Friday, December 27, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Deathly Hallows, Chapters 33-36

On Christmas Eve, I finished reading the final four chapters of Deathly Hallows: Chapter 33 ("The Prince's Tale"), Chapter 34 ("The Forest Again"), Chapter 35 ("King's Cross"), and Chapter 36 ("The Flaw in the Plan"). I have only the epilogue left!  (Spoilers ahead, as always.)

Chapter 33 is very emotional from the start, first because we hear Voldemort taunting Harry about the fact that he has "allowed" his friends to die on his behalf just moments before Harry glimpses the bodies of Lupin and Tonks in the Great Hall. Because their deaths are revealed so casually, without comment, they are possibly the hardest to endure. The chapter continues on an emotional rollercoaster as it reveals Snape's friendship with and lifelong love for Harry's mother, along with so much more backstory. On this reading, I was especially struck by Lily's relationship with her sister, Harry's aunt Petunia, and by Snape's point of view on Harry's life at Hogwarts. This was all handled beautifully and I came away feeling that I would have happily read an entire novel about Snape and Lily.

This chapter also establishes the fact that Dumbledore allowed Snape to kill him because he was dying anyway. This is one of the plot points that causes Catholic readers to question whether the series is appropriate for their kids because it is essentially a mercy killing. Coupled with the meditations on death in the "King's Cross" chapter of this book, however, I don't know that Rowling is advocating for euthanasia. I think it's pretty clear that Dumbledore has regrets, even in the "great Room of Requirement" of the afterlife, and chief among them seems to be that he did, at times, seek to gain power over death. Harry, on the other hand, never thinks to try to get out of the suffering of dying at Voldemort's hand to save the people he loves, and as Harry is the hero of the story, I'm more inclined to think readers are meant to embrace his worldview. The fact that Dumbledore didn't necessarily handle his death well suits his character perfectly, and ultimately I think it opens up the subject for discussion without endorsing his choices.

I read the ending of this book so quickly my first time through that I'm not sure I really felt everything that happens, but this time, I was definitely moved by the moments during which characters like McGonagall thought Harry was dead, and moments when, after Voldemort's defeat, the previous headmasters in the portraits give Harry a standing ovation. I also really love that Luna is the one who recognizes Harry's need for space and uses her offbeat way of relating to other people to give it to him.

All that remains of this book is the epilogue, which I have re-read over the years and which I don't love. In the interest of reading every word, however, I'll read it and post about it before the end of the month to bring the year of Harry Potter to a close.

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