Harry Potter Re-read: Deathly Hallows

Well, my friends, we have come to the end of the series and the end of our re-read.  Voldemort has been vanquished, though the costs have been high, and we have lost loved ones along the way.

I was fourteen when the first Harry Potter book came out, 24 when Deathly Hallows was released.  While I’ve always been a few years older than Harry and company throughout their adventures, the series featured heavily in my own adolescence and will always have a special place in my heart, along with the Lord of the Rings, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Star Trek.

But onto Deathly Hallows specifically.  There’s a ton of loose ends that need to be tied up, and JK Rowling does her best to get all of them.  We get Dumbledore’s and Snape’s full backstories here.  Pretty much everyone who’s ever been mentioned in a book shows up here and, for the most part, you know whether or not they survived the war.  (Except Cornelius Fudge – I always wondered what happened to him, after Scrimgeour took over…) Even Hermione’s SPEW efforts, which have seen oddly tacked on for the last few books, reap benefits with Kreacher, turning a loathed character into a loved one, so much so that when the Trio is forced to flee Grimmauld Place for good, you worry about Kreacher’s well-being and how disappointed he will be when they don’t return.

I feel like she picked the deaths that would be hardest to read – poor Hedwig and Dobby, who’d been helping Harry forever.  Fred, separating him from his twin forever, and bringing a tone of despair to what should have been a happy event with Percy rejoining his family.  Tonks and Lupin, right after Lupin’s finally found happiness after all his years of being an outcast, right after the birth of their child.  None of the Marauders survive Voldemort’s second coming.

On the other hand, characters that have been picked on or looked down upon by other witches and wizards get their time in the spotlight.  Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the sorting hat and takes out the final horcrux.  Luna is essential in many places, keeping people’s spirits up, and Mrs. Weasley takes out Bellatrix Lestrange single-handedly, reminding everyone that she’s a Prewett as well.  Even Dudley thanks Harry for saving him and offers him good luck.

And while there have been scenes in the other books where I have teared up, this is the only one that makes me bawl.  When Harry’s in the forest, thinking he has to die, and accepting his fate, and he’s talking to his parents and Remus and Sirius…when I first read the book, and thought Harry was actually dying, for good (I had always thought he must), that scene moved me to the point where I had to stop reading because I couldn’t breathe anymore.  It still packs a punch, though, even knowing that everything’s going to be okay in the end, for a given value of “okay.”

At some points, it really seems like Dumbledore’s show, that he had all the answers and had laid everything out the way it must happen, but Harry could have left at any point.  He could have run, he could have left the country, but it never even crosses his mind.

It’s not perfect.  I’m still a bit annoyed how no one ever attempts to integrate Slytherin into the rest of Hogwarts, and how only a handful of Slytherins are shown with any sort of redeeming characteristics at all (Slughorn stays to protect the school for the final battle, Snape is well, Snape, and the Malfoys, despite being stuck-up gits, care more about the safety of their family than the pure-blood agenda).  I’ve always thought it would be in Dumbledore’s best interest to try to have everyone get along a little better.  Every other house is shown to be fairly balanced.  For every Ernie Macmillian there’s a Zacharius Smith, and even Percy, a Gryffindor, is consumed by his own ambition, so I just can’t understand how Slytherin House managed to avoid producing even one upstanding person.

In the end, though, Harry gets the job done and the Wizarding World can return to its own petty squabbles, safe until the next great Dark Wizard comes along.

(Though I wonder…was Dumbledore the Harry Potter of his generation, the only person who could stop Grindelwald?)

(Also, poor Albus Severus, that’s quite the mouthful to put on a tiny kid.  Scorpius doesn’t have it much better.  I hope they were best friends at Hogwarts, bonded over their silly names.)

Questions!

1. While a lot of things are answered by the end of the series, there are things from the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, such as the Veil, that are never explained.  What do these things represent, and would you have liked them to be featured in the story again?

2. The phrase “for the greater good” is used a lot in Deathly Hallows.  What does it mean here, and do you believe it is a legitimate excuse?

3. Dumbledore and Voldemort both wanted to be master of death, though they approached it in completely different ways.  If Voldemort had known about the Hallows, do you think he would have changed his plans?

4. Poor Petunia.  How must it feel to be shut out from a world that your sister belongs to, and how would this have affected her treatment of Harry?

5.  Any other thoughts, about this book or the series at large?  Any moments that really spoke to you personally?

Also, if you have other books or series you’d like us to re-read in the future, let me know.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. It’s been a while since I finished the series, but I’ll take a crack at going through your questions.

    1. I think if everything were explained it might have been a little too tidy for the story to seem real. Honestly, I never really thought about the veil and everything else from the Dpt of Mysteries after that part of the series, all that they represent is a depth to the world.
    2. I don’t remember exactly what it was used in reference to, so I’m going to punt on this question.
    3. I don’t think Dumbledore really wanted to be a master of death, he wasn’t afraid to die. I think Voldemort did know about the Hallows, he at least knew the legend which is why he was seeking the wand so badly.
    4. Her being left out is probably the main reason for her treatment of Harry.
    5. My biggest complaint about this book was the end involving Neville. I thought that Rowling was setting up a final confrontation between Neville and Bellatrix where Neville would avenge his parents. Neville did get his shining moment at the end where he kills the snake, but I really think the best possible ending for that part of the story would have been for Neville to be the one to kill Bellatrix. Rowling really dropped the ball on that part of the story.

    Otherwise, I thought the early and middle sections of this book fell flat as well. Especially when the three main characters are looking for the horcruxes and hiding from Voldemort. That part of the book dragged on way too long and wasn’t really needed. We’ve already seen the characters fight and retain their friendships in earlier books, we didn’t need to see it again.

    I really enjoyed the series and I thought that it did a lot of things very well, but unfortunately the last book in the series was the weakest book for me.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Christopher on 2011/11/21 at 5:04 PM

    1) Not every question in life is answered, so why should every question in a series of books. She answered quite enough for me.

    2) “For the greater good” is a phrase that always worries me; yes, some people mean it in the truest sense of the word– but those people turn out be tyrants and psychopaths more often than people really willing to work for said “greater good.” I always think of that phrase as either an excuse for atrocities– or the words said at the very top of the proverbial “slippery slope.”

    3) I don’t think Dumbledore wanted to be a “master of death” so much as he wanted to preserve life. There’s a difference in outlook there that draws the line between decent, compassionate human being and psychopathic murdering monster.

    4) As soon as I read that part of Deathly Hallows, I stopped loathing Petunia and started merely finding her to be a horrible woman. The difference may seem too fine for some, but to me, it’s a big difference.

    5) Personally, these books taught me a lot about world-building, and that I’m going ot be grateful for forever.

    My only real complaint about the series is, in fact, not about the series at all– it’s about the fandom. The way the fans seem to think that they had a right to the ending they wanted, be it their “ship,” or thinking the epilogue sucked, or wanting Neville to be a bigger hero than he was (Whiskey, Tango, FOXTROT, people, he made it possible to kill Voldy– that’d be hero enough for me!), or wanting Dumbledore being straight, or what-the-hell-ever? That I can deal with. But the way some of them *still haven’t shut their bloody mouths about it?*

    *That’s* on my last damned nerve.

    Reply

  3. Posted by sapphy03 on 2011/11/22 at 1:23 AM

    Harry Potter series is literally a part of me! They’ve changed everything for me!
    I really hated J.K.R for killing off Sirius and Remus!
    I wanted Draco to do something good for Harry or the good side!
    The phrase ‘for the greater good’ is quite queer and its often used to justify cruel things done in international relations.
    I really would like to read about teh Marauders time at Hogwarts!!!

    Reply

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