I suppose it is time. Hopefully you’ve all had the chance to finish the book now, and if you haven’t, I promise to include two sections: One with spoilers, one without.
Simply put, I enjoyed the book enough to instantly declare it my favorite. The story is truly a bloodbath with the first death happening within the first few pages. From that point on, you can expect a death or at least the announcement of a death every few dozen pages. These deaths are not only very well done, but done delicately and with a mind towards the audience. As for the Big Question (Does Harry die or not?), I will only say that no matter which way you want that answered, you should walk away pleased. I have only found one person yet who was disappointed with that part of the book.
As usual, Book 7 continues answering many of the common questions asked by adolescents. In particular, there are strong and well-developed themes of friendship, loyalty, and persistence. In the final battle, and even throughout the book, you truly come to see Harry’s concern for others and his growth as a person. You also are fortunate to discover the truth behind many other characters, in particular Snape and Dumbledore.
At some 700 pages, it falls into the category of the longer books, but with a fast-paced plot, intriguing storyline, and massive climax, you will not be disappointed nor should you find yourself struggling to read your way through out. If you’re a good reader, you should finish in 12 hours. Oh, and she didn’t lie… she answered almost every question.
Now, on to the spoilers. If you haven’t read it and don’t want to know more, STOP NOW!!!
There were many deaths that I found entirely interesting in their choices. In particular, the death of Hedwig was somewhat odd to me. Why kill the owl? It did set the stage for a bloody affair (Madeye Moody died only moments later), but I thought it more interesting for what it represented. In a way, killing Hedwig was what any good enemy does when starting a war: you cut communication lines. While I don’t necessarily believe that is what JK Rowling intended, it is interesting to note that it can be taken that way.
I’ve heard many say that Fred’s death was difficult; however, I knew from the moment of George’s injury that Fred was likely to die. It was just something in the way they joked about George’s injury that led me to think “Fred’s Dead.” And truly, some 550 pages later, he was. We also find some foreshadowing of that event when Mrs. Weasley states in Book 6 that Voldemort is “going to kill them in their beds” after she first sees their store on Diagon Alley. On a side note, I was glad that Mrs. Weasley did not die as I originally predicted.
The most difficult death for me was Dobby’s. Dobby seemed to represent the innocent bystander to me. He wasn’t of course, but in a way, he was a victim of circumstance more than an actual warrior. This death also affected me so much simply because it affected Harry. It was interesting to see Harry deal with burying someone. In particular, this was the first time that Harry really did bury someone. His parents were gone before memory had flourished, Cedric was just a tragedy, Sirius just disappeared, and Dumbledore was more a public event than a funeral. In a way, all the death and mourning was rolled into a single event with Dobby’s death.
I was also very happy to see Snape’s eventual vindication. I admit that I believed him to be evil. After his attack on George, I was convinced of it. However, he truly became the tragic character in this story, and I’m glad that Harry saw why and, even better, forgave him. I know that many people like Snape because of Alan Rickman’s fantastic portrayal on-screen, but it should be remembered that JK Rowling herself said that we should not like him and that he was a bad person. In a way, she developed a character that required us to place judgments on him for good or bad, and she developed that particular test very well.
Another scene of the book that I found truly fascinating and which, in my opinion, enforces my opinion that she has truly developed her own sub-genre of literature is the events in Kings Cross. Before this time, Dumbledore has clearly been established as the Christ figure. While the Christ figure is a very common character in all literature, Dumbledore’s portrayal of this role was as blatant as the sun is bright. In particular, the discovery in Book 7 that Dumbledore ordered Snape to kill him is so reminiscent of the theory that Christ ordered Peter to deny him thrice that to claim Dumbledore as any other character-type would be ridiculous. This is why so many people questioned whether or not Dumbledore was really dead. As is widely known, the Christ figure ALWAYS resurrects. For evidence of this, see Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, Gandolf in The Lord of the Rings, or any other literary Christ figure. But Dumbledore doesn’t resurrect. Instead, this role is passed on to Harry in the scene in Kings Cross. It’s a fascinating literary development that, as far as I’m aware, has never happened before, and it changes the very nature of the Christ figure. Because of this event, Harry becomes the Christ figure. Let’s explore this further.
The scene in Kings Cross begins with Harry being “dead” along with what can be assumed that portion of Voldemort’s soul that was stored in the horcrux. He is met by a dead Dumbledore where, after a discussion, Harry is given the choice of remaining dead or going back. I have my theories as to why this happened, but for now let’s leave those theories aside. The simple fact that Harry is given the choice between life and death establishes Harry as the Christ figure because only a Christ figure can have that choice. For all others, the choice is automatic, and it is always death. The reason behind Harry’s choice also makes him the Christ figure. The Christ figure never does what is best for himself but rather what is best for others. Whether or not this is the first time this has happened in literature, the very nature of the event creates a situation where seemingly normal characters have the power to take on God-like powers for good. It is an incredible event.
Now for my theories of why this could happen…. We know that on Voldemort’s resurrection he gained immunity from much of Harry’s blood protection. Because of this, we know that Voldemort’s killing curse at the end of Book 7 should have killed Harry, and indeed it did. However, I believe that Harry was given the right of choosing death because the killing curse hit a body occupied by two souls. Harry, being the complete soul, would have been given the right of choice over the partial fragment that was Voldemort’s soul. Indeed, if we accept that the making of a horcrux divides the soul and that Harry was the sixth horcrux (Nagini would have been the last), the portion of Voldemort that died with Harry was only 3.125% of Voldemort’s soul.
Another interesting facet of the books is that they often repeat themselves to make certain points. For example, Harry first arrives at the Dursley’s in Book 1 aboard Sirius’s motorcycle with Hagrid. He leaves the Dursley’s for the last time in the same manner. The most interesting one that I found was the comparison between Sirius’s death by the hand of Bellatrix Lestrange and Bellatrix’s defeat at the hand of Molly Weasley (Sirius’s cousin). Both died laughing and both fell slowly backwards. In fact, the description of the two scenes is almost the same. There are a great many more of those repetitions to find.
Neville’s growth was also amazing, and it was another repetition. The school year starts with each person being placed in a house, and at the end of Book 7 Voldemort attempts to force the Sorting Hat to place Neville in Slytherin. The scene that follows not only proves Neville’s place in the house, but also repeats the ending of Book 2 where the Sorting Hat gifts the wearer the Sword of Gryffindor to slay a snake.
Finally, I was happy for the epilogue. I was glad to know that the Malfoys made some kind of recovery. I was happy that the romantic relationships developed and worked out. But I was especially happy for the tribute Harry paid to Snape. In a way, this solidified Harry’s role as the Christ figure because he forgave. If you have not seen it, JK Rowling did a brief interview where she discussed the futures of each character and stated what they became in life. It was all wonderful.
While sad that the books are over, I’m glad that I participated. Nothing like this has ever hit the literary world, and I would doubt that it will hit it again. While somewhat presumptuous and maybe a little early, I freely claim that the last time a literary superstar walked the earth with the same magnitude and force of JK Rowling was 500 years ago with William Shakespeare. It’s not her writing. It’s not the fact that she’s the first billionaire author. It’s not the fact that she’s sold over 350 million books. It’s the fact that she captured an audience as no author has ever done so before.
And the world will be short-changed if she never writes again.