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some thoughts on DH (spoilers)

Just a comment I posted on Hogwartsprofessor.com, which I'm cross-posting here. Probably 500 to 1000 words.


ell - I am disappointed. The book, to me, was initially gripping as a story but then became meandering and heavy-handed at times. There were things I loved and things I hated, but I have to admit that my chief disappointment, as a Snape fan, was with the way Rowling treated my favorite character. Of course he was Dumbledore’s man; that was no surprise at all to me. And of course I’m grieving because he is dead. But I knew there was a better than 50/50 chance he would die, and I actually surmised Voldemort would make Nagini bite him. So why am I disappointed?

I think a very big part of it was that there was no opportunity to grieve within the story itself. Harry’s in the middle of a battle and completing a quest when Snape dies; he grabs the memories and runs, and that’s that. No eulogy, no medal, no official redemption, no funeral, even - as my livejournal friend CMWinters says, they all just leave him in the Shrieking Shack to rot. The Shrieking shack! The place of his worst nightmares. As she says, that is incredibly disrespectful to the man.

And, although I was expecting the unrequited love for Lily, it disturbed me that it was Snape’s only motivation for his actions, because Rowling apparently tried to make a creepy pseudo-Heathcliff thing out of it (Heathcliff is not my favorite character by any means, and I love Snape.) The little boy could not be presented as a socially awkward outcast with a crush on a pretty, talented little girl - which, honestly, if you simply looked at the kids’ actions and dialogue, was the way he came across. No, she had to throw in adjectives emphasizing little Sev as greedy, sneaky, - already obsessed at the age of nine. This, even though it is *absolutely normal* for children of 9 or 10 to have crushes, and though Severus did *not* come across as a nasty little boy. But Rowling had to throw in those adjectives. It also bothered me that, though these were his memories, we never got inside his head to learn what the sorting hat said to him, for example. Heck, we don’t even know who loved him! It was certainly not Dumbledore, as I had guessed, and Lily didn’t ever seem even like a close friend - he was crazy about her, not the other way around.

So what we are presented with is a young man who is pretty clearly ambitious, socially awkward and suffering from low self-esteem who joins a terrorist group - and then discovers that they are trying to murder the girl he loves. He is desperate to save her, gives himself up and confesses his crimes and begs for help - and is treated with contempt. He then promises to guard the child of his dead love, and he does guard him, faithfully, with his life. For at least three years he walks the razor’s edge, doing an incredibly difficult and dangerous job as a double agent. What I’m trying to say is that my essays were *right*. Severus is obedient; he is faithful; he keeps his promises to the best of his ability, and his last act is an act of obedience to Dumbledore, help to Harry, and love for Lily all at once. However flawed and petty his motivation may seem, he is GOOD. And Rowing will not even give him a funeral, or the slightest public recognition? If there is a Christ figure in these books, it is Severus just as much as Harry. He obeys unto death, and pours himself out like a libation - and I am crying, finally, as I type this. I didn’t cry at all when I read the book. It just felt so flat and bleak and pointless and empty. I think Rowling was very disrespectful of Snape’s many fans. He, and they, deserved more.

That was my main emotional problem with the book. My main intellectual problem - nothing is resolved, really. Yes, Voldemort’s dead, but the house-elves are still slaves; the sorting still goes on, the Gryffindors still hate the Slytherins, There is, as far as I can remember, no resolution to the Dementor problem - and on it goes. I so wanted to see some house unity! and I hated it that not one Slytherin child fought on the side of right. I can’t tell you how I hated that.

Things I loved, though - I actually did like the scenes with Snape’s patronus. I really liked Dumbledore’s backstory (though where he got off having contempt for 20-year-old Snape when he was at least as bad, if not worse, at the same age, really galled me.) And I loved Regulus’s heroism, and Kreacher’s, and Luna’s and Neville’s. Oh, and the dragon was cool.

Was bugged by all the poor editing and continuity errors. Was bugged by all the things we didn’t find out, especially those Rowling had said she would clear up (what actually happened in the Shrieking Shack, for example?) Was *very* bugged by the way the 'good' guys threw Unforgivable Curses around - including, very disturbingly, Harry succeeding with 'curciatus'. Oh, and if she was aiming for the greatest reversal in the history of literature, she certainly failed. Many of us knew that Snape loved Lily; that was no surprise at all, and it wasn’t at all surprising to an attentive reader that he was Dumbledore’s man, either. For me, OOTP clinched that, and I was even more certain of his loyalties at the end of HBP. In DH, though one might waver at the beginning, I never really did, and the thing that absolutely clinched it for me in this book was his slicing off the twin’s ear. I thought at once of St. Peter. Seriously - I did!

So, there was no reversal at all for me. Unless she meant Dumbledore? Now, that was surprising. And, as I said, I liked it.

These are first impressions. I’m pretty upset. Might revise them a bit later; my sister doesn’t agree with me, but I am certainly not inclined to reread the book, and I don’t think I’ll want to hold any Harry Potter parties any time soon.


( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
I'm disappointed myself, for the same reasons you stated. But my frustration with Snape was... Well, let me put it this way: JKR's greatest fault is that she tells the most important parts, rather than show them. Some always has to explain, whether it be Voldemort, Dumbledore, Crouch-Moody or, in this case, Snape's memories.

I was hoping, somehow Harry would find out about Snape's innocence throughout his adventures, coming to a realization by himself, or maybe with a little unintentional help from Snape himself. I kept hoping, kept saying, this is where Harry will find out some stuff about Snape when they went to Grimmauld Place, Godric's Hollow and for some reason, Malfoy Manor. Well, it wasn't meant to be.

There is one thing that I feared most though, and JKR came through splendidly in that case: Peter's redemption. I was afraid that Peter would do something heroic to save/help Harry, and in the hero's eyes he would be redeemed. I had major problems for that because we would never know if his deeds were a result of deeply felt remorse or a magical contract he couldn't get out of. I'm happy that didn't happen.

And as I stated elsewhere, the book was packed with action, that at times it suffocated me. Think about it: the escape from Privet Drive, then Voldemort taking over the ministry, the brief battle with those three DEs in that cafe, breaking into the Ministry, escape from Luna's House, Godric's Hollow, breaking into and out of the Wizarding Bank, Hogwarts, The Shrieking Shack, escaping from Malfoy Manor, The Battle of Hogwarts...

And there were too many plots as well: The elder wand thingy, the Deathly Hollows, Horcruxes, Ron's departure, Gryffindor's Sword, Voldemort, Dumbledore's story, Snape's story. To be honest, I was happy I finished reading the book when I did, because I didn't have any energy left for resolutions. And I pity the director of the seventh movie.

All in all, I suppose we were expecting too much. And most of us read all the theories in HP_Essays and elsewhere, so nothing could surprise us.
Jul. 24th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)
I really don't think I want to *watch* the seventh movie. The first two thirds of the book was interesting and held promise that things were going to "get better", but they got exponentially worse and ugh.
Jul. 24th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
I'm with you and I'm tinkering with an essay on some of the same points. This would have been a MUCH stronger book if she had switched the narrative perspective back and forth between Harry and Snape, and revealed much of the same information (Rat Bastard Dumbledore, Voldemort's plans, etc.). It would have THRILLED fandom, and put Snape's sad ending in better perspective. Was it a surprise, sacrifice, or a choke moment for Snape? But the fact is, JKR seemingly hates Snape ("who'd love him?").

No closure on the excessive deaths, plot holes you can drive a truck through, new characters/magic, and camping...she did not neglect the camping. I still admire her, but this book reminded me of a GOF slog.
Jul. 24th, 2007 04:04 am (UTC)
I agree with everything in this. I hadn't thought of the Heathcliff comparison. I don't recall much about Wuthering Heights, as I read it so long ago. Catherine was pretty cruel to him, as I recall, but she loved him. Lily was shockingly cruel to Snape, and she didn't even seem to like him! I didn't see Healthcliff-type brutality in Snape's actions towards Lily, though. If anyone was the saint in the Lily-Severus relationship, it was Severus.

bluestocking79 on my journal suggested that Snape had low self-esteem such that Lily's abuse was the best he thought he could get (paraphrasing). I think there may be something to that, but it could also be that he was horribly shy and insecure about others, until he learned to play his roles. Of course, his character ends up so one-note shallow that anything might be true.

I wonder if Dumbledore, for all his (callous) interactions with Snape, ever knew the real man. I don't even think his creator knew his potential. I agree that JKR probably never liked Snape, but she treated him better than I expected. Still, that treatment was pretty shabby.

Jul. 24th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
Wuthering Heights?
Yes - the love between Cathy and Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights" is narcisstic and unhealthy, but at least it is real, and goes two ways. I saw no such mutuality in Severus/Lily, and, like you, I *never* saw any real liking or kindness *from* Lily, let alone love. It is also abolutely true, even if Rowling cannot recognize it, that Severus is a saint. I cannot understand any author writing a character as magnificent as Snape and then trying so hard to belittle and minimize him. And I think it is sentimentality on Rowling's part. What I mean is that, if she were to give Severus the credit he deserves, it would (she thinks) take away from Harry's glory. It wouldn't - I think a real and complex understanding of a complex man would have added to Harry's glory - but I think that's what she believes.

There's this, too, and this is, in retrospect, what really gets to me. Like Rowling, I am a Christian, and believe in the possibility of an afterlife. Even readers who don't accept that dogma in reality understand that there is an afterlife in the books. And - Harry gets to see everyone who died fighting Voldemort - except for Snape. That grieves me so much. The poor young fellow had so little in his life; he was (as Rowling presents him) emotionally crippled and struggling to do right with no support at all, and, as others pointed out, it was actually his love that saved the world initially. He was terrified and overwhelmed; he was (because of that same emotional handicap) essentially an innocent, and he never faltered. He did absolutely everything Dumbledore asked of him. He *was* a saint. Yet she doesn't even give him an afterlife?

That really, really disgusts me.
Jul. 29th, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Wuthering Heights?
Personally, I think Snape really should have been in the in-between place.

There's all sorts of reasons for him not to be in the going-off-to-Voldemort's-hidey-hole group, particularly with the standing time limit for Harry to be turned over. He personally might have not wanted to jeopardize that timing (and after all, so much of what he did in life was being in the right place at the right time). And from Harry's point of view, he's going to get more support from his parents, Lupin, and Sirius since he was already used to getting support either from them or the memory of them. Plenty of time to talk to Snape once he gets where he's going.

But the in-between place... it hasn't been all that long since Snape died. We have no concept of how or if time moves in that place, nor if there is a time limit for moving on or getting ghostified. So, theoretically, Snape might have been able to delay just a bit, particularly since he knew Harry might be arriving shortly. Bit of discussion, and then Snape heading off as Harry goes back to destroy Voldemort and finish what all Snape's work had made possible.

And for me, that would have been intensely more satisfying than having Dumbledore there was. Dumbledore was the one who gave Harry shreds of information and orders only; even when he gave him pensieve access in HBP, most of the actual information was in Dumbledore's commentary. Snape just gave Harry the information and trusted the young wizard with decisions about his own fate. Having the one who dealt with him as an adult be there just seems more satisfying.
Jul. 25th, 2007 10:14 am (UTC)
She must have definitely meant Lily to be the one who loved Snape. The only Snape relationships that were highlighted were the one with Lily and the one with Dumledore, and Lily was the one who gave him emotional strength (patronus) and cared about him (asking if his parents are arguing and so on) so she must be the person who loved him... Could have been shown clearer. There was a sad smile... There is one scene missing, Lily should have been shown crying at one point after the mudlood incident or something. As it was the love he got did seem more than a bit unsatisfying, to say the least. :(

I'm hoping that JKR will say she did in interviews, because I don't think that interpretation contradicts the book, it was just possibly not shown clearly enough. (Btw. Cathy never loved Heathcliff as much as he loved her, but, yeah, she still obviously did.)

I think that personality-wise Lily and Severus are supposed to be very much like Cathy and Heathcliff, only much much "better". When Heathcliff became incredibly cruel and destructive in his desperation, Snape became protective and good. ("Lately only the ones I couldn't save.")
Did you notice the obvious citations? Lily: "She's my sister! You can't hurt her!" Cathy: "He's my brother! Promise me you won't hurt him!" and I could do the same for pretty much every conversation Sev and Lily had - I'll proably do that soon.

Snape was honored in the final confrontation between Voldemort and Harry and in the epilogue with the "bravest man", but it wasn't enough, all in all. I think so, too.

So, there was no reversal at all for me. Unless she meant Dumbledore?

I wondered about that as well. She must have meant Dumbledore, as that was the only big surprising twist and I admit, I was shocked and awed!
Jul. 25th, 2007 12:49 pm (UTC)
Firstly, I'm sure he wasn't really left to rot in the Shrieking Shack. It was the middle of a battle after all - I'm sure that when it was over Harry told people where he was and he was fetched down and buried (next to Dumbledore?) Otherwise I agree with you - although I hadn't noticed the 'Wuthering Heights' parallels. How depressing - straight out of the Bumper Book of Northern Cliches. And I'd have liked a bit more complexity to his family than 'poor white trash' which seems to be what we are getting. The thing that shocked me, though, was how coldly Dumbledore treated him all through - which certainly shows Dumbledore in a new light. Perhaps he is a teacher because he believes in innocence, and isn't really interested in those who have lost it? The thing I liked most about this book - and the only thing that really suprised me - was what a cold manipulative bastard Dumbledore turned out to be. I didn't think she would have the guts to do that - and it certainly makes him much more interesting, and oddly more likeable, as he is so clearly flawed. But Snape! What an amazing man! To build that much self-sacrifice, that much dogged devotion to duty, and eventually that much humanity, on nothing stronger than the memory of a girl who, it is clear from the start, was never going to love him the way he loved her! What a hero!
Jul. 25th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Anne. I agree with everything you've said. In my stories, I have Severus living as Muggle in the Muggle world, since he's too damaged by the battle to retain his powers - but this allows him to gain some humility and balance and eventually find another love. I knew the chances of Rowling doing the same for him were almost nil, but I so wanted a happy ending for him! In this life, or the next; it doesn't matter. As so many of us guessed, his life was in many ways worse and sadder and more difficult than Harry's (poor Harry! he didn't have it easy either - but Severus's life was *worse*!) Why couldn't he be given even a hint of happiness, after all he had done and suffered?

Maybe that's sentimental of me, but it's how I feel. He was only a young man, with no support at all, and from what I glean from the text, no one ever loved him. No one. Yet he did so much good in the end. Just as you say, what a hero!
Jul. 27th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
Well apparently we are both wrong, mary. kadaj010 posted this on the Spoil Me Deathly Hallows community, taken from JKR's interview on the Today show.

MV (the interviewer): Was Snape always intended to be a hero?
JKR: (gasp) Is he a hero? You see, I don't really see him as a hero.
MV: Really?
JKR: But yeah, he's spiteful. He's a bully. All these things are true of Snape even at the end of the book. But was he brave? Yes, immensely.

Words fail me.
You were apparently also right about the wizarding world. I thought you were being a little harsh there - after all, it would realistically take longer than nineteen years to heal the rifts, and things did seem slightly better. But, no, from the same interview, apparently Harry and Ron, who are both Aurors, have really revolutionised the Ministry, and made things very much better. Which, from what we have seen, does not seem to be the case.

I wish this had an emotions tag for 'murderous'!
Jul. 27th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
No, we're not wrong, Anne. We are reading what's actually in the text, and Rowling, the author, is stuck reiterating what she intended, not what she has done.

Did you see the review in the "Christian Science Monitor"? It was dead on, I think; the reviewer pointed out that, by attempting to minimize Snape's trajectory, Rowling undercut herself and produced a morally empty work. Because he is the *only* character who really *has* a moral path! He is the pattern of the sinner redeemed, as both Logospilgrim and I have said a couple of times. And, heck, everyone I know who's actually gotten through the books sees him as a hero - because that is what Rowling wrote! It may not be what she intended, but it is what she wrote.

In any case, after this book and especially that interview, I think far less of her as a person and an author than I did before. To me, her books have always been flawed, but I had hope that, in the final book, she would face up to the flaws and hypocrisies in her worldview - as expressed in the wizarding world. She had the chance, and didn't take it. She did what was easy, not what was right, IMHO. BTW, the *only* person in these books who consistently does what is right rather than what is easy, sometimes at very great risk to himself, and finally at the cost of his life, is Snape. He is the ONLY one!

I am utterly amazed - and disgusted - that she cannot see that.

(Anyway, as I said in a comment to Sigune, I'm not going to let her stop me. "My" Snape is now called Stephen Michael Griffin, and he's going to marry Jane and have the kids - so there! Christopher lives!)

I am now remembering my early childhood. Do you think a lot of us could come up with buttons reading "Severus Lives"? :)
Jul. 27th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC)
I'm already in state to enjoy the irony of JKR's interviews. She had an idea of the characters in her mind and obviously was unable to put it into the books. I remember a rule of literary analysis that a character is what is printed on page, nothing more nothing less. Whatever she now adds to make the readers see what she actually meant to write, but failed to accomplish, is absurd nonsense. That's what my literature professor always called later comments from authors. Once a book is published the author loses her control over the interpretation of the plot and the characters, here's where the readers' imagination takes over and rightfully so. Like other writers before, her she has to learn to let go, I only appreciated, if she let her readers make up their own minds.
The interview question was very badly phrased; Snape is not THE HERO. JKR jumped on that insult of her Harry as any Snapefan jumped on her insults of Snape, understandable emotional reaction from both sides.
I'll still read the books with a slightly different attitude. I only regret that I possibly will not recommend them to my future grandchildren. You don't mind, when I read yours instead, do you? ;)
As a woman who works in a home for abandoned children told me this morning, they will not offer the last book to the kids in their care. Kids from a background like Snape's don't need to be told they're utter rubbish in an adventure book.
By JKR's definition I'm an evil, selfish Slytherin and immensely proud of it. Never playing to the rules of those Gryffindors.
Jul. 29th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
I like what your literature professor is saying, Sionna. And it would make sense if JKR had misunderstood the question (although she should be able to spot the difference between 'A hero' and 'THE hero', grumble, grumble, grumble . . .). And with regard to the rules of Gryffindors, how about the sword that has to be given under conditions of 'need and valour' - which apparently means putting Harry's life in quite unneccessary jeopardy so that Ron can save him? I can imagine Snape shaking his head and muttering 'bloody Gryffindors' to himself as he set that one up!

And Mary, I'm very glad that Christopher lives - I rather liked him! And I would certainly be interested in a button.
Aug. 23rd, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
I've got a button done, Anne - it's very simple, just a big round thing with a dark green background and "Severus Lives" in kells font in silver. If you'd like one, please email me and let me know where to send it. )
Aug. 24th, 2007 08:43 am (UTC)
That sounds great! Could you send it to a_s_arthur@yahoo.co.uk, please?
Aug. 25th, 2007 03:00 am (UTC)
I just tried to send it as a TIFF file, Anne, but it didn't go through. I'll double check your address and try again-
Aug. 26th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
The address is correct, as far as I can see. If it still won't work, and you think it might be a problem with the yahoo mail, could you send me your email address and I can then send you my work address which might work better?
Aug. 27th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
You should be able to locate my email address in my profile, Anne, but, in case you can't find it there, it is me5k9j at ear7thlink dot net, without the numbers. I have a feeling it might solve things if you add me to your addressbook; I might be getting blocked as spam?
Oct. 10th, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC)
*uses resurrection stone on thread*
I think this is why I am often so disturbed by JKR's treatment of Snape. It's not so much that I like him, but because I'm all to aware of just how real Snape's childhood is for a lot of people. Then to have her condemn people for reflecting the environment they grew up in smacks of extreme naivete. In our world, people like Snape would be commended for overcoming a lot of the obstacles against them. In our world, it's amazing that people like Snape don't just give up and say, "To heck with it. Screw the world and everyone in it." Because, let's face it, Snape's whole life sucked. I'm amazed the worst he did was join the Death Eaters instead of being some sort of nihilistic serial killer/mass murderer or something.
Oct. 10th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: *uses resurrection stone on thread*
Well, of course, there are those who would claim that joining the Death Eaters is the equivalent of becomeing a nihilistic serial killer/mass murderer.

But you're right. In the book, Snape stepped back from that and consistently tried to become better than he was. That's heroism. It's *real* heroism, not the empty, color-by-numbers stuff we see from Harry. In real life, people who come from such backgrounds and are able to hold down jobs, relate to others (however shakily) and contribute to their communities (all of which Snape also does) are just amazingly heroic.

As Anne Arthur says so eloquently, "Rowling wrote this. Why can't she see it?"
Oct. 10th, 2007 05:33 pm (UTC)
Snape = Columbine material
I'd certainly cut the man some slack, and I'd tell everybody with their complains to do the same. I'm sorry, but as a Headmaster I'd be more concerned about (for instance) bullying than a teacher's brusque manner. From what we see in the news all the time, bullying does more harm than people thought. Once I found out about Snape's background, I was quickly reminded of the Columbine kids.

Maybe our world is just too tainted for us to really believe some of this stuff. I mean, in our world, we are more concerned with teachers being sex offenders to worry about a man being more honest than we'd like. It's one thing if Snape made racist or sexist remarks, or if he went out of his way to belittle the students. But he doesn't. As a matter of fact, he talks to the students the way a drill instructor would talk to green recruits. Only with a lot less cursing. Anybody who thinks Snape is abusive needs to watch "Full Metal Jacket."
Jul. 31st, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
I've now read the 'Christian Science Monitor' review. I'm not sure that I agree entirely. I can think of good children's books where there is not much development in the hero - in the Narnia books, for example, I don't think that Peter, Lucy or Jill develops all that much (although Edmund and Eustace do). I think I prefer your idea of Harry as Everyman (rather like the children in the Narnia books) - although I'm also sure that JKR thinks she is giving him rather more development than she actually is. What annoys me is a lack of generosity to 'bad' characters; what annoys me especially is that I think she is privileging love of the instinctive, warm-hearted sort over the dogged persistence in doing right by people that Snape exemplifies, which to me is far harder and far more Christian.

However, I have now read a kinder version of that interview - also another interview in which she is nicer to Snape, and also somewhat inconsistent (she says that Snape never sent a patronus to the Order, although he did at the end of OotP, and Ron is now working with George rather than in the Aurors' office). I think I must now agree with you and Sionna, and take only the books as canon - the more generous side of her personality emerges better there.

I'll look forward to reading more about Stephen and Christopher!
Jul. 31st, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC)
I do see your point about the "Narnia" books, Anne, but:
1. Even there, when the kids really are mostly good kids, they do get taught and corrected by Aslan, and take those lessons to heart. I think of Lucy's failure in "Dawn Treader", when, rather than immediately apologizing for spying on her friend, she initially tries to deflect blame, and Aslan growls at her. Except for Severus, *nobody* corrects Harry, and he is allowed to get away with some quite serious sins with no consequences to him.
2. Also, unlike most fantasies, the "Potter" books are structured as a bildungsroman. It's supposed to be all about *Harry's* redemption and growth to maturity, or at least, that's how I was reading the books. And I saw very little growth in the character. He was using Unforgivables, failing to apologize in any way to a man he'd misjudged very badly (and I know, Rowling didn't give the characters *time* for a meaningful reconciliation, but I do see that as a serious problem with her writing), and just carrying blithely on regardless. All his sins and failings apparently didn't mark *him* at all - because he was born good? - and Rowling actually showed him as a Christ figure! Harry! I couldn't buy that for a moment.

I guess I (like the "Monitor" reviewer) had a real problem sensing what the heck this story was supposed to be about. There was no cler redemptive arc (because she did all she could to muddy Severus's, and Harry apparently didn't need one). She raised many issues, in earlier books, that were simply dropped here. And the happy ending rang hollow for me because Rowling told far too much and failed to show us
any real resolution. For those who say, "well, that made the book more realistic" - since when has Rowling been writing a realistic novel? And, if that is what she is doing, how about some realistic psychology? So - I agreed with the article, because it really seemed these books should be about Harry's spiritual and emotional progress, and she showed us very little of that.

And I absolutely agree with you that she privileges a sentimental 'mother love' over the love in action exemplified by Snape. I also think she's wrong to do so. But I have another paper in me about all this! Sorry for going on at such length, especially when we basically agree. ;)

Thanks for the encouragement about the "Christopher" stories. I'm working happily away at another one just now, and know how I want it to end; with luck, I'll have a finished draft in a week or two. It occurs to me, as I write this, that part of my frustration with Rowling is that our worldviews are so different. Not only in how we see Christianity, but also in how we see story. Hers are ultimately all plot, aren't they? And mine are all about the people. That's what I find interesting.

Thanks again for your comments!
Aug. 1st, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
Except for Severus, *nobody* corrects Harry, and he is allowed to get away with some quite serious sins with no consequences to him.

Thanks for saying/noticing that.

I was pondering earlier today if the love for Lily was less romantic and more of a friendship thing, particularly since the doe patronus could partly be a sign that he may have gotten over Lily Evans becoming Lily Potter.

We don't have any mentions of other wizard/witch children in their community, and know of no adults other than Mrs. Snape. They were certainly the only friend the other had getting on the Hogwarts Express. Sirius and James started breaking that up from the start, which could be the real reason he never likes either of them that much and still cannot stand Sirius even after learning that he was not the Marauder who betrayed Lily. That tension between Severus and the future Marauders seems to only get worse at the Sorting, because James already dislikes Slytherins on the train. And the Slytherins there at the table are mainly either future Death Eaters, the children of Voldemort's original followers (not stated, but with the effects of social grooming and the Houses-run-in-families thing, it's very much likely), or both.

So, given the traditional bias against Slytherins, young Severus' choices in friends seem basically limited to those within Slytherin and Lily. Since she was a Gryffindor, spending time around her likely also increased his proximity to the Marauders. So even if he had actually heard her warnings, he's got the choice of Voldemort's supporters or being around people who call him 'Snivellus'.

His attitudes towards blood are acquired. He doesn't care before Hogwarts, and during Harry's time he does not once refer to anyone's Muggle-born status, even Hermione's, and does not use Muggle in anything but a neutral connotation. Being around the other Slytherins did this; being safe around Lily's Gryffindor friends (even if not being a friend of theirs) would have given him an actual refuge from them and that attitude; he might not have acquired it if that had been the case.

When she says she's not talking to him any more, the one influence we know of who was telling him to get the hell off the road to being a Death Eater leaves. And once he's realized he's wrong, he's Mr. Super Sekrit Special Agent, so having friends means risking other people's necks. So from my reading, Lily may have been the only real my-best-interest-at-heart friend Severus actually ever had.

So he's there at Hogwarts and young Mr. Looks-Like-His-Father Potter is sitting there in Snape's classroom. No matter his real feelings, he can't appear to like the kid or his cover is broken. This goes double during and after OOTP, when Snape knows Voldemort is likely accessing the kid's mind-which also rules out privately expressing anything but the usual sarcasm.

But what he can do is be what Lily was for him, the voice saying that 'no, that action is not what you want to do because it will lead you to dark places you do not deserve the pain of walking' even when Harry is in absolutely no mood to listen to him.

This adds a personal level of atonement onto the public one because he's trying to bring down Voldemort and he's trying to keep Harry from becoming like Severus (or James, or Sirius) at Harry's age at the same time, but it also exponentially increases his own danger because helping Harry is actually the absolute fastest way to blow his cover with the Death Eaters-and yet he still does so.
Aug. 1st, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
I see what you mean now. The example from the 'Dawn Treader' is a good one - if I am remembering it properly, Lucy realises that her relationship with her friend has been spoilt by what she did, and learns her lesson. And, although the friend's behaviour was clearly wrong, Aslan provides some mitigating circumstances. And then the matter is dropped. Whereas all too often in Harry Potter, neither the consequences or the mitigating circumstances are made clear. When Marietta betrays the DA, for example, her torn loyalties (mother in the Ministry) seem to me to be a mitigating factor, and also the fact the she is being very much dragged along against her will by Cho, who wants a chaperon for her meetings with Harry (and as I had one friend who was always making us 'chum' her along to meetings with prospective boyfriends, I can vouch for how extremely irritating that is!) - and yet, even months later, she is still going around with the word 'sneak' spelt out in pimples on her face. Too much, I think. Also in OotP, there is a clear line between the Trio not telling Madam Pomphrey how Montague had been injured, and Montague being able to tell Draco how to get into the castle undetected in HBP: this must be meant, yet it is never stressed, and it would be easy to miss it. And more significantly, I don't think Harry and Ron ever acknowledged that this was in part their fault: so there is no growth and no closure.

I suspect that part of the problem is that Lewis has come under fire for having adults (or indeed lions!) tell children off, so Rowling probably feels that she can't do it - or perhaps she agrees with the view that it is wrong. Pressure from the publishers, as Sigune suggests, might well be a factor. A similar thing can be found in places in the Philip Pullman novels, where the children quite often boss the angels about (if I remember rightly). There might be another explanation, though.

And, jalendavi lady, I like the idea of Snape telling Harry off being part of his protective stance towards him. And I think it might have been George the muggle girl had the crush on - or at least, I have recently found myself rather hoping it was George, since the poor soul clearly needs something to cheer him up.

Aug. 1st, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
It was George.

And if Snape has taken on the keeping-the-child-on-a-good-spiritual-path godfather role that Sirius seems to have abandoned in favor of being an indulgent uncle figure, then that incident just before he leaves Hogwarts for the last time is absolutely chilling. From the way he asks about a specific one of the two Carrows, and then asks about Harry, it sounds like he not only detects that Harry is present but also precisely what has happened. He's asking McGonagall what has happened, but the question is also a rhetorical one for Harry, to make him remember now that the moment has passed that he just used the Cruciatus Curse on someone who merely needed Stunning or tying up with the spell used on Pettigrew in PoA... and that Harry has the element of surprise that would have made either be unblockable. Snape may have been trying to get Harry to see that he'd just tortured someone for no reason at all.

Harry doesn't consider that, not even when Snape says that. He doesn't even consider it after the pensieve, when he knows how much even forgivable but brutal cursing and hexing bothered his mother. (And, in something I consider literarily unforgivable, Lily says nothing about it to Harry. At all. Or anything else he's done, for that matter.)

And because Snape is a legilimens with a talent for dealing with Harry's mind... he likely died knowing that he did not get Lily's son to realize the dangerous ground he had stepped onto there.
Aug. 2nd, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
I've just checked this chapter again, and this all sounds very plausible. He looks McGonagall right in the eyes, and is clearly using legilimency on her - and he obviously knows Harry is there somewhere. And I like Snape as the stern-but-good godfather - particularly if he saw himself as in opposition to over-indulgent godfather Sirius!

But the use of unforgiveable curses is even more disturbing on a second reading. For one thing, JKR seems to be cheating with the Cruciatus. It usually seems to make the victim writhe in intolerable pain (which makes it a very impractical curse to use to disable someone, as well as a very unpleasant one, because you have to keep doing it) but here it appears to knock Amycus out. This raises the rather alarming possibility that this Cruciatus was so much stronger than any other we have seen that the victim has passed out from the pain - but I suspect that JKR's intention was merely to cheat to allow Harry to use it, although, as you say, a simple Stun would have done the trick far better. And then McGonagall, of all people, uses Imperius! This I find even more unpalatable than Harry using unforgiveables - isn't she supposed to be one of the people upholding standards here? And again it is a completely irrational curse to use - it would have been much easier just to stun Amycus, and then to tie both siblings up and leave them to the wrath of Voldemort. I suppose that the intention is to show that everyone is at the end of their tether, but it is decidedly unpleasant all the same. The only person who emerges from this scene with any credit whatsoever is Luna.

If I were writing this (which of course I would do SO much better than the person who actually did write it . . .) I think I would have Harry use the Cruciatus, as he does, and exult in it, as he does, and then actually look at his victim's face, see his agony, and find that he cannot continue. That would make the point, I think. At this point Luna or McGonagall would have to use Stun (certainly NOT Imperius) and the Carrows could be tied up and left to their fate.

But enough of the back-seat authoring. I am so glad it was George the girl fancied. I've never been that fond of the Weasley twins (rather too inclined to assume that if they are having a laugh, then everyone else involved must be laughing too) but I feel very sorry for George, who must be feeling more or less cut in half. And bizarrely, I think he might be someone who could make a go of marriage to a muggle. It's a nice thought, anyway!
Aug. 3rd, 2007 09:29 am (UTC)
Actually, re-reading the chapter for a third time I realise that I was wrong - Amycus was in fact knocked out by a bookcase. But still a cop-out, I say.
Oct. 20th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
I think I know what the series is about.

It is about accepting death without fighting.

Philosopher's Stone:
Flamel destroys the Philosopher's Stone, knowing it means he will die.

Chamber of Secrets:
Harry is sure he is going to die. He is saved by something he knew nothing about -- Phoenix tears. This foreshadows DH, where Harry expects to die and is saved by something he knows nothing about.

Prisoner of Azkaban:
Pettigrew is evil because he did NOT choose to die rather than betray his friends.

Goblet of Fire:
Cedric dies without any foreknowledge at the hands of Voldemort.

Order of the Phoenix:
Sirius goes into a battle, knowing he might be killed, and dies.

Half Blood Prince:
Harry witnesses Albus intentionally letting himself be killed, without fighting, although Harry doesn't know it at the time.

Deathly Hallows:
Harry sacrifices himself to death willingly and without fighting.

THAT'S what the story is about. THAT'S why JKR says Harry has "developed" and "matured."

It has NOTHING to do with the importance of choice or redemption. It is ALL about the importance of NOT FIGHTING DEATH.
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:38 am (UTC)
Oh, my. How intelligent of you. I would never have seen this, but what you say makes a great deal of sense. And now I am not sure what to make of this message. It seems simplistic to me, somehow, and I'm trying to put my finger on how. Yes, death is a part of life; yes, there are worse things than death - but isn't life also precious? Isn't it to be cherished as well?

What I'm actually thinking right now is this: J.K. Rowling must have some logic in her; after all, she wrote professor Snape's logic puzzle. If death is not to be fought, but merely accepted; if trying to avoid death is the ultimate evil, why do we think it is good when someone dies (Jesus, for example, or Lily in the story) so that someone else can live? Why was it virtuous of Lily to try to save her baby's life? And, in the real world, why do we think doctors, firemen, rescue crews, nurses - in short, everyone who works to save lives - heroic? Wouldn't all those people be evil according to Rowling?

To me, no matter how you look at it, this story just doesn't make sense. I do think you're right about her ultimate message, but it doesn't hang together even in the story itself, does it?

Still a brilliant point, though. Thank you!
Oct. 20th, 2007 02:59 pm (UTC)
Death is not the ultimate evil. Murder is not the ultimate evil. Killing is not the ultimate evil.

Not accepting death is the ultimate evil.

Saving someone's life is only heroic if you substitute your death for theirs. The hero is someone who accepts her death in place of the other's. And what makes it heroic is not that she saved the life of the other, per se, but that she ACCEPTED death to do it.

Just keeping someone alive through ordinary means, like Poppy and Severus do all the time, is not inherently good or bad. Poppy isn't good *because* she cures people and the fact that Severus continually saves lives is not enough to make him *good*. In the worldview JKR shows in the Potter books, doctors, firemen, rescue crews and nurses are NOT heroic. In fact, we can't even tell if they're doing GOOD, because saving someone's life is not necessarily good.

Finally, fighting your own death is BAD. Sirius' death was GOOD because he doesn't go into the battle actively thinking about how he can keep himself alive AS WELL AS keep everyone else alive. Severus' not trying to save Charity was BAD because part of the reason he didn't save her was because he knew he couldn't do so without being killed.

In fact, the opening scene with Severus doing nothing to save Charity contrasts nicely with the MoM scene where Harry risks everything to save the Muggle-borns who are in danger of the Dementors' kiss. In the same circumstance, Harry would not calculate the possibility of successfully saving Charity or of his death -- he would just act. And in the scene at the MoM, there is no way Severus would risk his life on the off chance he MIGHT be successful in saving some people.

In his talk with Dumbledore, Severus points out that lately he has only watched those people die whom he could not save. That's actually why he's NOT a hero. Harry NEVER watches someone die without trying to save them. Cedric died too quickly and Harry literally did not watch Cedric die because his eyes were closed for other reasons. And when Harry watched Sirius die, he DID act, almost following him through the Veil.

Slytherins are all inherently bad, to the extent they follow Slytherin values, because a Slytherin will ALWAYS fight to stay alive. The evil ones will do evil (which may or may not include murder) in their fight against death (Voldemort). The ordinary ones will be cowardly (Slughorn, most of the Slytherin students) and avoid their duty to fight evil to stay alive. The good ones will risk death to fight evil (Snape). But none of them can be heroic because none of them will willingly ACCEPT their own death. They will always be looking for a way to stay alive.
Oct. 20th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
I've decided to cross-post a somewhat edited version of this comment (Death is not the ultimate evil. Murder is not the ultimate evil. Killing is not the ultimate evil.) to hp_essays.
May. 8th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
Watching Snape die
"Harry NEVER watches someone die without trying to save them."

Not true. Not true at all.

He watches Snape lying lifeless on the floor of the Shrieking Shack in PoA and makes no effort to save him. He watches Snape die in the Shrieking Shack in DH and makes no effort to save him. He saves Pettigrew in PoA only for the sake of Lupin and Sirius.

And it's not only dying that he's able to ignore when the subject is someone he dislikes. He knows that Montague has been shoved in a broken Vanishing Cabinet, which he may or may not survive, and makes no effort to save him, and watches Montague suffer what looks like permanent disability from that incident and feels no wish of giving Madam Pomfrey information that might help him. Likewise, he sees that Marietta has been permanently disfigured and he smirks.

May. 8th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Watching Snape die
Yes - I actually did notice all of this, including the smirking over poor Marietta. Why, exactly, are we supposed to like Harry again? And I have also argued against those who consider Harry's saving of Pettigrew to be an act of mercy *toward Pettigrew*. It isn't. Harry is going to hand him over to the dementors - exactly what Severus threatens to do (but doesn't do) to Sirius.

But the (so called) death scene really took the cake, because all Harry did was kneel down in the man's blood and *stare* at him. What sort of a reaction is that?!! How can you just kneel like a glom and stare at someone who's severely wounded and never even think of helping them?

Which brings me to another point that has struck me strongly in recent months. According to Dumbledore and to the narrative voice, we are meant to find Harry extraordinarily loving. We are meant to find Severus an unrepentant bully. Yet Harry's most dominant emotion seems to be anger - and, as to Severus, it's notable that *he* is the person who is reaching out to others (both for love and affection, and out of those emotions) throughout his life. He approaches Lily, not the other way around. He apologizes to her after insulting her - she has hurt him, also, but she does not apologize. He risks his life twice to beg for hers. He agrees to hide James and Harry; he later agrees to serve as Harry's bodyguard. He attempts repeatedly to save Harry's life, and is as truthful to the boy as he knows how to be; as we see, Harry doesn't return either of these favors. Finally, Severus reaches out to Harry in the Shrieking shack - not the other way around.

Yet we are supposed to see him as contemptible, and Harry as loving?

The more I think about these books and the messages they send, the more they infuriate me. I wish I could let go of them.* Sorry for the rant, btw, when all I am really saying is that I agree with you!

*(But Snape's a wonderful character, though it seems now Rowling wrote him by accident, without fully understanding his possibilities. )
Nov. 14th, 2016 09:09 pm (UTC)
re: Slytherin values
But if she wanted to say that self-preservation is a negative trait, why are the Gryffindors so reckless?

I mean, if she really wanted Gryffindor values to be superior, then she should have put in more sensible Gryffindor characters, esp. amongst the adults. She makes Sirius such a volatile loose cannon type, and doesn't allow him to evolve much beyond that. She makes the Marauders reckless little scofflaws, as Jodel put it.

These books needed a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw to balance things. Or a smart Slytherin - Harry could have had a 'friendly rival' type character who got to actually stay alive (not Cedric).
Nov. 14th, 2016 11:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Slytherin values
Um - because self-preservation is a negative trait, and therefore there's no downside to being reckless?

It would have been very nice to see more of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw! And a Slytherin friend for Harry would have been awesome!
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I finally figured out why Rowling thought us knowing she was a Christian would give the ending of the book away.

Luke 9:24 (New International Version)
24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Oct. 28th, 2016 06:45 pm (UTC)

I think this just goes too far in its embrace of martyrdom. I was expecting being a martyr to be shown as a bad idea, or at least, not the solution to the problem. I never thought that Harry would be set up as a martyr, and this would be shown as an unequivocally good thing.

She even has Harry contemplating how neat Dumbledore's plan was! I mean, he always had that dimension to him, but I thought Harry would develop more responses.

Oct. 28th, 2016 07:30 pm (UTC)
Yes to this. You're right. As I understand it, we are meant to carry our crosses, but we are not meant to go in search of larger, heavier crosses to carry. This glorification of death and martyrdom is rather disturbing, isn't it?
Nov. 15th, 2016 05:12 pm (UTC)
re: sentimental love vs love in action
Or love as a game of manipulation and conquest - that's what Dumbledore exemplifies. She seems to glorify that, as well.

(That awful ending of OOTP with him saying, 'I left you in a state of abuse and ignored you when convenient because I loved you so much, you see' - yeesh! Which is worse, to be loved by D. or hated by him??)
Nov. 16th, 2016 04:12 am (UTC)
Re: sentimental love vs love in action
Good point! If Dumbledore is her image of God the Father, I can see why she said the books were about her struggle to go on believing. It is truly a challenge to believe in a loving God in the face of evil and suffering. But why on earth would anyone imagine God the Father like Dumbledore?!
Jul. 31st, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
What annoys me is a lack of generosity to 'bad' characters; what annoys me especially is that I think she is privileging love of the instinctive, warm-hearted sort over the dogged persistence in doing right by people that Snape exemplifies, which to me is far harder and far more Christian.

Definitely agreed.

Peter denied Christ solely to save his own neck, and just how much fast talking did Saul/Paul have to do? Since there was that whole partly-responsible-for-death-of-first-Christian-martyr and wasn't-this-guy-leading-a-religious-war-against-us-three-days-ago thing going on there? And these guys have just how many churches and cathedrals named after them even now?

What in the world does it mean when saying "I've done wrong, and I'm going to fix things as much as I can without making things worse" is not acceptable? When someone taking responsibility is somehow barely above one who does not, and the one who never had anything to take responsibility for is somehow above everyone else?

And dangit, that office did not let Umbridge in once she was in power (as I recall). It let Snape through, repeatedly. I'd say, given the level of enchantments elsewhere in the castle, that the entrance to the Headmaster's office is probably a fair judge of moral character, or at the very least intent towards the students of Hogwarts. If he's still so badly unredeemable, how come he's using that office? And if he's not so badly unredeemable, then what in the world is so wrong with liking him for how far back to being a good person he has come, even if he isn't Mr. Spotless And Perfect?

And regarding Narnia, I have had someone look at me like I was crazy for actually saying Edmund was my favorite of the Pevensies. So this phenomena of messing up and trying to fix things not being an acceptable thing to admire is not necessarily limited to dealing with Snape. Unfortunately.
Aug. 1st, 2007 11:52 am (UTC)
In any case, after this book and especially that interview, I think far less of her as a person and an author than I did before. To me, her books have always been flawed, but I had hope that, in the final book, she would face up to the flaws and hypocrisies in her worldview - as expressed in the wizarding world. She had the chance, and didn't take it. She did what was easy, not what was right, IMHO.

Hear hear.

This is so strange: she hintes at these flaws and hypocrisies - that is why the books (especially the fifth) were so very promising! She built a rich world, but then ... it all sort of fizzled out. Do you think it might be pressure from the publishers? *frowns*

What has always interested me about Snape is how, indeed, he tries to do right even if he doesn't like it. He has no affinity at all with Dumbledore or the Order, but he helps them because he thinks that is the right thing to do. Same for his treatment of his students: you never get the impression that he likes children, but he protects them because that's what a teacher (at a boarding school a surrogate parent) ought to do.

But that just doesn't interest Rowling. She writes about someone she likes: Harry. it's her right to do so, but I still think she could have handled the rest of the story better.
Aug. 1st, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
This is so strange: she hintes at these flaws and hypocrisies - that is why the books (especially the fifth) were so very promising! She built a rich world, but then ... it all sort of fizzled out.


There was a line in another of the books--probably OotP, because I've combed through HBP and it isn't there, and GoF is too early--about the Weasley twins hanging around one of the local Muggle girls and goofing around with either Muggle magic tricks or things that could have been passed off as Muggle magic tricks around her. It was a throw-away line, but it seemed like one of the twins was happy she was interested in them, or possibly mainly in him. Later they have the Muggle tricks line in the Wizard Wheezes store, showing that yes, at least one of them has gotten quite familiar with the things.

But there's no mention of her ever again.

Rowling set up something where there could have been the development, or at least the implications, of a healthy Muggle/wizard relationship on the page, and instead the only ones we get much of a glimpse at are unhealthy. And not just that: it could have put additional emphasis on why at least one or both of the twins is fighting. And how do you explain a magical ear amputation or a death to someone when she doesn't even know there was a war going on-and bringing that up would have only taken a paragraph, if not a single line of dialogue?

Yet that mention that someone in Harry's immediate circle of surrogate family members might be interested in a Muggle who is interested back just gets thrown away. And this with the Muggle/ Muggle-born/ half-blood/ pure-blood thing counting for oh so much in the entire series.

Not one healthy romantic relationship between a Muggle and a wizard or witch. She even threw in that Snape's parents argued and that memory flash during occlumency lessons--otherwise there would be at least one we-have-no-clue-how-it-went such relationship. But no. Somehow Muggle-born is the closest thing to a Muggle that a wizard or witch can be attracted to without fundamental problems-meaning that for a Hogwarts-taught wizard, his dating pool is pretty much those witches taught at the same school within a decade on either side of his admittance there unless he wishes to look outside England, yet in the same books using Nature's Nobility as a dating service is looked down on. Grr.
Aug. 1st, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
Correction: Chapter Sixteen of Half-Blood Prince, the sequence with Christmas with the Weasley's. George references he and Fred going into the village near the Burrow because a shopgirl there says their tricks are 'like real magic'. And it does sound like she was the main reason for these outings.
Aug. 1st, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I seem to have posted my comment further up by mistake. It was meant to be here!
Aug. 10th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)
You might find this book 7 commentary interesting...
It's Snape-centric, of course. :)

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