Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #1: The Covers

Most of us read the Scholastic “regular” edition that featured Harry and Lord Voldemort on the cover. It seems that the artist, for her own reasons or under instructions, decided not to present an event from the book (she had said in more than one interview that the curtains were to make a bookends set with her first book cover that also featured them). In contrast, the Bloomsbury front cover (children’s edition) seemed to be a dramatic rendering of the escape from the Lestrange bank vault within Gringotts. The spine, too, had the Deathly Hallows tri-gram, the back cover Hogwarts on ice (?), and a Stag Patronus on the inside front flap. As much as I enjoyed the Scholastic cover, I wonder why the artist didn’t choose any of the exciting moments from the book for the finale front. What are your thoughts on the GrandPre cover after finishing the series finish?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #2: The Opening Quotations

Ms. Rowling decided to open Deathly Hallows with quotations from Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers and William Penn’s More Fruits of Solitude. Penn (1644-1718) was a notable Quaker and non-conformist; Aeschylus (524-486 BC) was a notable Athenian soldier and playwright. The play from which the Aeschylus quotation is from, the Libation Bearers, is the story of Orestes, a young man with a scar on his forehead, and his taking revenge on the muderers of his father, Agamemnon. Both quotations are about life after death and both the reality and accessibility of those who are dead that we have loved. Why do you think Ms. Rowling chose these two passages from these two authors? Does it point to a core meaning for the book?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #3: Christian Ending?

Ms. Rowling said in a 2000 Vancouver interview that she didn’t talk about her Christian faith because if she did readers from “age 10 to 60” would know exactly how the story would end. In another interview, she told the reporter with questions about her faith to come back after the seventh (and that, if he had read it, he wouldn’t have to come back because his questions would be answered). Harry offers himself as a sacrifice in Chapter 34, experiences something like a holding station for the after-life in Chapter 35, and then rises from the dead (or his figurative death) and slays the evil one in Chapter 36. Did Harry’s walk into the dark forest as sacrificial lamb strike you as Christian allegory, heroic monomyth, or what? Did it meet the expectations created by Ms. Rowling’s interview comments?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #4: Stoppered Death

Kathy Leisner of The Leaky Cauldron speculated at what was then Barnes and Noble University just after Half-Blood Prince was published that Severus “stoppered” Albus Dumbledore’s death when he tried to destroy the Ring Horcrux and that he was a dead man walking in the sixth book (an explanation of this theory can be found in the first chapter of my Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader). Three questions: Was the golden potion Snape gave Dumbledore the potion he mentions in the first Potions class in Stone? Was this the reason that Dumbledore trusted Snape without reservation? If so, why doesn’t he ever tell Severus about the Horcrux hunt?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #5: Narrative Misdirection

Ms. Rowling’s signature flair is the stunning ending in which you learn that what Harry thought is not only wrong but outrageously wrong (again, see Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader for an in-depth look at Ms. Rowling’s use of this narratological trick she gets from Austen’s Emma). The end of Half-Blood Prince seemed to be the exception because Harry has always believed that Snape was bad and in Prince he argues from the start that Draco is up to no-good. We learned, of course, in Deathly Hallows that Harry was mistaken in Prince — everything on the Tower was staged, Severus was acting in obedience — and, incredibly, about Dumbledore as well. What did you think of The Prince’s Tale, in which we learned that Snape was a Heathcliff Hero and that Dumbledore was using Harry Potter all along as a necessary sacrifice in the war against Voldemort? Did the conversation with Albus in King’s Cross soften the blow of learning how Harry was a pawn in Dumbledore’s game? Were you caught off guard in either instance?