Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Impenetrable Allegory

***Spoiler alert: No plot spoilers, I think, but if you do not want to know how I feel about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, stop reading now.***

I overheard John on the phone last night, telling a friend I was "a little disappointed" with the last Harry Potter book. I've been trying to write a post that will express the complexity of what I really feel, without giving away plot details, for friends who haven't finished (or started). In three points:

1. The female characters are a real letdown. I'm not giving anything away to say that a few of the wobblier wizards (Ron, Neville) really come into their own, while the most promising young witches (Hermione, Ginny) aren't exactly transformed in the crucible of battle. And for a fantasy set in a world of infinite possibility, the future of magical women as laid out in Rowling's epilogue is pretty conventional.

2. The magic is too complicated! In the early books, it was organic, and fun, and, heck, magical. The reader learned the intricacies and limitations and dangers of the spells, curses and magical objects of the wizarding world along with the characters. It made sense. It makes a different sort of sense, sadly, that when Rowling is left with no choice but to locate the detailed explanation of the magic at work in Deathly Hallows in the most stripped-down setting imaginable. Even more sadly, the nonsense of the magic masks the compelling and nuanced personal motives that have been driving the story all along.

3. The writing is not up to the standards of a young adult classic. It's thick and slow and there is too much of it. The dialogue is plodding and repetitive. Show, don't tell, remember?

We saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon. What a visual delight! (So very much broken glass!) When it's time to film Number 7, I hope the text will receive a similar efficient trimming.

1 comment:

oneredboot said...

i'm with you. HATED hated the epilogue: kids are great and all, but hermione is the "most promising witch of her generation"! and this is manifested how? she named her kids after important wizards?

and the intermarrying and suggestions of budding relationships among the children! not only creepy and incestuous, but they're starting a dynasty of wizard families--no new half-bloods in sight.

i did read that the epilogue was written years and years ago, which explains its ill-fitting tone but not its 1950s, family values moralizing.

it's not like i was expecting some sort of postmodern, destabilizing ending (though i hoped), but she tried so hard for the Dickensian serial wrap-up that she missed the ambiguities and interesting little unhappinesses that Dickens actually provides as the end of, say, Our Mutual Friend.

i think her mistake occurred somewhere around the 5th book, when she started writing screenplays instead of books.