March 4th, 2006
|11:36 pm - My remedial "History of Hogwarts" course is over|
I've finally gotten around to reading all the books in the Harry Potter series.
A few weeks ago I decided to start reading them all in order, starting with the the first one. I'd already read the first two books in the series and had seen all four of the movies as they had come out, so I already knew some of the storyline. I'd heard that unlike the first movie, the later ones diverged more from the books, leaving out quite a bit along the way, and was rather curious to find out the missing bits for myself.
I've finally finished the last, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", and I've a few thoughts on the series as a whole -- at least as written so far.
First off, I like the character development that I've seen for the most part. There are a few characters that have quite a bit of subtlety to them, although there are also quite a few that seem fairly one-dimensional.
Unfortunately one of the one-dimensional ones is the protagonist of the series, Harry Potter.
He started out as an arrogant twerp and has basicly remained so throughout the series, from what I see. He is self-satisfied, smug and in his own way as much of a know-it-all as Hermione Granger. He makes constant assumptions about others, often based on his own prejudices, many of which are later proved wrong. He also shows astoundingly little empathy for others, being constantly wrapped up in himself. During the course of the series he amply demonstrates that every character fault that Professor Snape has accused him of having he does indeed possess in abundance -- and that even when these flaws are brought to his attention, he does little or nothing to correct them, often preferring instead to attack those who seek to correct his ill manners and bad behavior. He does this with friends such as Hermione as well as teachers such as Snape -- particularly with the latter, who he seems to take great pleasure in treating with disrespect. He seems utterly incapable of fathoming that he might actually be WRONG.
Snape, however, is a very well-drawn character -- quite complex, with layer upon layer to his personality. I freely admit to finding him fascinating. His double-agent role and what he must do to maintain it while dancing on the knife's edge of danger and the circles within circles within circles of his personality and motivations are a joy to behold. He is easily my favorite character of the series, even moreso than Neville Longbottom, another well-drawn character with hidden depths who unlike Potter has grown through the course of the books.
One of the more fascinating parts of the series to contemplate is exactly why Severus Snape does what he does. There are glimpses into his past in "The Order of the Phoenix" -- stolen insights into his character and the events that shaped him into the man he grew to be. Given their shared history of being the victims of bullying, one might think that Harry might have more empathy for his teacher and try to understand better his very-well-justified dislike of Harry's father and god-father, but Harry seems incapable of even saying "sorry" after he deliberately snooped into Professor Snape's memories -- ones that he specificly did NOT want Harry to know about. Harry didn't even have the good manners to apologize for his trespass, for that is EXACTLY what it was. Instead he continued to dislike and belittle publicly a man who had repeatedly tried to protect him and teach him and behaved honorably towards him at all times, despite little gratitude from Potter, much less respect.
It takes a strong man to put up with a rotter like Potter, yet Snape did so, protecting him again and again and again, even at the end of "The Half-Blood Prince". I would not be at all surprised to learn that part of this behavior had something to do with the relationship between Severus and Harry's mother Lily, due to a few interesting things tossed in, seemingly at random. Given that even the events at the end of "The Half-Blood Prince" may not be what they appear to be from a surface reading, I can't help but wonder how Rowling will get Professor Snape out of the corner she seems to have painted him into . . .
The way I see it, Snape is soooooooooo NOT a coward . . . OR a traitor . . .
He may in fact be the bravest damn person in the entire book.
I can't wait for the last book in the series, for then I think Severus Snape will finally get the respect I believe he so richly deserves.
"The name's Snape -- Severus Snape . . . "
I ♥ Severus Snape
(The fact he's also a brilliant chemist has nothing to do with my fangrrrrl-ishness. Nothing whatsoever. Really.)
Current Mood: pensive
Current Music: "A Window to the Past" -- Harry Potter & the PoA soundtrack
But the whole "Harry Potter" phenomenon, books and films is one of the best guilty pleasures to come along in a long time for Pagan folk.
Agreed! Although interestingly enough religion is never overtly mentioned, but certain Christian holidays are, like Christmas and Easter. Not even for the Patil twins . . .
I do actually like Harry, and Professor Snape is certainly growing on me
I'm not saying that Harry is completely awful -- he does have many good qualities -- but what sticks in my craw is his empathy blind spot when it comes to Snape. I find it intensely irritating that he is unwilling to even harbour the thought that Snape may not be Evil Incarnate and Out To Get Him for more than a few seconds -- MAX. He seems to need to paint Snape as a villain, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. He is willing to be empathetic to others -- just not Snape.
The momentary flash of empathy after seeing Snape being publicly humiliated by his father seems to have had absolutely no affect on his behavior after that point in the story. Frankly, I find that a bit hard to believe and I think it detracts from Harry's characterization. When Snape calls Harry a "nasty little boy" he's right on target -- at least with respect to his relationship with him.
The best light I can shed on it is that some part of Harry recognizes Snape as a paternal figure and feels the need to rebel against him constantly, in ways that he can't against his other main paternal figure, Dumbledore, for fear of losing Dumbledore's love, care and attention. Snape is a big enough man to allow Harry to get away with having a snotty attitude towards him, although it's obvious in the books that it bothers him quite a bit. He might not be keen on playing Bad Cop/Daddy, but he isn't willing to let Harry get away with stuff like others do, just so Harry will like him. He acts like a Good Daddy that way and in the books makes a point of telling others that he treats Harry just like the other students, not as being "special" as so many of the other adults in the story do. He acts as a grounding force to Harry's over-indulged ego, which Master Potter does not care for in the least.
I think Snape taking Harry under his wing is probably one of the best things that could possibly have happened to Harry, even though he is unable to appreciate it while in school. And Snape does protect him -- practically hovering over him at times, in fact. That was something I was very struck by when I read the books in order and I even re-read parts just to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting things. Whenever Harry is in any real danger, Snape is somewhere in the vicinity, doing his best to take care of Harry as best he can under the circumstances -- something he does not do for other students in general.
I'd have hoped that during Book Six Harry might have grown up a bit more, but even at the end he's still as clueless as ever. This despite Snape repeatedly refusing to fight back at him and even protecting him from the curses aimed at him by Death Eaters (like Crucio) -- doesn't give me a lot of hope for Book Seven, frankly. It's possible that he'll get hit by a clue-by-four then, but probably only at the very end of the book. Le sigh . . .