Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #6: The Hero’s Journey

One of the Five Keys or “essential patterns” Ms. Rowling uses that are discussed in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader is the hero’s journey. Ms. Rowling uses a formulaic trip from Privet Drive to King’s Cross in Harry’s first six years that differs only in the details; every year we start out at Privet Drive, escape magically, discover a mystery, work with Ron and/or Hermione to solve the mystery, come to a crisis point, take a trip underground, confront the enemy, die a figurative death, rise from the dead in the presence of a symbol of Christ, do a denouement with Dumbledore, and return to King’s Cross. Except for Harry’s return to Hogwarts being delayed until the last eight of thirty six chapters, Ms. Rowling seems to have conformed to her formula. I was most impressed by the internal mysteries the Trio must resolve about the Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore’s real character, and “the man in the mirror” while Horcrux hunting, not to mention Harry’s “resurrection” as this year’s Christ figure. Deathly Hallows, because it was not a Hogwarts year, seemed to work better than the other stories as a hero’s journey; Harry had his time in the Wilderness. What are your thoughts about Deathly Hallows as monomyth?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #7: The Rubedo

Ms. Rowling said in a 1998 interview that she had read a “ridiculous amount” about alchemy before writing the books and that this is what sets the “magical parameters and logic” in Harry Potter (if you want to learn more about alchemy in these books, see chapters 3-5 in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader ). The last stage of the seven cycle alchemical Great Work is called the Rubedo or “red stage” and features an alchemical wedding of the Red King and White Queen, the death of this couple and the creation of the “philosophical orphan,” the resolution of contraries, the revelation of the accomplishments of the “white stage” (here, Half-Blood Prince), and the appearance of the “Rebis” or “double-natured person” (Hermaphrodite). As the “Black” and “White” stages of the books featured the players and the death of the characters with these names, it was widely assumed that the Rubedo of Deathly Hallows would feature Rubeus Hagrid. We had the wedding, the death of a couple (just not Bill and Fleur!), an orphan, the resolution of the Gryffindor/Slytherin chasm within wizardry and the Wizards First prejudice, the revelations of what really happened in Prince, and Harry’s acting as Quintessence, Savior/sacrifice, and Rebis. But Hagrid? How important were his parts in the opening and the finale? Did his carrying Harry out of the forest close the story he began by breaking the door on the House on the Rock in Stone? Nice golden binding, though, for the last book and lead-to-gold finish…

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #8: Postmodern Themes

The easiest explanation for why these books are so popular is that “we buy and read them because we like them.” That’s not as vapid and circular as you might think because “why we like them” is that “the books resonate with the concerns and our beliefs of this historical age.” Ms. Rowling writes as a postmodern writer for a postmodern audience. In Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader I explain ten qualities of Postmodern Story-Telling, and, as you’d expect, Ms. Rowling hits a perfect 10 in Harry Potter. Deathly Hallows is no exception; it is a great finish to her several postmodern themes, most notably, that government, media, and schools are the agencies of the Grand Myth that makes us as prejudiced as we are, that these cultural prejudices make us effectively blind to the way things really are, and that only the excluded or “other” (“freaks!”) have something like a true view of things. What did you make of the Orwellian Ministry of Magic in this book and the speed with which Voldemort took over? Harry’s odyssey or “life on the run” only seems to solidify his place in people’s heart as the hoped for Deliverer of the Oppressed. Discussion point: is Harry’s victory due to his respecting all magical creatures and Hogwarts houses? Is he a “Postmodern hero” in leading the magical “rainbow coalition” against the Nazi Slytherins?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #9: Traditional Symbolism

Ms. Rowling includes a “resurrection” scene in every Harry Potter novel (see, yes, Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader) and Deathly Hallows conforms to pattern . Instead of “symbols of Christ” helping Harry, however, through his figurative death, in Hallows Harry seems to be a Christ figure at least in offering himself in obedience and as agnal sacrifice to free the world from evil. We see snakes again used consistently (contrary to Michael O’Brien’s assertions) as evil, an afterlife “holding area,” and a “seekers symbol” misunderstood as a political device. What symbols did you notice in Deathly Hallows and how effectively were they used?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #10: Beheadings

Each Harry Potter novel has featured characters who have been beheaded, nearly beheaded, or who are predicted to be beheaded. Ms. Rowling loves Tale of Two Cities, especially the ending, and a reader named “Reyhan” at predicted that Severus, if anyone, would play the Sydney Carton role and take it in the neck. What “beheadings” or neck deaths did you note in Deathly Hallows and were any on the Sydney Carton model?