Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Early last week, during a television interview, J.K. Rowling appeared to joke that the final novel was a “bloodbath.” Turns out, she wasn’t really kidding. To say that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows begins with a bang is an understatement. There’s death in chapter one and four deaths by chapter eight. One understands quickly that no character is safe from Rowling’s thrashing pen-knife. She’s brutal. One asks, "Is this really a children’s book?"
However, the trademark Rowling devices are present; the little understated moments tug at our heartstrings: Dudley tells his cousin goodbye, Harry leaves the Dursley’s as he came – with Hagrid on Sirius’s motorbike-, and the final battle occurs at Hogwarts where all the characters do what they do. We see Trelawney assault with crystal balls. Neville and Professor Sprout send in the attack plants. McGonagall transfigures an army of desks to lead the charge. Grawp fights giants as Hagrid rescues spiders. Luna spreads happiness to assist her three friends past the dememtors. The woman understands, lives with and breathes alongside her characters.
Rowling's themes are there: love can conquer all and kindness and friendship matter. However, we also see more blatant political statements: news-media and the government are corrupt and not to be trusted. She throws a take-that jab at her religious critics simply by having Harry say, “Thank God.” Traditional Christian resurrection themes dominate the book with Harry as Christ-like as ANY fantasy character, rising from the dead to save them all. The Christian references are way too many to mention in a short review, but we are led to understand death as the next step, the next great adventure and that humans are flawed creatures, so multidimensional one can never predict their actions. We can be bad guys and good guys at the same time, the lines are not easily drawn. It seems Rowling hasn’t missed a beat.
As the past mentions, side stories and unanswered questions are tied up in a neat little bow, Rowling's Austenesque use of the will they or won’t they technique is at peak. We think Ron will finally get that kiss... then Hermione punches him! When it comes – well, who could have timed it better? That sort of humor is significant in this one, perhaps because we all know the inside jokes, easily causing fans to laugh aloud. However, Rowling turns the humor table with more adult-like jokes and phrases. There’s even a hint of rape in Dumbledore’s back-story. Again, is this children’s story?
That old trick, the overheard conversation, crops up again and again, but Rowling also relies heavily on traditional children’s literature devices. There’s the tale of the Hallows, so similar to a Grimm’s tale: scary and moralizing. Who can miss her Knights Templar/Grail quest analogies? Did she write with Biblical quotations at her side? Rowling knows classical literature and borrows from it with ease.
And that masterful characterization Rowling so perfectly executes? She uses it at no greater time in all seven books than when we FINALLY get Severus Snape’s sad tale. We know Snape, know he would never beg to see Harry Potter. Heck, he’d never beg - period. Readers instantly know there’s more to the final Snape scene than what’s being stated. Then Harry gets that pain in his scar, the pain right before Voldemort kills, and we know Snape’s a goner. The entire story of Snape is so poignant, so desperate, one has to get up and walk away. While Harry may end up the hero that vanquishes the Dark Lord, Snape is the sacrificial lamb, the unspoken behind the scenes hero that made it all possible.
I could point out some minor flaws, times when my suspension of disbelief popped for a second, but what’s the use? The tale is 4, 224 pages. It’s been ten years since we met them. Say what you will about writing’s superstar, but place her in a fellowship alongside Tolkien; throw her in the wardrobe with C.S. Lewis. Rowling will live on past the populace mass hysteria. Her aptitude, which should be studied by the most scholarly of writing instructors, lies in her understanding of the human heart. Her magical powers lie in the creation of characters so vivid, we hate to part with them. This is why we’ll re-read her work over and over. We know the plot; we've now seen how it all ends. But, we'll keep reading because to be away from our beloved friends is just too abandoned a place to inhabit. And while we may move on to other fantasy, or never become a fantasy reader at all, we'll always believe that there is a world flanking our own where Harry & Co. dwell.
Genre: Fantasy. Age: All. Pages 784.
Themes: Coming of Age, Friendship, Strength of Character, Perseverance, Hero Quest
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine. Date: July 2007
ISBN-10: 0545010225 / ISBN-13: 978-0545010221
Buy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Here
Visit the definitive sites for all things Potter: MuggleNet, The Harry Potter Lexicon and The Leaky Cauldron
Scholastic's Harry Potter Site
Official Warner Bros Movies Site
Universal Studios The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Joanne Murray is far better known as J. K. Rowling. If you have to read a bio about her here, you must be living under a rock. She is the literary god of children's literature. There's much more to see on her website.
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com