Guest Post: Epilogue Day Thoughts

A Few Thoughts About Epilogue Day from David Martin

This Friday, September first, 2017, is Epilogue Day.  It is the day when the final chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows takes place.  In the book that chapter is called “Epilogue   Nineteen Years Later” and no year is specified, just the date of September first.  However, we know that the battle of Hogwarts and the death of Voldemort – as described in chapter 36 (“The Flaw in the Plan”) – took place in June, 1998, so it’s easy enough to add nineteen years to that.

 The epilogue shows us Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny as they put their children on the Hogwarts Express.  We catch a glimpse of Draco Malfoy and his family, we hear Percy’s voice, and we’re told a bit about Victoire and Teddy Lupin.  This chapter reminds me of the end of Dickens’ Bleak House where we readers are given a seven-years-later update on the status of the various characters in that novel.

 But this epilogue does something more than that.  It brings the story full circle, with the sending off of the next generation.  The “building” of the bildungsroman is complete – for Harry and his generation.  Harry came of age with his seventeenth birthday back in chapter seven of Deathly Hallows, but now our characters are fully adult and married with children of their own.  In a way, chapter 36 ended the main story of Deathly Hallows, with the defeat of Voldemort.  This epilogue ends the whole seven-book series.  In terms of Rowling’s circle patterns, this chapter pairs well with the first chapter of the series way back in Philosopher’s Stone: The Boy Who Lived.  That boy, who was a baby in that first chapter, is still living, and he is now a man.  We have gone from the Dursley’s “perfectly normal, thank you very much” to Harry’s “All was well.” 

 The reasons for that “All was well” interest me.  Ask people to imagine what the world will be like in the future.  They often come up with visions of amazing progress: intelligent machines, instant language learning by swallowing a pill, flying cars (without the aid of magic), etc.  Rowling’s vision in this epilogue seems to be quite different.  “All was well” not because there has been great progress, but because there has been a great restoration of the way things should be.

 This restoration began in chapter 36.  Voldemort, the great disrupter of the way things should be, was defeated.  After his death “the news (was) now creeping in from every quarter as the morning drew on; that the Imperiused up and down the country had come back to themselves, that Death Eaters were fleeing or else being captured, that the innocent of Azkaban were being released at that very moment, and that Kingsley Shacklebolt had been named temporary Minister of Magic. . . .” (Deathly Hallows, 744-745)  Later two of the three hallows are dealt with so that they will not bring any more disruption.  Harry’s holly and phoenix wand is restored to him.

 At King’s Cross in the epilogue, the Hogwarts Express looks just the same.  Certain realities of life stay the same from one generation to the next.  But platform nine and three-fourths is covered in mist and steam.  That’s the way the future always looks.  We know that our children will grow up.  We know that they will leave home (on their own versions of the Hogwarts Express.)  But neither we nor they (nor Professor Trelawney) can see the details.  We can only re-assure them that they will get to make choices and that (at least some of the time) the Sorting Hat will take their choices into account.

Comments

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    How unusual is a (fairly) near-future end to a series, or, indeed, a near-future novel? Lewis’s That Hideous Strength is suddenly a near-future, just post-WW II story, after the contemporary/near-past Ransom predecessors. Williams’s All-Hallows’ Eve, though not clearly part of a series, is also suddenly a near-future, just post-WW II story. Huxley’s Brave New World is (at least nominally, formally) far-future, with, therein, a sudden, striking flash-forward at one moment, from incubated infancy to adult death from a moment’s inoculatory neglect.

    There’s probably an interesting monography of such things, but I’ve never encountered it.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    A striking example, which I have never yet properly caught up with, is provided by the book forms of the late Sir Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn’s Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series, presented as 21st-century editions of the diaries of the characters involved.

  3. Yes, yes, yes! That nails the epilogue quite well. Thank you!

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