Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Harry Potter and the HooHaa about Deaths in Book 7

Early on in a recent interview Jo Rowling teased us with this statement:
Jo: The final chapter [of Book 7] is hidden away, although it has now changed very slightly. One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die ...
Judy: Two much loved ones?
Jo: Well, you know. A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil. They don't target the extras do they? They go for the main characters, or I do.

Now everyone is guessing -- who got the reprieve? Which two did she decide to kill? What made her change her mind? And what will happen to Harry?

So people have begun asking me again if I think Harry will die. My answer is always "No." Here's my take on it: Rowling has said numerous times that one of the main themes of the books is Death. But it isn't really Death, it is how the living deal with the death of loved ones and with our own mortality. And the living don't deal with death by dying; we figure out how to come to terms with it and continue on. Put another way, dying is evasion, it is not resolution.

I see Harry as a stand-in for Jo herself, written as she came to terms with her mother's early death: "The Mirror of Erised is absolutely entirely drawn from my own experience of losing a parent. 'Five more minutes, just, please, God, give me five more minutes.' It'll never be enough." (BBC "Harry Potter and Me," 2001) So for me it just doesn't work for Harry to die. He needs to finish his parents' battle, yes; but he won't really cancel out Voldemort's poison by dying with him. He won't truly overcome Voldemort until he is living his life fully. I don't see how Rowling would have found Harry's death emotionally satisfying knowing that she planned the books in the years immediately after losing her mother.

Another point was recently made by James Krasner, Professor of English and British Victorian literature at the University of New Hampshire (link).
“There's no way Harry will die,” he says. “Harry won't die largely because these are comic stories, like Dickens' novels, in which good has to win.”

“Whenever an author's books become very popular in his or her lifetime, as is the case with Rowling, a tug of war starts between the author and the fans about who the characters really belong to. Rowling, like Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), is trying to assert her control. She’s reminding us that Harry is her character, not ours; she can kill him if she wants to. Doyle actually did kill off Sherlock Holmes, but Rowling won’t go that far because she cares about Harry. Conan Doyle was really sick of Holmes,” Krasner says.
I think he makes a great point here. If you read as many interviews of Rowling as I have it really rings true that Rowling is asserting her independence if the face of well meaning fans and blundering interviewers. Well, that and she likes to tease us.

What do you think? This link will take you to a poll on the fansite HPANA.

Harry Potter: Wanted dead or alive
Vote now!

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