The Truth about Harry Potter

The truth about Harry Potter is that it ended like it began, a fantastical tale with (mostly) lifelike characters with real issues, a story so fun that people took it too seriously. In the final analysis, all the analysis will lead the killjoys to scoff at the final book, and eventually, the entire series. Because the books are all of a set. The killjoys though, are usually too scared and insecure to rise above being overly critical. A good story is a good story if it's enjoyable to experience and one shouldn't be afraid of that happening.

Having said that, here are my thoughts about the final book and the whole series.

I didn't understand all the rules and bylaws that allowed the final confrontation to come out as it did. As someone who knows their way around a D20, if I couldn't follow the magic rules explained there, then it wasn't clear enough. It reeked of writing oneself into and out of a corner. The 7th horcrux bit was genius, but to use it and have an escape clause requires something clear and understandable.

Dumbledore was Gandalfian cool until he was turned into Tony Soprano in the final book; flawed, doubting, compromised and manipulative. Did anyone else notice the odd adult-like digression into giving good old Albus a needless complex? It was way out of character. This backstory never explained how an earlier trauma made him the wise mentor he was and it ran totally counter to the idea that runs underneath the wise mentor archetype: they have always been wise and good, it's not a cover or overreaction for old sins. General rule for the final book of a series is to not unload an entire backstory in the final reel. Everything should be set up, with only plot-advancing secrets revealed. Dumbledore got kind of mangled in the last book, and I think it undermined the greater conflict between him and Harry: which is why he kept Harry in the dark and how the heck could he know the future so definitively? Me thinks J.K. got a bit too tangled in all the narrative threads she was weaving, and that's something because she's a master weaver.

Snape, on the other hand, has been a brilliantly portrayed character from start to finish. In terms of most heroic and selfless, I think I might hand him the prize. He's the true long suffering hero and knowing his story, you begin to see Harry as a whiny Wesley Crusher who swoops into save the day without ever even losing his glasses. Severus is friggin' hurting for decades and unlike Harry, he does good things even though he hates it. However, as others pointed out, his finale and subsequent Pensieve episode happened too late in the book. It should have happened in the middle, and Harry should have been carrying around Snape's secrets the whole time, unable to tell anyone. Snape seems to be let off the hook too much by the good wizards for killing Dumbledore, and there's no emotional payoff when one finds out the real story.

Finally, the one character that I think has been way too underdeveloped, too shallow, too lacking in personality in every book is Harry Potter. All the other characters leap off the page but him. Yes, he's the audience's representative to a large extent, but after seven books, he's a blank. There's nothing there. His dead dad has more of a presence. His smarts only exist to expose plot points, his bravery is necessary to keep the action going, his angry outbursts keep the drama churning. This would be fine in a Dan Brown thriller where all the characters are kind of flat, but nearly every other character in the series is beautifully crafted. In the end, I didn't care if he lived or died: there was no emotional tugs to pull. The death of Anakin Solo was absolutely heart-wrenching because the author made it so damn tragic and noble.

Consider this: If Harry, Hermione, Ron and Hagrid all got on board a crowded Metro train, and Hagrid accidentally knocked over some frazzled commuter, what would each character say? I can instantly picture the general body language, tone and actions of each, except for one.

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