Monday, May 11, 2009

The Deathly Hallows

With a bittersweet feeling, I closed the final chapter in the Harry Potter series today. I loved this series. The seventh book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows may not have been my favorite of the series, but it captivated me for more than 700 pages. (If, like me, you are years behind in reading this, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS in this review/reflection, so read no further.)

As in all the previous books, I think Rowling's most gripping chapters are the final few: Snape's last memories, when Harry accepts and walks into the forest to face his death, and meeting Dumbledore in Kings Cross. These few chapters were even more powerful than the final duel with Voldemort, because of what they reveal about characters you thought you knew so much about.

First, as I'd hoped all along, Snape ends up being on Harry's side from the beginning, until he meets his bitter end. And not necessarily for Harry himself, or the good of the cause even, but because he had loved Harry's mother since they were children. Snape never recieved this love back from Lilly Potter, but it didn't matter, it lasted long after her death. And although he made a horrible mistake, he spent the rest of his life making up for it the only way he could.

Second, you find out that Dumbledore has flaws, like anyone else. His flaw was his ability to deal with power. But his strength is the wise understanding the he's shown through the entire series. He realized and finally accepted that although he sought power, he was incapable of handling it.

"I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they where it well."

Although the magical properties of wands was a little overkill and confused me a bit, I think overall Rowling had a pretty simplistic ending to this epic tale. As Dumbledore explains, Voldemort always had a disadvantage to Harry because his knowledge was incomplete. "That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty and innocence Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped."

And in the end, the true master of the deathly hallows is revealed to be Harry. "You are the true master of death, because the true master of death does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying."

Thanks to Dumbledore's well-laid plan, and everyone in Harry's life, Harry grew to become the young man who did not seek those things (the stone, the wand, the cloak) for his own personal gain. In the end, his only thoughts were of the greater good, of those who had died before him and for him. His understanding of love that lasts through death allowed him to even offer forgiveness to Voldemort after all his terrible deeds. In the end, Harry doesn't even really kill Voldemort - it's Voldemort's own curse that backfires on him as it did years before. Rowling certainly leaves us with a few lingering questions, but I think that is only fitting for such a tale.

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