Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #28: Opening and Closing Chapters

Every Harry Potter adventure from Stone to Prince opened in such a way that the ending was heavily foreshadowed in the beginning, a classical “joining-of-the-circle” formula. Go back and count the references to telescopes in Prince‘s first chapters and how Harry leaning on the window resembles Dumbledore at the base of the Astronomy Tower if you think I’m making this up.

We’ve started discussion about how Deathly Hallows is the completion and vibrant echo of events and themes in Philosopher’s Stone. Let’s talk here about the first three chapters of Hallows and how they prepare us for Harry’s struggles throughout the year and his eventual triumph.


  1. Jayne1955 says

    The first and last chapters I have no problem with. It’s what’s between and after. LOL!

    I liked the way the first chapter was NOT from Harry’s point of view. What’s going on there is out of his control and beyond his knowledge. I wanted to know where Snape was and what was going on with him, so I was pleased. I thought the death of the Muggle Studies teacher was unneeded and gruesome. If it had been someone we’d ever heard of or cared about, it might have mattered more, but since she was a name that might as well have been pulled from a hat, what was the point? I cared more about Hedwig’s death. The human death was just squicky.

  2. Jayne1955, I thought the death of the Muggle Studies teacher accomplished several purposes in furthering the story. First, it made it clear that all persons speaking out in defense of muggles, even academics, were at risk of Lord Voldemort’s displeasure, even the loss of their lives. This makes it patently clear that terror and assassination are key motifs of LV and explains the refusal of the wizarding population to oppose him en masse. In this regard it connects to the tactics of certain historical groups in subjugating their own people in the process of dehumanizing special groups for eradication or enslavement. Second, it was the foil to Quirrell in Philosopher’s Stone (the missing Bertha) and foreshadowed what LV would do to all his “helpers”. Thirdly, it was a further test of Snape. Killing Dumbledore apparently had not satisfied LV adequately as to Snape’s reliability!

    As a student of the history of the Third Reich and its internal opposition from college student to professionals to ordinary persons, LV’s modus operandi is chillingly accurate. Same for Stalinist Russia and rightest Argentian and Chile! This is a very realistic sequence; one JKR must have known about in her Amnesty International work. This sequence may seem gratuitious to some, but I found it worked.

    Snape’s impassivity before his own death is foreshadowed in his response to this one, as well. He maintained his occlumency and did not give away the farm – even without the unbreakable vow. I really saw this episode as a test of loyalty – as though LV had suspicions that needed further resolution. (All such tyrants are increasingly paranoid about their immediate acquaintances, aren’t they?)

    Finally, the lack of forestory or afterstory about this individual heightened the message: no one who attempts to do what is right is safe. All opposition to Lord Voldemort was ultimately to end this way – even in people who had responsible and qualified teaching credentials – perhaps especially them!

  3. I think that the death of the muggle studies teacher accomplished a few very important goals. In a great example of narrative misdirection, it made a lot of the “Snape is still Dumbledore’s man, despite HBP” people question whether or not that was still true. I think that it also showed that Draco was starting to fall apart and, maybe for the first time, realized that he was not on the right side of this war. Finally, I think that the death being pointless was, if you’ll excuse me saying so, the point. There is a reason that Voldemort had his reputation. I think that we needed to know right away that no one was safe and that this was going to be a bloody war with lots of casualties.

  4. Arabella Figg says

    I believe Charity Burbage’s death was highly significant to this book.

    First, it showed the chilling disinterest with which LV killed, a reminder of Cedric. When Snape says to DD (in the Pensieve memories) he only watched people die he couldn’t save, it makes that incident more moving and powerful.

    Second, Snape’s death (about which many have expressed disappointment) occured with the same chilling disinterest–like Charity and others, he was merely in the way of what LV wanted. The brevity of Snape’s death, to me, was more powerful than any heroic scene could have been. You’re an inconvenience? Byeee. LV says he regrets it, but he’s aready turning away before Snape is dead, because he has what he wants…and Snape has served him well and faithfully.

    Third, throughout six books, we’ve been told how terrible Vold War I was. Now we get to live it. We get to feel the terror of never knowing who to trust, who is Imperiused, who will turn us in, who will be tortured again, with chilling disinterest because we’re in the way.

    Gack! Tuna Yumgood and Big-Eye Foody are squabbling over the kibbles…

  5. thisoldhobbit says

    John has written about how Harry’s physical position at the opening of each book (excluding chapters such as The Other Minister in which Harry does not appear) is precisely described and can be seen as a pointer to, or forshadowing of, something significant that will happen toward the end of the book. At the beginning of this discussion point he gives an example from Half Blood Prince but others can easily be given.

    Chapter 2 of Deathly Hallows (Harry does not appear in chapter 1) begins with the words: “Harry was bleeding”. Having finished the book now, I am at a loss regarding this significance of this sentence. Does anyone see a foreshadowing here?

  6. rosesandthorns says

    Hmm, probably not quite what you wanted, but the end harkens back to the beginning in any number of ways, both in one book and in the whole series.

    Book 1 started with information on how Harry Potter’s mother Lily died to save his life from Voldemort.
    Book 7 ends with information on how Harry Potter died to save the entire wizarding world’s lives from Voldemort.

    End of Book 4: Harry’s first wand battle with Voldemort in his now reconstituted body – Harry uses “Expelliarmus” and Voldemort uses “Avada Kedavra.” Harry lives.
    End of Book 7: Harry’s last wand battle with Voldemort in his now reconstituted body – Harry uses “Expelliarmus” and Voldemort uses “Avada Kedavra.” Harry lives.

    I’m sure there are more …

  7. Arabella Figg says

    Two points to add to my previous comment.

    First, on experiencing the war. We also experience the sufferings of parents and families over their loved ones. The Weasleys, Remus, Xenophilus, Narcissa–all demonstrate the desperation of parents trying to protect their endangered children. I, for one, don’t find Remus cowardly (and Harry regrets his use of the word). He was terribly fearful for his wife and child’s safety because his werewolf status might make them a target in addition to his Order membership. With the additional fears that he’d passed on his condition to his child, Remus got his perspective out of whack. Any parents relate to that?

    Two, in the beginning, when Harry leaves the Dursleys, his hair turns the Polyjuice Potion gold. I believe this to be a foreshadowing of his becoming achemically gold at Dobby’s death (that’s where I think he becomes gold, anyway–what say you, John?).

    I believe Harry’s bleeding at the beginning symbolizes both the rubedo and the bleeding and dying to come in the book. Bleeding starts out as an annoyance, but becomes a tragedy as people are both bloodily wounded and bled from life.

    Ouch! Hairy Plotter scratched me–off for a sticking plaster…

  8. Arabella Figg says

    Rereading the book, I now believe Harry begins his transformation to gold at Dobby’s death, as reflected in the sunrise which moves from dark to rose/pink (rubedo) to gold. This is shown throug his debate of horcrux/hallow and decision of Griphook over Ollivander. At this point I’m not sure when the actual gold transformation is complete, probably around the walk through the forest. It’s nice to reread and catch more things.

    Speaking of catching, Fullatricks is after a spider…

  9. Arabella Figg says

    I just finished DH (2nd reading). In both the first and last chapters the Malfoys are uncomfortable in their circumstances, first in Voldemort’s camp, second in the good-guy victors’. I wonder if the Malfoys ever felt comfortable again as to their place in the wizarding world. Also interesting, in the Epilogue, the Draco Malfoys are sharply contrasted against students’ pleasure in the hazy white steam, as Draco’s terror is sharply contrasted against the DEs’ pleasure in the darkened room of Ch. 1. Snape is in both the first chapter (unknown status) and Epilogue (known). James, in the Epilogue, kind of echoes Fred and George (kitchen chapter). And the whole Epilogue echoes Harry’s first experience at the station, going to Hogwarts.

    Also, as to Harry’s full gold transformation, I’m thinking either when he “pressed the golden metal [of the Snitch] to his mouth,” said “I am about to die'” and receives the Resurrection Stone OR when the golden light floods the Great Hall (after dawn’s red light) as the sun rises and Harry defeats Riddle, with the golden flames between them as they cast their spells. I’m eager to hear your analysis, John, when you have an alleged free moment.

    I feel there’s great symbolism in the repairing of Harry’s holly/phoenix feather wand in the Headmaster’s office. It makes me think of our resurrection when we’ll be made whole, brokenness gone, completely spirit-filled, functioning as we should, fully comfortable in our Master’s hand. I’ll have to think more on this.

    What a magnificent, amazing, wonderful book!

    Dang! He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Tamed is shredding the carpet…

  10. Grangergroupie says

    I am a first time responder but a long time reader so I am, ahem, very new to this. Having just returned from Prophecy 2007 and hearing John speak, it is clear that the degree to which foreshadowing is used, both in individual books and throughout the series is huge and we’re barely scratching the surface. Fantastic presentations John…Thank you!

    All of the previous responders have provided wonderful insights and provide many great takes on this complex tome.


    John commented at Prophecy that Charity’s torture and death symbolized the death of love. In Christian thinking the virtue of charity equates to love of and for another, and not simply in giving of material things (which should be motivated by love) but also of also of self-giving: “agape” which is self-sacrificial love. And while love is “attempted” to be destroyed by LV at the begining, we come full circle with Harry’s loving self-sacrifice at the end and declaration-by-action that love does conquer all. We also start DH with a death (Charity’s) and end it with a new life – the birth and growth of Teddy (Theodore = “Gift of God”). Others I’m sure, can put this far more eloquently than I.

    Another foreshadowing and “joining-of-the-circle” is at the end of Chapter Three when the Dursley’s are saying good-bye to Harry. Petunia’s effort to truly say a meaningful good-bye becomes telling only when we’ve read The Prince’s Tale. She, who could not accept her sister’s gift of magic, as a result could not accept her nephew’s magical status because of jealousy, at least outright in front of Vernon and other muggles due I believe in large measure to their influence. Perhaps deep down inside she felt differently and I suspect so since she herself tried to enroll in Hogwarts and was turned down (how many of us have experienced similar emotions having been turned down for schools or employment). She at least pauses at the door and “…gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech…” (DH, US version, page 42). We see this explained in Chapter 33 and see her be a bridge between Harry’s rejection (Vernon) and acceptance (Dudley).

    Please let me know if you think I’m off track.

  11. Arabella Figg says

    You raise some interesting points about Petunia.

    In Snape’s Penseive revelations we see the poignancy of Petunia. Yet I believe she became quite hardened and her treatment of Harry is as cruel as Vernon’s. Possibly crueler because of her background. It’s hard to say if she would have treated Harry differently if she’d not been married to Vernon. Her outburst on the island in the first book doesn’t indicate it. You got the feeling she’d been saving that poisonous invective for years.

    It may have been her last vestiges of love for Lily that prompted her to take Harry in as an infant. But I believe she only let Harry stay after the Dementor attack because of Dumbledore’s Howler.

    I think at her farewell, she might have been tempted to say “sorry.” But her conflicted feelings had hardened into a hostility she couldn’t overcome. So I don’t feel she was a bridge. I think she married and formed people (Vernon, Dudley) and surrounded herself with those who would further entrench her negative feelings so she would feel secure and righteous in them.

    And, to me, that is the great tragedy of Petunia Evans Durseley. How I wished for some kind of closure for her and Harry!

    Darling Thudders wants his din-din…

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