Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Tragic Hero

So, I was sitting with my parents at a meal the other day, and we started talking about Harry Potter. My mother was talking about the movies, I was talking about the books (and how I plan to take off work and stay inside and not talk to anyone until I'm done reading it, lest someone tell me the ending like someone did for the last book.)

We inevitably started talking about the much-discussed eager-fan speculation: will the beloved boy wizard meet his end with the end of the series?

If you haven't read all of the current Harry Potter books and plan to, stop reading now and come back after you have done so, spoilers will follow, suddenly and without any other warning.

One of Rowling's reasons for killing Sirius Black, that also applied to the death of Albus Dumbledore, was that (note this is probably misquoted) 'people need to die.' Sure, maybe they do. Death is a part of life, after all. And Rowling's world does exist within *most* of the current laws of physics and biology. (Magic notwithstanding, but we all know magic has its own laws.)

Harry is a tragic hero. He's talked about it himself. He will either win, and therefore be a murderer, or he will lose, and therefore die. This looks a lot like lose/lose. Harry is a good guy, so Rowling needs to ask if he would be able to live with himself having killed someone, even the evil Voldemort. But he has killed someone before (remember Professor Quirrell?) and seemed to be alright with that. My, what a dilemma! (He's also already killed a piece of Voldemorte, he's already on his way.)

You'll notice I'm not answering the 'will Harry die' question. I, of course, do not want him to. I think Harry is a wonderful character, he's gotten children and adults to read, and often read together. I think he needs to live because of hope. People need to have hope, they need to believe that someone more extraordinary than Joe Public fights for what is right and comes out triumphant in the end, all the struggle was worth it for the success. What a dark world it would be if all the fighting did not bring the good people out on top.

But on the other hand, Harry is a good guy. He's going to his final show-down knowing he will have to kill someone. Would Harry, as we know him, want life after that? Has he had enough time to square with the reality of what he is expected to do? Will he make the ultimate sacrifice for Wizards and Witches everywhere?

Unlike The Matrix, which ended the only way that series could, I do believe there could be life after death for Harry. Harry could do the service to the magical world that he is expected to do and be ok. Then my mother thought this one up; it doesn't have to be the end if Harry dies either. People have been putting protections and enchantments on Harry since his birth. There's bound to be something that could protect/save/resurrect him if the final battles goes ill. I'm not sure if I agree with this particular train of thought, but there's a possibility.

The thing is, there are really two options here. Harry wins and we all live happily ever after, or Harry wins but dies in the process. The third option, that Harry dies and Voldemort lives is unfathomable. Then what would be the point? An elaborate and well-loved series where evil wins the day? Rowling may find herself reprising Stephen King's Misery if she's not careful.

I think us fans are going to continue to talk about it until the last book comes out and we all find out what happens. Just remember, I'm not going to converse with any person in any way whatsoever from that moment until I'm done reading.


Willow Goldentree said...

Nice. You really have a talent for writing and thank you for taking us through this Dialog about Harry.

Personally, I think I'd like to see him live. As a reader, we've invested a lot of time and energy into loving this character and to have him die in the final chapter would be heartbreak. We already know the series will end after this next book (right?) I think that's heartbreak enough.

Fyrecreek said...

I agree. You are correct that she plans to end the series with this last book. That's enough. Don't crush our world by killing our beloved hero too!