and thoughts rather than just the two extremes of good and evil in the story.

And that's it for this book. I'll save my final thoughts for after I've seen the final movie. Which is tomorrow. When I together with thousands of others bid farewell to Harry Potter proper. Until then.

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