Green-Eyed Beatrice and Lily: Gauging the Depth of the Dante Influence in the Harry Potter Novels (A, B, & C)


  1. I feel much better about Severus’ death after that explication. And this post really makes me wish that JKR would agree to write “Hogwarts: The Next Generation”… but if the youngest putative trio is to mirror the heavenly resolution, well then, it might be a very hard book to write. There’s a reason not many books set in Heaven are written!

    Who was it who said that fictional evil is varied and interesting, while real evil is banal and tiresome, while goodness is interesting to live, but boring to read about?

  2. JohnABaptist says

    Alas! Poor Yorick…you have done too well!

    No one is posting after reading John’s masterpiece.

    Although totally unqualified to do so, let me kick off a couple of items just to shake the real HogPros out of their awe-shocked trance and get this thread to producing something.

    re: “…I suspect that memory, rather than being “beyond” Hogwarts magic, is at the heart of it….” Actually in the world of Hogwarts Magic, memory is everything. Anything that Harry, Ron, Hermionie, et al learn by way of charms or defensive spells must be recited from memory, there is no time to consult your Pocket Gilderoy’s Spellopedia. They have to see and react. No time for reference or rumination.

    This contrasts sharply to our era where we don’t learn things, we learn where to look them up at. My father who had only an Eighth Grade education in a one-room schoolhouse on the Kansas plains could recite more poetry from memory than any other person I have heard reciting things. In fact, all the literature professors I encountered in college read the poetry they presented for discussion out of books and hence lost all of the fire, grace and dignity that my father put into everything he quoted.

    There, hopefully that thought is mundane enough that someone will react to it, if not to John’s superb post. (Which I for one am still trying to read and absorb–not because it is not clearly written, but because I lack the common platform of background on which to stand while reading.)

  3. JohnABaptist says

    And since I promised a “couple” of points in my previous post, let me close the couplet with discussion on this quotation from John:

    “Dante is the greater artist, perhaps the greatest artist, not only because his poetry operates at a different depth than Ms. Rowling’s because of his experience, but because his audience is capable of a more profound experience and noetic understanding than the postmodern, secular reading public can imagine.”

    To what extent is the artist defined and limited by what the audience is capable of imagining?

    I suspect Ms. Rowling capable of writing something closer to Dante than her seminal 7 volume novel has proved to be, I just doubt whether that book had it been written would ever have come to our attention. Certainly no major publishing house would touch it, because it would be out of touch with the demands of the marketplace. If a book is not published, then regardless of its intrinsic worth or value, it has no cultural value to our society because our society will never see it.

    Dante’s audience would have had more than a passing knowledge of the contents of a wide cross section of what we now call the Great Books. They would know of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and the Holy Scriptures.

    Rowling’s audience did not. In fact casual scanning of many fan sites immediately after Hallows came out showed me a general level of agreement among her fans with the “fact” that nothing remotely similar to Harry’s experiences in the last book appears anywhere in the Bible. A statement that I can only attribute to a general, nearly universal, ignorance among Ms. Rowling’s audience of the Bible and its contents. In that environment, how could she have written a modern Commedia?

    My question is: Has she done the next best thing and emulated Thomas Paine?

    Paine found that the knowledge base of the bulk of the American People with respect to the principles upon which he and others were proposing rebellion against British rule was insufficient to support a Revolutionary War. He thus set about providing that basis through his pamphlet “Common Sense.” His goal was to arm the American Public with a shared platform of ideas that would allow them to understand all of the other articles and pamphlets being written on the subject. He provided the wider audience of his day a shared intellectual platform on which they could stand.

    Has Rowling done the same for our generation? Can other authors now proceed with deeper and higher explorations of the great conversations because she has defined the nouns and verbs of a common language they can draw on? For that matter, has she created a foundation for her own future work? If so, how do you evaluate or compare that accomplishment?

    I know, for instance, it takes a far greater architect to construct a solid, reliable foundation that it does to create an attractive roof, but the general public will always ogle the roof and never realize the foundation is even present.

  4. Thank you, JAB, for responding! I have divided the original post into three smaller parts for easier reading and responding. I hope you and other will post comments on the subject areas of each (and re-post your last one under ‘A’!).

    Grateful John

  5. John,
    I finally finished reading this part of your magnum opus on Rowling/Dante.

    I shall admit that I have not yet read Dante’s work. I bought a copy of it, and it graces my bookshelf, but I have not read it yet. Therefore my comments are not borne of direct knowledge of the subject you have written.

    I also sense that has inhibited others from commenting.

    Your points are persuasive and you have given us lines to prove your points as to the underlying reasons that JKR continually used emerald green to describe Harry’s eyes. It seemed odd that she continually used that description, but if it was a literary allusion it makes a lot of sense.

    My only quibble is about the colors used in the heraldry aspect of the books. JKR seems to have wanted to use colors only once and not reuse them. That means that each of the four houses seem to have balance the major colors available for heraldric devices.

    Here’s a link to a website that has all kinds of symbolic meanings attached to heraldry. Scroll down to colors:

    Gryffindor = red and gold
    Slytherin = silver and green
    Hufflepuff = black and yellow
    Ravenclaw = blue and white (?) I’ll admit that I’m not positive about the colors for Ravenclaw. It could be silver or white. The HP Lexicon says bronze..(?) )

    So it’s not quite rock solid, but after looking up symbolism a few years ago on heraldry, I was impressed that each of the animals seemed to not only reflect on the various attributes of the houses, but the colors seemed in balance as well.

    There’s also the Red Lion in alchemy is there not? The symbol on the heraldric device for Gryffindor is the lion and not the griffin. Just one more pointer I think to the significance of alchemy as an influence on the series.

    Here is wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!


  6. I just want to throw my hat in and say that I too am reading the Dante posts, and loving every bit of them. I am still digesting it all, so hopefully comments will be coming soon, but please know that we are here and we are eating it up 🙂

    The ‘Rowling as gateway to the greats of literature’ sounds very interesting. I, for one, would love to see that project move forward.

    Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  7. rosesandthorns says

    Lovely, lovely, lovely work! Wonderful research and thoughts. I especially liked what you wrote here: “Our lives, designed as we are for relationship, however, are about the resolution of these contraries in love, be it “health” in our peaceful relationship with our environment, or “life” consequent to our loving relationships with our fellow human beings, or “holiness” as we enjoy communion with God. We pursue, so much as we live by design rather than contrary to it, a life that, like God’s simultaneously Absolute and Infinite reality, is love, peace, and life, all synonyms for the resolution of contraries.”

    Also, glad you pointed out the difference in generations between James and Harry. I’ve always thought of James/Sirius/Lupin/Pettigrew/Severus as being reflected in Harry/Ron/Hermione/Neville/Draco in some way. Only Harry’s generation was much improved. James grew up wealthy and priviledged and popular, while Harry grew up poor and dispriviledged and unpopular (at the Dursleys), and James was a bully while Harry was himself bullied, which was an interesting thing for Harry’s growth nevertheless. (My mother notes that JRK is definitely against bullying, and James’ bullying of Severus is certainly passed on in Severus’ bullying of James’ son Harry. We know so little about James, and I always wondered if he did feel eventually bad for his bullying of Severus. Anyway …) Hermione, unlike Lupin with James, stands up to Harry if she judges that Harry has done something wrong. James initiates the bullying of Severus; Draco initiates the bullying of Harry (role reversal). Neville, unlike Pettigrew, grows in courage and truly comes into his own (becoming the leader of Dumbledore’s Army when Harry is gone, as well as brave slayer of the final Horcrux).

    I hope the third generation is even better, with a friendship between Albus, Scorpius and Rose much like our beloved trio. I think that Albus Severus Potter *does* end up in Gryffindor, like his father and mother and even, in a way, his namesakes (Albus Dumbledore was a Gryffindor and, as Dumbledore pointed out to Snape in the remark about “sorting too soon,” Dumbledore clearly thought Snape eventually ended up with the courage of a Gryffindor). A true friendship between a Gryffindor and a Slytherin (maybe of Albus and Scorpius), and even a successful romance (Rose and Scorpius, maybe?) with cousins Rose and Albus (with a brother and sister family-type relationship) would be interesting. It would also parallel the GreyLady/BloodyBaron and Merope/TomRiddleSr. and Severus/Lily disasters, and be the exact opposite of the James/Severus and Harry/Draco Gryffindor/Slytherin hate. In the epilogue (I do love the epilogue) Draco is at least somewhat reconciled to Harry, so perhaps he did not continue the anti-muggle-born and anti-Gryffindor tirade of his father and teach it to his son? That is just speculation: and JK Rowling, I don’t really want to know any more on that!

    Ahem, anyway, I did in particular love the Dante and Snape part of your essay. I think that death was really the best ending for Severus’ story, as much as it was sad to see such an interesting character die in such a horrible way. (At least he got a glimpse of green eyes as his last view of the earthly world. I also imagine that Snape’s first glimpse of heaven is the real Lily’s eyes and that he is finally happy.) Lily truly was Snape’s way to see what love and heaven were like, his only look at “redemption and salvation.” You said: “Seemingly destroyed by the serpent of his Slytherin nature, at his death, he [Snape] embraces and sees his Golden Griffin reward for his heroic life.” Definitely!

  8. ChildofImmanuel says

    I’m new to this site. Could someone explain what happened to the text of the article? Did it expire?

  9. ChildofImmanuel says

    Thank you. I guess I’ll just have to buy the rest of the books over time. 🙂

  10. Welcome to HogPro! Several of the older posts that were expanded and, oftentimes, corrected for publication (either in magazines or in my books) have been taken down so just the published version is available for citation. I leave the post in place because of the commentary from readers, many of which comments I cite by url in the footnotes of the book or article (giving credit to the person in text).

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