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Books

Farewell To Harry Potter
Posted by Daniel Kuo on Jul 26, 2007 - 12:42:41 AM

LOS ANGELES As Harry Potter prepares to leave the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry once and for all, I can’t help but remember my own high school graduation.  Like everyone else, I was completely preoccupied with the prospect of no more high school classes and finals, and the unexplored visions of college and the real world.  Amidst the excitement, I did not stop near enough to think about the memories I was leaving and the friends I would miss until it was too late.

Apparently, I do not learn from my mistakes. While reserving my copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", and while frantically skimming books one through six to prepare for the new addition, I’ve forgotten to fully comprehend the fact that Harry Potter, our beloved magical hero, is about to finish off an adventure that has taken a decade to unfold.   After years of wondering and waiting for the perpetual next book, it is finally over.  As of last weekend, I will never read a new Harry Potter book again.  I got into Potter-mania a little late, but even so, I was already devouring them as I entered middle school.  Harry piloted a flying car in Book Two, years before I even attended driving school.  He got his first snog before I did (is that something I should keep private?)  Like Star Trek or Lord of the Rings, he is one of those rare artistic phenomena that are so universally successful, they manage to define an entire generation.  My generation .

Potter-coverx_2.jpg
Harry Potter Book 7
These thoughts occur to me as I briskly walk back to my car from the still crowded Borders bookstore, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" firmly clutched in both hands.  It’s 2:35 a.m. on Saturday morning, and I can’t help wondering:  Am I ready for it?  Am I ready to say goodbye to Harry forever?

Rowling’s final novel begins only a few months after the sixth one ends, with the evil wizard Voldemort still building his forces and mobilizing for all-out war.  Meanwhile, Harry and his close friends Ron and Hermione prepare for the last mission given to them by the late Professor Dumbledore: find the Horcruxes, hidden, magical artifacts in which Voldemort has placed pieces of his own fractured soul in order to protect himself from death .

It is clear from Chapter One that Rowling has put great effort into ensuring that her final book gives Harry Potter the magnificent, encompassing conclusion it deserves. As the plot unfolds, the entire wizarding community converges upon the central conflict between Harry and Voldemort, which is a great asset in setting up an explosive ending, but also means that allies and enemies from all seven novels are now being stuffed into a single storyline.  Characters flit in and out of the book within single chapters, playing quick but important roles in Harry’s quest.  Not only that, Rowling, in her eternal cleverness, has scattered questions and mysteries in her path from the first novel to this one, and their answers now whiz by so fast that it’s hard to keep track of them.  She has even thrown in a few completely new dimensions to well-known characters, the two best being some hidden flaws in Dumbledore’s grand dignity and some humanity within the Malfoy family’s despicable wickedness.  It is a whirlwind of side-stories and secrets, and yet it still flows seamlessly due to the active, fast pace of the book itself.  Rowling is obviously straining to keep her prodigious imagination in check, picking only the key details to avoid the book reading like an encyclopedia of Harry Potter secrets.  As it stands, it is the perfect compromise; still chalk-full of details to satisfy any Potter-phile, but slimmed down enough to form a coherent ”“ albeit furiously fast ”“ narrative .

Beyond the storylines, J.K. Rowling has also been very careful to develop another theme throughout her series: the growth of Harry and his friends.  From Book Two, she has been slowly, yet deliberately, pushing Harry to become an adult.  She has shown him ”“ and us ”“ that life goes beyond getting a detention with your least favorite professor or asking someone to the Yule Ball.  She has shown us that no matter how comforting and valuable mentors can be, all heroes must walk forward on their own.  She has also shown us the importance, even in the darkest of times, of valuing friendship, honor, and loyalty.

This theme is perhaps Rowling’s greatest triumph in Book Seven.  From the first few scenes onward, we understand that Harry and his friends are no longer children.  They are saying goodbye to family members not simply until next summer, but perhaps forever.  They are also more careful now, fully acknowledging the dangers in their future and the responsibilities they have to protect the ones they love.  Rowling’s characterization is even more detailed and well rounded than before, clearly demonstrating that through all of the wizarding duels and dementor attacks, the Hogsmeade visits and Apparition lessons, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have finally come of age.

It goes without saying that some mainstays of the series are gone.  There is no more Quidditch; this is war, after all, and there is no more time for games.  As in all wars, there is a surplus of death, major and minor, on both sides.  Harry also does not return for another year of schooling, which is a departure from the structure of the past novels and a step towards more traditional, adventure-fantasy books.  Instead of being pulled along by the flow of the school year, Harry and his friends, in yet another sign of their adulthood, must now choose where to go and when to act on their own accord.  However, Hogwarts lovers should not fret: the magical castle is the setting for the book’s thrilling conclusion, written in the frenzied, active prose that Rowling has perfected over the past 10 years.

Rapid and lively, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is as deserving of an ending as any Potter lover could ask for.  While it may be hard to say goodbye, one consolation is that no matter how old we get or how ragged our copies become, we can always return to the eternally young Harry Potter and his journeys one more time.  At the very least, 'The Boy Who Lived' will live on forever in the imaginations of Rowling’s readers.  So here is one more Hogwarts fan who is saying goodbye to Harry, for now.  Until we meet again, among the magical halls and wild adventures.


 

Cliffside Malibu

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