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March 4th, 2006


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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 . . . "


severus Snape Fan

I ♥ Severus Snape


(The fact he's also a brilliant chemist has nothing to do with my fangrrrrl-ishness. Nothing whatsoever. Really.)
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: "A Window to the Past" -- Harry Potter & the PoA soundtrack

(54 seeds eaten | Eat a pomegranate)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:woman_ironing
Date:March 13th, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC)

Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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As a person, I think [Harry] was actually nicer at the beginning of the series than he is now, at the end of Book 6. He certainly had more respect for authority and in general was more polite and better behaved...

Just the attitude you need when facing a murderous Dark Lord! LOL!

(Via the Snitch.)
From:tree_and_leaf
Date:March 13th, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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A lot of people are nicer as ten year olds than as fifteen year olds. Sometimes they become nicer again after they grow up. I think Harry is probably in this category: he's a teenager who has seen a lot of horrible things and who has very few people he can unconditionally rely on. Even people from stable, loving homes can seem to be angry and difficult during puberty: maybe I've been unlucky, but Harry is on the nicer end of teenage boys I've had to do with.

But as woman_ironing points out, he has had to toughen up to survive... he also has the problem that he has no real parental figure - the nearest is Sirius, who is hardly ever available, and who has his own serious problems. Hermione and Ron are great friends, but they aren't experienced enough to be able to help with certain things. Dumbledore withdraws from him in OOTP, when Harry really needs some guidance. It's not surprising he's a bit impulsive and angry at times.
[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 14th, 2006 01:13 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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he also has the problem that he has no real parental figure - the nearest is Sirius, who is hardly ever available, and who has his own serious problems. Hermione and Ron are great friends, but they aren't experienced enough to be able to help with certain things. Dumbledore withdraws from him in OOTP, when Harry really needs some guidance.

I agree with you there -- Harry has a Daddy-shaped hole in his soul that needs to be filled somehow.

His uncle certainly refused to fill it, Dumbledore is too busy running a school and hunting horcruxes most of the time to give Harry the time and attention he so desparately needs from an adult male, Lupin is around for only a short while and Sirius is on the lam before he ends up departing forever for the Great Beyond.

So who does that leave?

Severus Snape. The teacher Harry despises, rejects and constantly rebels against. But the man who is there for Harry, consistently, day after day, year after year -- teaching him, protecting him and nurturing him, in his own snarky way -- this all despite Harry's repeated rudeness and bad behavior towards him. (I discuss Snape-As-Daddy in this comment also, if you care to read more . . . )


Persephone
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 13th, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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Here via the Snitch, too

Just the attitude you need when facing a murderous Dark Lord! LOL!

Yes, it is. First of all, if we have to read seven books about Good fighting Evil, I for one would have the heroes to be and behave better than their enemies.

Also, every single bad action of the 'good' side was of direct advantage of Lord Voldemort, and Harry as only his nasty temper to thank for a lot of bad things happening to him and his friends.
[User Picture]
From:woman_ironing
Date:March 13th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)

Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!

Yep. What with the torturing, murdering, plotting to take over the world etc etc, Harry is so like Voldemort it's uncanny. And that temper...!

But Stan should certainly be freed. The Ministry, hmmm, good side or bad? What? D'you mean it might be more complicated than that?
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 13th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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Yep. What with the torturing, murdering, plotting to take over the world etc etc, Harry is so like Voldemort it's uncanny. And that temper...!

More than his temper, his way with the Dark Arts, which he performs too easily.

I'm not asking for another Frodo, but I don't like teenagers wishing for someone's death. Nor whatever-agers. I was hit on the head with Lord of The Rings when I was too young.

Also, in the precedent war, the Aurors 'on the side of light' killed and tortured too. I agree that this is the way of the world, but again, we were talking about the side of the light.

I think that the Ministry is on its own side. It is a weak government but a nasty one, harassing the weak and bending over for the mighty. It uses the panic caused by Voldemort's rising to further its authority, and I believe that Scrimgeour has the same agenda that Barty Crouch Sr had, only he is more cautious.
[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 13th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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More than his temper, his way with the Dark Arts, which he performs too easily.

I'm not asking for another Frodo, but I don't like teenagers wishing for someone's death.



Harry's killing spree


Agreed. Harry is far too willing to toss Unforgiveable Curses at people for my liking. He has a very vengeful side too, as seen at the Dursley's -- he certainly seems to enjoy terrorizing them as a way of "getting back" at them for their prior treatment of him.

I think that the Ministry is on its own side. It is a weak government but a nasty one, harassing the weak and bending over for the mighty.

Sounds like "politics as usual" to me . . .


Persephone
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 14th, 2006 09:36 am (UTC)

Re: Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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Agreed. Harry is far too willing to toss Unforgiveable Curses at people for my liking.

I liked ever less his eagerness to try the Half Blood Prince's hexes on unsuspecting fellow students and defenseless Squibs.

Before the 'incident' with Draco in Mirtle's bathroom, "he was considering trying it out on McLaggen next time he came up behind him unawares." And Sectumsempra is labeled clearly "for enemies".

In his sixth year, Harry is just like his dad! Hexing people all around 'because he can', almost killing another student, and getting off with a ridiculous punishment. Only I don't know if James crept on his victims from behind.

[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 13th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

(Link)
Harry is so like Voldemort it's uncanny.

It's not just uncanny -- it's a Plot Point.

And an important one too.

(Yes, I realize you were probably being sarcastic there, but you are more correct than you may have realized.)


Persephone
[User Picture]
From:woman_ironing
Date:March 14th, 2006 01:10 pm (UTC)

A matter of life and death

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Is it really fair to say Harry is like Voldemort? Harry is certainly connected to Voldemort; Voldemort changed Harry's life irrevocably when he orphaned him and tried to kill him, Harry continues to be in danger from Voldemort, and he may even be one of Voldemort's horcruxes. They are connected and their connection is vital to the story but can it really be said that they are alike? The defining characteristics of Voldemort are will to power and absence of love. Harry has shown that he has a strong will but it's not will to power - more like will to prevail or die trying. Harry has friends he loves and who love him, and he can feel empathy even for those he believes to be his enemies.

Harry makes mistakes, he is reckless but he is in an extreme situation, and paradoxically he needs to be reckless to survive. (Just like a Seeker needs to be reckless in order to catch the Snitch.) This doesn't make him like Voldemort, or into a new Dark Lord in the making. Voldemort, in fact, is anything but reckless.
[User Picture]
From:mary_j_59
Date:March 24th, 2006 05:05 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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I so agree with you! hope you do not mind that I have added you to my friends; please let me know if this is okay. Like you, I see Tolkien as the high point of modern fantasy, and am hoping (ultimately) for that kind of moral clarity and depth in Rowling. It may yet happen - we shall see.
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 24th, 2006 12:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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^_^

Please keep in mind that I only have a Livejournal so I can enter discussion not as Anonymous; very little happens in my journal.

Like you, I see Tolkien as the high point of modern fantasy, and am hoping (ultimately) for that kind of moral clarity and depth in Rowling.
I may have some problem with some of Tolkien's ideas (such as, that there may be a whole race born without any hint of good and without hope of having any, or the way we are supposed to believe that there is a natural hierarchy of the various races), but I'm really unhappy with the ethics in Harry Potter's books. The Wizarding World is a disturbing place, and Harry is learning all the wrong lessons. I may believe that it is the Voldemort in him, but everyone seems to share the same point of view about right and wrong, and it is one I cannot accept.

I've the strong impression of a completely different subtext, hidden in plain view, and in the sixth book it has been bring to the light in several occasion.

After OotP, I sometimes tried do show how callous Gryffindors could be, and I often I used for example 'what the Twins did to Montague'. The usual answer was 'Who is Montague?'.

Now we know that not only what the twins did to Montague was even worse that we supposed, but that it gave Draco the information he needed to help the Death Eaters to enter Hogwarths.

If the Twins would not have reacted to a loss of house points with something who almost caused a fellow student's death - and very possibly a permanent mental damage - or if the Trio would have the decency to tell the staff what they knew actually happened to a missing boy, Dumbledore could be still alive. And, of course, if the Twins would not sell dangerous items and illegal substance to whomever is ready to pay for them.

In a sense I feel that many chicken are coming home to roost, and that it will not be pretty.



From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 28th, 2006 12:01 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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Again, I agree strongly. Although I love Tolkien deeply, I can completely understand your problems with the orcs, who are mere canon fodder with no hope of redemption. Amd I don't know if it helps that Tolkien saw 'orcs' on both sides in both the World Wars - Englishmen, as well as Germans, who were such because they chose to be such. For them, as human beings, there was presumably hope for redemption, but what hope is there for the orcs in the books? My comfort is Gandalf's line (naturally, left out of the movie, which was the worst of the three) in "Return of the King" - "As for me, I pity even his (Sauron's) slaves". A bit ambiguous, after wholesale slaughter, but at least it's there.

Actually, what bothers me most in Tolkien is the situation of the Dunlendings. From my point of view, as an Irish-American, they got a really raw deal; they are equivalent to the Brythonic Gaels - the Picts and the Welsh - whose land was handed to the Saxons (=Rohirrim) by the Romans (= Gondorians). What did they do to deserve that loss? And why shouldn't they be angry about it? Granted, they are not presented as irredeemable monsters, but they still get brushed off, IMHO.

So I'd agree that Tolkien isn't perfect. Still, he is miles above Rowling so far, as enjoyable as her books are. An example - when writing about "Spinner's End", I said roughly that here we had Snape making a vow because of the love he had for the Malfoy family, while Narcissa was pressuring him into the vow because of her love for her son. If this were Tolkien, these good intentions - however mixed, and however flawed Snape and Narcissa are - would eventually lead to good. But Rowling is not Tolkien, and we cannot tell where she will ultimately go. Of course, the example you bring up - the dreadful twins, and what they do to Montague - is at least as clear. And you are right that some chickens have already come home to roost - bad actions by the 'good' side have already helped the bad side.

Another thing: I really disliked both Harry's thoughtlessness and his vengeful spirit in HBP. The three things that jarred me particularly were his determination to face Voldemort "and take as many Death Eaters as i can with me" (Quoting roughly); his rejection of any pity for the young Tom Riddle, and his declaration of vengeance on Snape. Add to this his casting of the half-blood prince's hexes right, left and center, and you get a pretty unpleasant picture. At least, I do. And the kid *still* hasn't asked a single question about his mother. Not in six books! And yet she died to save him - he wouldn't even be alive if it weren't for Lily's loving sacrifice. I am really hoping that the bad actions by the good side will continue to have bad consequences, and that Harry will come to realize that he is his mother's son, as well as his father's. As my sister said, "It will really bother me if the ultimate message of these books is that the good people get to do whatever they want, just because they are the good guys."
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 28th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

(Link)
My comfort is Gandalf's line (naturally, left out of the movie, which was the worst of the three) in "Return of the King" - "As for me, I pity even his (Sauron's) slaves". A bit ambiguous, after wholesale slaughter, but at least it's there.

'Even' Sauron's slaves? They should be pitied more than many others, not less. Their lives were awful and their souls lost or unesistant. But if I remember right, in the Silmarillion there were hints that the Orcs were Elves once.

Actually, what bothers me most in Tolkien is the situation of the Dunlendings. From my point of view, as an Irish-American, they got a really raw deal; they are equivalent to the Brythonic Gaels - the Picts and the Welsh - whose land was handed to the Saxons (=Rohirrim) by the Romans (= Gondorians).
True, and the taking of their lands was A Good Thing, it seems. As for me, I'm a bit peeved by the portrait of those swarthy southern people who tainted the blood of the noble Numenoreans of Gondor.
When I read LOTR the first time, I did wonder what would happen of those people - and of the Men who served Sauron - in the new and improved Kingdom of Aragorn.

If this were Tolkien, these good intentions - however mixed, and however flawed Snape and Narcissa are - would eventually lead to good.
And how whatever Draco did was ultimately to save his family.

I really disliked both Harry's thoughtlessness and his vengeful spirit in HBP.

Let's compare Less Favorite Moments: "Personally, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for another death…” at the Sorting. The way he "he was considering trying it (sectumsempra) out on McLaggen next time he came up behind him unawares.". How after almost killing Malfoy he only thought how to hid the Half Blood Prince's book.

But in this book the one I really loathed was Dumbledore. The vile way he behaved at the Dursleys. The way he get mrs. Cole drunk. The unmerciful way he talked of Merope, his comparing her motherly love with Lily's. How he behaved with little Tom Riddle, first scaring a kid with serious problems, then giving him money and letting him go shopping magic items unsupervised. How he suspected Riddle but never thought fit to share his suspicions with the rest of Hogwarths' teachers. How he knew from the beginning what Draco was up to, but did nothing and left him in desperation, and thanks to this two students almost died. This is the man whose biggest defect is 'thinking too well of people'?

And the kid *still* hasn't asked a single question about his mother. Not in six books! And yet she died to save him - he wouldn't even be alive if it weren't for Lily's loving sacrifice.
Ah, but on the Hogwarths Express he passed some time musing on how his mother was better than Neville, since Lily died and Alice simply gone mad.
Would Neville’s mother have died to save him, as Lily had died for Harry? Surely she would. . . . But what if she had been unable to stand between her son and Voldemort? Only the mother of a VERY SPECIAL child would die for him, it seems.
Then Dumbledore informed him that yes, "Merope Riddle chose death in spite of a son who needed her, but do not judge her too harshly, Harry. She was greatly weakened by long suffering and she never had your mother's courage." Because to die in childbed is a sure sign of lack of love and courage.

"It will really bother me if the ultimate message of these books is that the good people get to do whatever they want, just because they are the good guys."
But even if the message changes in the last book, what will be of young readers exposed to six books of this? Because the absolute majority of Rowlings' public _are_ children.


[User Picture]
From:mary_j_59
Date:March 30th, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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Well - there is an implication at the end of LOTR that the 'enemy' men were treated fairly. Nonetheless, I can certainly see why you were bothered by the evil dark-skinned people. It's unconscious racism, if you like - Tolkien and his family, when living in South Africa, were remarkably free of racism, from what I've read - but he was still a product of his time and culture. I've got to say it bugged me that, in the movies, they didn't have the dark - skinned Gondorians marching in to the city's defense, and also that they left out Ghan Buri Ghan - a nod to the rights (and value) of Native peoples, however clumsily presented. But I still am really bugged by dismissing the Dunlendings!

I totally agree with several of your low points, btw. I, too, was disturbed by Harry thinking Alice might not have died for Neville - why on earth wouldn't she have? She was obviously a brave and capable woman. As for poor Merope, I, too, had a hard time understanding how she had chosen death. In fact, I think she did well (like Oliver Twist's mother) to get herself to shelter and get the kid born. And Harry's reactions after the Sectumsempra scene were also extremely disturbing to me. As I said elsewhere, it was at that point that I lost all respect for the character, just when I was getting an "Aragorn' vibe (however faint) from Snape. Even so, I will not condemen these books for moral shoddiness just yet. I am concerned, but Rowling may yet salvage the series, and it's precisely the Sectumsempra scene that makes me think this. I think we are supposed to notice that Harry and Snape are very alike. Both are very imperfect human beings, but, if they manage to forgive each other and work together, they can save the world. I don't really think that would be such a bad message, especially if the evil acts of the good side continue to have evil consequences (Dumbledore's cruel treatment of young Tom had consequences, in spades), and if Harry truly understands his own failures and weaknesses and truly repents them. It goes without saying that I'd like Severus Snape to come to the same understanding - but, if I am starting to consider him the hidden hero of these books, it is Harry who is the protagonist. That's why the onus is really on Harry to change, learn and grow. He might manage to do it. So far, though, there isn't one person on the 'good side', with the exceptions of Luna, Neville and possibly Hagrid, who hasn't shown weakness or done wrong. And the above three (my favorite characters, other than Snape) have their own problems. But they are good - truly good, in a way that Harry isn't. Just my two cents! Thanks for your very thoughtful responses - it was actually in this book that I came to love Dumbledore for the first time, but I was also disturbed by some of his actions, and his attitude toward Tom Riddle - an eleven year old child - was particularly troubling. You can't help but wonder if Dumbledore himself is reponsible for the whole Voldemort/Death Eater mess - if Tom's continued development could have been turned to the good if Dumbledore had shown him the kind of care and mentoring he pretty clearly gave both Harry and Severus.


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