GLBTHP

Something that I find interesting about the Harry Potter books is that gender seems to be a very insignificant issue.  It doesn’t really seem to matter much if you are a girl or a boy–there are strong characters on both sides.  Sexism does not seem apparent in any facet of the book–Hermione is the most intelligent, she is brave and accomplishes things.  McGonagall is respected and considered to be one of the best teachers at Hogwarts and eventually becomes Headmistress.  Even the evil characters are pretty even, we have Voldemort who is the ultimate evil, but the two characters that I hate the most are both female–Umbridge and Rita Skeeter.

GLBT issues are very similar in this way.  Homosexuality is not intentionally present not because it is necessarily bad but because it is simply not part of the story.  When homosexuality is such a large issue in our world today, it seems weird to think that it is a complete nonissue in these books.  Outside of the books, however, Harry Potter has a lot of GLBT related venues that we can explore.  There is, of course, slash fiction which depict mainly same sex relationships between Harry Potter characters.  These range from loving relationships to hard core pornography, but it all falls within the GLBT context.  I think it’s important for fans that are concerned with GLBT issues to be able to play around with characters they know and like within that framing.

Another important GLBTHP topic is that of Dumbledore.  JK Rowling claimed after the books were written that Dumbledore was gay.  She said it was never mentioned in the book because it never proved to be important.  She also maintains that a perceptive adult reader could pick up on that.  I honestly didn’t (and I think I would).  I’ve always thought of Dumbledore as having no sexuality.  I feel as though it was a nice thing of her to do, almost, to say well, yeah one of the most influential and powerful characters of my successful and popular book series is gay.  She is trying to mainstream homosexuality by not making a big deal out of it (which is a method that I advocate).  What I don’t think she realizes is that she didn’t really write Dumbledore gay, but she certainly wrote Sirius and Remus gay.  It is a common observation of the series that Black and Lupin were probably lovers.  Lupin’s somewhat forced and seemingly platonic marriage to Tonks after Sirius’ death did nothing to dispell that feeling.
It’s weird how sometimes unintentional traits crop up as you create characters in a story.

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hate is a rather strong word, don’t you think?

I really think that people who hate Harry Potter hate it to be “cool.”  It’s trendy to hate Harry Potter–it’s for nerds, or people with no lives.  It’s a children’s book, for pete’s sakes!  But time and time again I find that most people who hate Harry Potter are people who haven’t bothered to read them.  I mean, I know people who don’t love Harry Potter, they read the books and liked them but don’t understand what the big fuss is about.  Or they didn’t particularly care for them.  But the people who go out of their way to HATE Harry Potter, on the whole, just haven’t read the books.  I too have a strong inclination to hate things that become popular culture sensations (like Twilight [though I have read all of those books, probably before most of the kids who like those books ever did]), so I understand the urge to spurn things that the general public seems to enjoy.  But I feel like you cannot say you hate them if you haven’t read them.  That just doesn’t make sense.

Now, there is the religious right type of hating that condemns the book for teaching witchcraft and sorcery.  To me, these people seem to be trying too hard.  I understand that witchcraft is something they find threatening, but there are plenty of other books that fall under this same criteria.  Sometimes I feel like they are vying for attention instead of detracting attention away from Harry Potter.

In other words, it’s a book, people.  Spend your energy doing something worthwhile.  Recycle more, or something.

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Harry Potter and the merchandise revenue.

One of the things that I have always said about Harry Potter is that I don’t think that there is any other book series that comes close to having the merchandise and commodities that it does (though, in recent times I think Twilight is giving Harry a run for his money.  grrrrrr).  You can essentially get Harry Potter anything–hats, gloves, candy, watches, flags, posters, replicas, tattoos, anything.  I, myself, have things like a wand with a “dragonskin” sheath, a scarf, a watch, a poster, the movies, the games, a trivia board game, and many others.  People who don’t like Harry Potter (likely those who haven’t read the books) think it’s obsessive, nerdy, stupid or ridiculous.  But I don’t feel like JK Rowling is trying to think up new ways of making money–I think there is a demand for all of this Harry Potter merchandise.

Fans of Harry Potter want to immerse themselves in it, show their Harry Potter Pride, and to further expand their involvement in the Wizarding World.  I remember in my high school how it was really badass to have a slytherin jacket (oooo you like the bad guys, you’re so edgy!) I like to be able to wear my gryffindor shirt and have people recognize it, to play a video game that further expands the Wizarding World.  I like to be able to still involve myself with the characters and the dynamics of the books once the books are done or reached the boundaries of the plot.

Something about the dynamics of houses within Hogwarts is something else that lends towards merchandise–people are proud of the houses that they “belong” to.  They want house scarves, hats, wall hangings, jackets, anything that shows “I’m a Ravenclaw and smart” or “I’m a Gryffindore and brave.”  People like identifying with things like that–it’s almost like rooting for a sports team.
Basically, I think Harry Potter as a commodity is pretty cool.  If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

From pages to screens.

I remember when I read an article where JK Rowling was like, “OMG, they are going to make a movie out of my book!!”  I was really excited about it.  Wondering how they were going to pull off quidditch, I went to the movie theater when the first movie came out.  I was much younger at the time, and so the movie was just astounding.  It was incredible to see these things that had only previously existed in my imagination (via a book) up on a screen in front of me.  In hindsight, there are plenty of things about the Harry Potter movies that I would prefer to change.

I think that my biggest pet peeve about these movies is how much they cut out.  The first movie was pretty true to the book, but with each upcoming movie, they get farther and farther away.  I understand much of that is because the books get longer and longer and it is harder to keep all of the information in there.  But once we get up to the fifth movie, it acts more like a montage of events–I can’t imagine understanding what was going on if you hadn’t read the book.  Don’t get me wrong, the effects are awesome.  It is still really cool to watch dragons fighting and basilisks slithering–it’s even cool to watch the cast get older (though, it at times disproportionate).  I would even argue that their acting skills improved with each movie.  The movies just irk me sometime.

I really think it’s the age old conflict of Movie Vs. Book, in which (in my opinion) Book wins almost every single time.  So for a book series that I grew so attached to, that I loved and built a world in my head for, I probably had impossible expectations for the movies.  Keeping that in mind, I can enjoy the movies pretty well.  I still think they are fun to watch and sometimes have marathons with my siblings.  I just think that the media of film is hard to translate from a book–they are too many things that cannot be included and too many things that leave less room for imagination.

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright–they just seem a little weird.

In a book that is considered “children’s literature” the role that adults play within the story can be a crucial one.  It can paint adults as either good or bad, helpful or hindering, important or superfluous–it can even demonstrate what children can expect as they grow older.  The Harry Potter series, especially in the beginning, is thought to be young adult literature (though adults can most certainly enjoy it, too).  So what do the roles of the adults in Harry’s role say?

Looking at the series as a whole, there are a few things to be gleaned.  In lots of ways, it seems that the children are more “adult” than the adults are.  They are constantly saving the wizarding world, fixing mistakes or figuring things out that the adults just couldn’t manage to figure out.  The dynamic of the kids actually knowing what’s going on and the adults refusing to see is a constant theme throughout these books.  While the personalities of the young protagonists are accented with sacrifice, responsibility, loyalty, and bravery, adults seem to be petty, short-sighted, unhelpful, and lacking perception.  I think that this dynamic one is a common one for books that are reaching out toward younger readers.  Kids often feel like they know and understand things that they’re parents just don’t.  Or that their parents hinder their autonomy during crucial times–times when they know that they can accomplish a task or fix a problem, but their parents say that they can’t because they are “too young.”  It’s redeeming for kids to read about other kids who excel and succeed despite that.

On the other hand, adults do serve as protectors, as guidance, and as resources throughout the book.  Probably the most important role played by an adult is Albus Dumbledore.  Arguably, he fulfills the “wise old man” role in the plot, but I think that he represents much, much more.  Harry has a lot of people that he could look up to as a “father figure”–Sirius Black, Arthur Weasley, Remus Lupin–but I think that as far as adults who have affected and altered Harry’s life, the most influential, it would be Albus Dumbledore.  Dumbledore was a figure constantly in the background of Harry’s life (even after he died), he offered Harry advice and guided him in a way that was subtle, he always had Harry’s best interest at heart, even if Harry didn’t always think so.  Dumbledore was a constant example to Harry of what was good and a reminder to do the right thing.  Just as Voldemort served as a reminder of all evil within a person, Dumbledore was a manifestation of things that were good.

In a lot of ways, the adults really were just reflections of the kids.  At first glance you would say, well adults show weakness in the book, all of the death eaters who came running back to the Dark Lord and wormtail, etc. etc.  But there are just as many examples in the kids, too (Crabbe and Goyle, for instance).  I think this really demonstrates how there isn’t really much difference between an adult and a grown-up when you get right down to it.  You aren’t given infinite wisdom as you grow older (except for maybe Dumbledore), you do not automatically become a better person, you are not necessarily more capable than you are as a kid–it really shows kids that just because they aren’t grown up, doesn’t mean they can’t do great things.  I think that’s important.

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Final Project

Our final project was Harry Potter propaganda. We made a variety of examples, unfortunately two were unpostable. Aaaaand I’m unsure as to how I could post the other two, so for now here is our paper until I figure out more of what to do.

Mary Sirianni and Amber Bittiger
ENGL 430
Final project
April 29, 2009

Harry Potter Propaganda Creative Project

Propaganda can be defined as information, ideas, or rumors that are deliberately and widely spread to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. Interestingly, public relations are described in much the same fashion except in terms of advertising. The wide variety of propaganda that exists about the expansive list of topics it is about, allows for lots of room to apply it to the world of Harry Potter. Using pre-existing mediums and techniques, this project applies different worldviews and opinions prevalent in the Harry Potter books to create Harry Potter propaganda. Our methodology including answering a set of questions we had compiled for this project. These questions included “Who is the target audience?’ and “Who does the propaganda villainize or marginalize?” We located well-known examples of propaganda, both historical and contemporary, and distilled their primary techniques. Then, using these techniques, we created propaganda about issues that are somewhat parallel in the wizarding world.
The World War II posters appeal to an American audience and ask them to support the war efforts against the Axis powers. The basic assumption is that viewers would see the war efforts as necessary and valid causes. This public would value patriotism and duty to one’s country, believe that the Allied Forces fought for the side of right. The audience’s attitudes would also be changing to accommodate rationing and supply drives for materials needed for the war efforts. They would be under the impression that their small efforts at home would directly impact the war efforts either positively or negatively. These efforts would have included carpooling and not writing letters or talking about where their loved ones were stationed overseas. The government is in the dominant role here, with the American people as the receivers of the messages.
The succinct wording and rhyme make the “loose lips sink ships” a memorable phrase to keep in mind whenever one hears or thinks about saying something that could aid the enemy if heard through a phone conversation or a letter. This poster would be distributed by the Ministry of Magic to the general wizarding public at around book 5. The Ministry would assume that wizards had heard rumors of Voldemort’s Return following the Triwizard Tournament in book 4. Death Eater’s in the ministry would have valued their power and ensure that they keep it at all costs. Creating posters like this one would show them to be compassionate and looking out for the public good while also allowing them to retain their power by making people not only fear the enemy, but also fearing each other.
“Loose Lips” in this case means that any anti-ministry or anti-Voldemort activity should be reported to the Ministry so it can keep an eye on any dissenters who may attempt to create a counter-reaction organization, just like the student group “Dumbledore’s Army” at Hogwarts. Adding a punishment like dementors would be as terrifying to a wizard as an Axis victory would have been to an American from the 1940s. In each case, the posters equate written or suspicious talk as dangerous and directly aiding the enemy. The audiences of both are given a great feeling of responsibility and the ability to benefit the war or safety of the wizarding world, when in reality, they are just doing exactly what the creators of these posters would do.
The next example of propaganda we looked at was PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) propaganda. PETA uses a lot of celebrities to advocate for animal rights, sometimes through extreme means, like having them pose nude. Their print ads feature short rhymes or plays on words. These posters assume that viewers will be swayed by cute or pathetic-looking animals, or an attractive naked celebrity body. PETA values and animal rights and dignity above all. They often support these beliefs in an undignified manner and are somewhat of a joke among the general populace. Members of PETA believe that abusers should be punished severely and that everyone should adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. They also view it appropriate to pursue any means necessary to accomplish these goals. Their primary methods are to get attention with extreme pictures, sad animals, or celebrity shock value, and then give a brief suggestion for the way that people should change in order to treat animals better.
The poster for S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) employs similar characteristics. Like PETA, S.P.E.W. is fighting for the rights of a group of organisms which can otherwise not fight for itself (or in the house elves case, won’t fight for itself). Hermione values the independence of house elves and believes they should be free. She establishes S.P.E.W to free and assist them. Hermione would have hand/magically-drawn this poster, so it lacks the professional quality and starpower of a PETA advertisement. It does, however, have a rhyming slogan that could be chanted or thrown at the Great Hall. There is no nudity in this poster, even though most house elves do not wear conventional clothing; this is Winky, who wears a dress as a Hogwarts employee. Though she receives a wage, Hermione still believes that this is a form of slavery.
The rest of the poster, after it hopefully entices the audience’s sympathy with a sad picture and a memorable yet accusatory slogan, Hermione offers a helpful alternative. The fact that S.P.E.W. is mostly a one-girl show is evidenced at the bottom of the page with Hermione holding all of the group’s offices and positions. While this poster may not be an effective recruitment tool, neither is most of PETA’s attempts. The failure of the recruitment to these two different organizations can probably be attributed to completely different things.
The amended Hogwarts crest poster is the next example. Its models are religious radicals like the Westboro Baptist Church who target a group or groups and blame them for social issues and pitfalls that are completely unrelated. Specifically, the Westboro Baptist Church often have picket demonstrations where they display their political, social and religious views on signs. Their signs are often vulgar, crude, and offensive. Their reasoning is often faulty and illogical. They go for shock value and controversial issues and language. “God hates fags!” is one of their more infamous slogans—in fact, their website is godhatesfags.com. Another method of theirs is to alter or deface an already existing image in order to twist or change the message that the image was originally trying to send. The Westboro Baptist Church uses a picture of Matthew Shepard that was used in the news after he was beaten to death in a homophobic hate crime and plaster it across posters with the words “Shepard at home in hell” across it. This bastardization of images is a common method for shock value. Almost every message from the Westboro Baptist Church is one of hate and blind, unfounded intolerance. They seemed to serve as a good model for Pureblood Supremacists from the Harry Potter series.
The amended Hogwarts crest uses similar tactics to the Westboro Baptist church—it targets a group and holds it responsible for an unrelated social issue for illogical and unsupportable reasons. Sometimes the social issue that the poster is claiming may not even exist, like in this case. This poster takes a well-known image and alters it in order to change what it represents. Some of the visible alterations on this poster include the change of the school slogan. Probably the most blatant of insinuation, the school slogan now reads “Hogwarts School of Mudbloods and Muggleborns.” Now the audience is sure what this poster is implying about who is causing any problems or distastefulness. The animals on the crest have been replaced or amended—the Slytherins now get a worm, the Hufflepuffs a rat, and Ravenclaw a pigeon. All of these animals are similar to their true animals, but are considered lowly, more foul versions of themselves. Instead of Gryffindor receiving an entirely new animal, they retain their lion but it is scrawny and malnourished. It is assumed that the Gryffindors would consider a fallen version of their proud symbol more insulting than just changing their symbol entirely. The crest itself is colored with darker, dirtier shades of the ordinarily bright and eye-catching colors it is usually graced with. The final touch is the slogan at the bottom causing the whole poster to read: “Hogwarts School of Mudbloods and Muggleborns; Weakness of the Wizard World!” The insinuation here is that Hogwarts is full of wizards who are not considered to be of “pure blood.” Their presence in this school is causing “weakness” within the wizarding world. Much like the Westboro Baptist Church, this sign is insulting, extreme, and illogical. It would probably be posted somewhere around Hogwarts by a precocious pureblood supremacist student whose target audience were other people close to the school. I imagine that this recruitment and propaganda tactic is about as unsuccessful as the Westboro Baptist Church’s.
The final example is inspired by the many pamphlets put out by white supremacists throughout the country. These types of organizations use pamphlets, brochures, flyers and other paper literature to spread their message about white elitism. They try to disguise the illegitimacy of their arguments behind business-like language and graphics. They use all of the same marketing strategies a small business would except they are applied to their radical worldviews. It is also used to portray their organization as “the good guy” or people who are only trying to “educate the misinformed.”
The Death Eaters, Inc. pamphlet follows the model of these examples. It uses a business approach to spreading their ideals of Pureblood Supremacy. Hidden behind bullet points, questionnaires, and graphics, the shady nature of the services they offer and the ideals behind them are hidden. However, the language is open about their views and what they believe should be done about them. The target audience are the many pureblood families in the wizarding world. This pamphlet is hoping to enlighten them about the mudblood threat and what they can do about it.
Propaganda is a useful way to make a group and its beliefs known. It can be used to “inform,” recruit, intimidate, or offer services and alternatives. All sides of any argument, all groups and organizations, no matter how unprofessional they may be, use propaganda to try and win other people to their side. Some propaganda is more effective than others, but propaganda can be used in any context. As proven here, the world of Harry Potter has potential to be full of propaganda—pamphlets, posters, picket signs, articles, advertisements, the whole bit. It is hard to argue that a world as full and multi-dimensional as Rowling’s wizarding world could escape without having propaganda be a driving force.

Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Harry Potter Conglomerate

The end of the Harry Potter series was a rough time for me.  Here is a blog I wrote after I finished the end of the 7th book:

So ends an era that I have grown up with and grown accustomed to.

The Harry Potter books have given me comfort since the age of ten when I felt that I too had a family akin to the Dursley’s or otherwise needed to escape from my nonmagical life to something greater.

I have felt a love and connection to these characters that is unparalleled to any book or series that I’ve read (which are many in number), partially because I feel as if we grew up together and partially because I wanted so badly for it all to be real–for me to be a part of it. To take all the devastations along with the triumphs that Harry, Ron and Hermione, and later Ginny, Neville, and Luna (and ALL the others) had endured throughout these pages.

The fact that the series is over and that there are no more mysteries to unravel has created a terrible hole in the place in my heart that I reserve for literature (which is a surprisingly big part. For an anatomy of my heart you could either ask me for a diagram or dissect me.)

Either way, this is a loss that I both despise and cherish. A wound that I’ll worry at and never let heal. As much as I loved each of the characters in their own way (yes, I was faithful to Snape ’til the end and I even pitied Malfoy and his weak nature), I knew that no story worth anthing doesn’t end. The closure and the resolution is a necessary evil that all readers are forced to endure.

I cannot describe through language the kind of feeling these books gave me (even in my mind, they were separate from all other books entirely. They were never “books” they were “Harry Potter books.” There is a barrier in my mind that separated them from all others), but I don’t think it matters. What do you guys really care what it means to me? I dunno.

Harry–Ron–Hermione–Ginny–Hagrid–Dumbledore–Neville–Luna–Tonks–Lupin–Mad-Eye–Fred–George–Sirius–Charlie–Bill–Arthur–Molly–Snape–Kingsley–McGonagall–Flitwick–Hedwig–Pig–Crookshanks–James–Lily–Victor–Fleur–Cedrick–Cho–Oliver–Peeves–Malfoy…. so, so many others

I love you all.

(Umbridge and Rita Skeeter… I hate you both).
And to those who died–I won’t say who for fear of ruining another’s experience– May you rest in peace and take comfort in the fact that people like me along with the characters who survived you–will continue to remember you as you should be.

(I’m going to cry myself to sleep.)

I won’t deny that all of that is a bit melodramatic, but I was feeling rather emotionally overwhelmed when I realized the series was over.  At the time, I really like the 7th book a lot.  In hindsight, however, there were MANY things that I think she should’ve changed.  But I do not spurn the 7th book like some do, and I realize that there was really no way that she was going to please anyone with the ending of the story, no matter what she did.

However, I feel like the 7th book really was the weakest book.  Boring parts like the “camping trip” that Harry ends up on are long and drawn out.  It seems as if she had no idea how to frame her time when the characters weren’t taking classes at Hogwarts.  I feel like the characters she killed off were somewhat arbitrary.  It seemed like she killed them off for ease of plot, sometimes instead of for plot progression.  Like, “Harry can’t be carrying Hedwig around with him all over creation… I guess I’ll just kill her off.”  The writing of the book seems more disjointed and less fluid.  I suspect this is because she wrote a lot of the last book before she wrote the rest of the series, and so a lot of the last book just seemed so out of place.

And there was a lot of character development disappointment.  All there is to Snape is jealous, unrequited love?  He isn’t more complex than that?  He can’t let go of a petty high school crush?  I liked him much more when he was mysterious, jaded, and out for revenge for reasons unknown.  And Draco just turned out to be the cowardly wretch we hoped he wouldn’t be.  He had potentional to demonstrate further the conflict of good vs. evil, but instead he just ran around trying to save his own skin.    …….Tonks and Lupin? Really?

The previous 6 books were strong–they had clever character development that all seemed to lead to something larger and complex.  They had well-paced plotlines and intertwined forshadowing with story telling to allow for an incredible read.  It is insanely difficult to live up to all of that in a final book–you have to tie up the loose ends that you had only been taunting us with before, and if they are not as EPIC as expected, we are let down.  Under the circumstances, I think that Rowling could have done better with the 7th book, but she could have done worse.  I will not begrudge her the last book and I think she makes some interesting points with it.

 

I guess I just wish the series could’ve gone on forever.

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Parodies

This is one of my all-time favorite parodies of Harry Potter.

 

 

Parodies are awesome.  I don’t think that they are always meant to belittle the subject it is parodying in a completely negative way.  For one thing, you have to be completely familiar with something to pull off a good spoof.  Which means you have taken the time to make yourself become familiar.  Spoofs tend to point out the flaws that EVERYONE sees in a book, making light of the fact that, oh, Harry is being moody again.  And OMG Ron, STFU!  But primarily I think it is another way for fans to explore their favorite world and characters.  It keeps them interested, and being able to laugh at something you love implies a more down-to-earth appreciation of a book or series than being on a literary high-horse, insisting that something is perfect when nothing ever is.

 

Other good Harry Potter parodies:

-Potter Puppet Pals

-Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody

-Wizard People, Dear Readers

-Henry Potter and the Pet Rock

-Harry Potter Bad Roommate

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Research Project Musings.

Wizard Supremacy. This isn’t something that I found blatantly obvious while reading the books–and I am not accusing the wizarding world of malice. It’s just that throughout these books, wizards position themselves (both intentionally and unintentionally) in a seat of superiority. Whether it is unadulterated racism like Umbridge who calls the centaurs “beings of near-human intelligence,” True-blood elitists like the Malfoys, the slightly archaic wording of wizard law, or simply the act of trying so hard to make sure that the muggles don’t find out “for their own good” or because they “wouldn’t understand.” In general, the wizards are always trying to protect muggles and other species as if they are morally bound. But the idea that all of these other beings require their protecting because wizards have abilities that they don’t is a basic assumption that wizards are above and beyond all others. Even Hermione and her S.P.E.W. campaign where she felt obligated to free the house elves who “didn’t know any better” couldn’t understand that perhaps they do know what they want for themselves. When they were content to work at Hogwarts, she was nonplussed–and demonstrated that her good intentions were influenced by ideas of wizard supremacy.

I don’t want to paint the Harry Potter books as an allegory for racism or the holocaust–that’s not what I mean. I just think that, much like the prejudice of reality, the characters in these books are brought up thinking that wizards are superior to other people and so their actions are unconsciously influenced by this assumption.

I’m not sure that there is enough research to delve into this for my topic. But I think it would be interesting to see what sorts of clues there are in the book that point to this observation. I thought that for a creative part of the project, I would make propaganda posters of the wizarding world–spoofs on propaganda posters of war-time and other things. We’ll see how it pans out.

Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why so Sirius?

The third book is the one that seems to be on everybody’s favorites list.  It is also the book that seems to be the “turning point” of the series in more ways than one.  Prisoner of Azkaban makes the Harry Potter series transition out of traditional “children’s literature.”  The complexity of the plot sky rockets since Rowling is done with a large percentage of introducing the readers to the wizarding world.  There aren’t many fairy-tale-like qualities in this book–the ending does not tie up into neat knots, the ending is not particularly happy, Harry doesn’t end up saving everyone from everything–the bad guy gets away. Granted, Voldemort escaped from the first book, but there was a sense of Harry defeating him, wasn’t there?  But this time, Peter slips right out of his grasp, quite literally, and escapes.  It’s the first real dreary ending to a Harry Potter book.  There’s a keener sense of realism in that the good guys don’t always get their way all the time.

Another unique quality to the book is the fact that it doesn’t have a “true” bad guy.  For most of the book, Sirius Black is painted as some dark, cold-blooded killer; an obvious psychopath.  But in the end, he turns out to be a tragic hero (akin to Harry’s caliber), exiled and blamed for a betrayal and murder that he seeks to avenge.  Snape is always hanging around and being irksome to Harry and the gang and while he is more agitating than usual (I say that with love.  Snape is one of my favorite characters), he hardly qualifies as a bad guy.  Voldemort is nowhere to be found, either alive, a shadow, a memory or latched onto someone’s head.  And Peter, who is supposed to be the “villain” in this book, is barely recognized as such until the very end.  And even then, he is not so much evil as cowardly and worthless.  Arguably, there isn’t a bad guy in this book, which I think makes it a little more adult.  Here, Harry doesn’t have a person to really battle–what he is battling are lies, accusations, misconceptions, sad but irrevocable truths… In real life, more than likely these are the things that you have to deal with as an adult, and not some person who is evil incarnate.  This book is a perfect example that sometimes our worst opponents are invisible and that the people who may be considered good and on your side (like the misguided ministry trying to do in Sirius) may be wrong and even harmful.

There is also the conundrum of Sirius himself.  Once it is revealed that he is an innocent, and rather good, man, he becomes Harry’s symbol for hope.  Harry is investing so much hope in what I see as one of the most hopeless characters.  Or at least, one of the characters with the least reason for having hope.  And now here Harry is again, being jerked around.  Towards the end of the book, when they have Peter captured, Harry is given just enough time to envision living with Sirius and leaving the Dursley’s forever; to envision having something like a real family–before it is all snatched away from him when Peter escapes.

Also, I like Hippogriffs.

(And Hermione throwing punches at Draco.)

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm  Comments (3)  
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