Harry Potter 7

HarryPotter: The Prophecy Fulfilled
and Considered

By J. K. Rowling
Reviewed by Kenny Brechner 

    

(Please note: this essay is not written for anyone who has not read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet. If you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet, and are wondering whether you should or not, the answer is yes.)

Authors of epic narratives usually find themselves sharing the burdens which encumber their central characters. The arduousness of quests, the difficulty of fulfilling prophecies, the many perils and pitfalls which await anyone attempting to finish a laborious and exhausting task resonate on the page because their authors are themselves attempting the completion of a draining and perilous exercise.

Over thirteen million people have already read the concluding book in The Harry Potter cycle, and I’m not aware of a single one who has expressed any kind of substantive, deep rooted disappointment in what was the most highly anticipated literary conclusion ever written. Many  substantive minor concerns, and minor disappointments, have been voiced, however considering the scale, and the pressure, under which Rowling was working, one can only start by saying to the author... well done.

The central task faced by J.K. Rowling was the need to make Harry Potter, still a teenager after all, develop sufficiently to fulfill his destiny of defeating Lord Volemort in a convincing manner. The possibility of the final resolution being unconvincing, of depending on cheap magical and melodramatic devices, was very great. One expected that the story would fall short of having Ludo Bagman coming out of retirement to lead a Hogwarts Quidditch team in a match against the Death Eaters with the fate of the world at stake, however one could fall short of that potentiality and still come up well short of a convincing narrative.

Rowling worked towards this goal steadily, throughout the series. The books grew in terms of depth and sophistication, matching the development of the characters who aged a year with each book. Equally important, the central plot structure of the books had been outlined from the beginning, and Rowling was able to lay the groundwork for the ultimate culmination of her story with a steady and convincing pace and thoroughness.

In the final scenes we clearly feel that Harry has grown into his role, and that Voldemort has shrunk. When Harry tells Voldemort “I know things you don’t know, Tom Riddle. I know lots of important things that you don’t.” He speaks with both substance and conviction. Voldemort continually reminds Harry of his age, calling him “childish” and “little boy,” yet it is Harry who controls the exposition and the dialogue. Harry has stepped beyond his fears, Voldemort is controlled by his.

The final line of book seven, before the epilogue at any rate, is Harry’s. “I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime.” Yet we feel that it is as much Rowling speaking here as Harry. She too has carried a great burden of carrying a task though to completion amidst tremendous scrutiny and pressure. And if we find Harry, in the epilogue, enjoying a relatively obscure adult existence, centered around a happy family life, it is no surprise that Rowling would feel that such a life is just the thing for Harry after his protracted ordeal. Harry’s story is done, and Rowling has made it very clear that she is done telling it.

In terms of minor disappointments expressed regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we’ll touch on three. Many have expressed dissatisfaction with Harry’s retirement from the world stage, and have trouble picturing him going off to work at the ministry every day as an Auror. It is felt that Hogwarts is his true home, and that the true completion of his destiny lies in being Headmaster there. It’s a funny thing about Hogwarts though, none of the faculty are married, indeed they are all strictly unattached and not looking, Hagrid’s wooing of Madame Maxime, being the only exception. The Ministry, on the other hand, is filled with married individuals. I can’t say why, but in Rowling’s world, Harry’s marriage to Ginny, and Ron’s to Hermione, seem to dictate that their days at Hogwarts are over.

The two other common complaints registered concerning Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is that Rowling, so diligent in sticking to her outline generally, couldn’t bring herself to kill off Ron, as originally planned, and ended up fudging things by killing Fred instead. This is pure speculation, but I certainly think it’s true. Dobby’s death has great pathos, it resonates. Fred’s does not, it feels like a jarring afterthought.

Finally, it has been widely remarked that the battle of Hogwarts reads a bit more like a comic book battle, rather than a masterly conflict such as Tolkien’s Battle of the Pelennor. There is certainly some truth here. Rowling seems to reach for some of Tolkien’s dramatic depth at the end. Harry’s role after the battle, that his people “wanted him there with them, their leader and symbol, ... he had not slept...he must speak to the bereaved, clasp their hands,” is very reminiscent of Aragorn’s after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Dumbledore’s remark to Harry that “those who are best suited to power are those who 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 wear it well,” resonates strongly with Sam Gamgee’s reflection that “that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the one’s that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have just been landed in them, usually - their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect that they had lots of chances, like us, to turn back, only they didn’t.”

Indeed, the epic story of Harry Potter is a story that matters, a story that stays in the mind. Rowling reaches the depth achieved by great epic fiction, not in battles scenes, true, but in character development. What story has had characters to whom more people have been deeply attached? And there are so many successes in that regard: Dumbledore’s past, Snape’s true nature, and Ron and Hermione’s relationship, to name a few. In the end, so many important story elements are dealt with so satisfactorily, that everyone who made the journey through these books can feel that highest of praise toward them, that the reader has taken from the Harry Potter epic as much as she has put in.