Great Expectations: What Sort of Ending Can We Expect?

Today is my daughter Sarah’s 17th birthday and we celebrated it by going to the movies. Our family usually skips out on the cinema during fasts but, as it isn’t an obedience of the Orthodox Church (just a reminder for the children), Mary and I let it slide on special days. Sarah likes movies; her birthday, consequently, was three movies: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer with dad, Ocean’s 13 with mom, and Ghost Rider with a sister and two friends from church. Not especially edifying, I’m sure, but she was “wow’ed.” And dad got to enjoy the alchemical delights again of the Fantastic Four….

For the younger guys I bought a collection of Dickens and Austen novels (16!) made into movie serials by the BBC. While mom and Sarah were at the movies this afternoon, I watched two or three episodes of the 353 minute version of Great Expectations. Mary wanted to leave for my dad’s place before it got dark and started raining, though, so they left in the middle of Episode 10 (just before the arrest of Magwitch on the river).

That was too much for me! After I packed the children into the car, I ran to the computer and brought up a text version of the last six chapters of the book. What a great read…. Really, if you haven’t read it for a few years, there are few uses of an hour that I’ve enjoyed this much at the great white screen.

I bring it up here on HogPro because I want to begin the discussion today, before the Interlibrum reaches what promises to be a frenetic ending next month, about what our individual and collective expectations are for Deathly Hallows. Dickens’ ending of Great Expectations is a good place to start — for a different reason than you might think. Beyond the title link, Dickens wrote two endings to Pip’s autobiography because the readers of the original (most famously, Wilkie Collins) didn’t care for it. The much anticipated ending of one of the Dickens’ best loved serial novels (which appeared in three chapter installments of All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861) was changed because the first one didn’t meet reader expectations. The original was only published after the author’s death.

For those without a copy close at hand, the last chapter we all know with Pip’s meeting the much-changed Estella at the ruins of Satis House can be read at Bibliomania here. To save you the search, the original and much briefer ending can be read here. There have been quite a few readers who think the original was better, readers including Shaw, Orwell, and Edmund Wilson. I confess to thinking that Dickens was well served by Collins’ advice.

Harry Potter for Seekers,” one of the wildest Fandom web sites (and because of its more thoughtful alchemy posts, one of the very few sites of which I am a member), is running a thread this month called “What are your heart-felt wishes for Book 7?” Serious Readers are invited to answer this question and send it to Hans Andrea, the moderator and genie at HPfS, will post it for you. Here is what I sent in:

I have three heartfelt wishes for HP7/Deathly Hallows:

(1) That the book be published without the ending being leaked (with 12 million Scholastic copies in print, I doubt the odds are very good that the secret will last until we all have copies but I hope I’m wrong);

(2) That the end of the series is satisfying (there is no possible way Ms. Rowling could tie up every loose end, but, if the ending is somehow mysterious and leaves too many questions unanswered – or, egad, raises more or different questions than we have now – the disappointment felt by this fan will be borderline bitter); and

(3) That the last book be edifying and personally challenging to her readers (I am hopeful to the point of having expectations of a eucatastrophe that suggests Calvary because of Ms. Rowling’s comments about her faith and the story’s ending in Vancouver years ago).

That’s pretty bland, I think you’ll agree, but “heartfelt wishes” and “expectations” I think should be distinguished from “hoped-for endings” and “specific plot points I want to see.” The discussion I want to open here is about how you expect to feel and specifically how you expect to be changed by the story’s ending. This will involve some plot points perhaps (our changes being consequent to our identification and catharsis with Harry and the specific transformation he experiences and choices he makes) but I hope the discussion — please — will not be a predictions list.

I wonder, I even worry a little that the great Harry Potter ride we’ve been enjoying could end in a train wreck of disappointments if readers who are heavily invested in this series (and, yes, that would mean you and me, friend) aren’t up front about their expectations and their hopes for Deathly Hallows. We don’t know what exactly or even generically is going to happen but we can think seriously about what we’re thinking now about the ending so we can have a reality check before 21 July. Are we expecting this book to save our marriages, cure malaria, and halt the slaughter in Darfur? Best to be honest now!

I look forward to reading your “heartfelt wishes” and Great Expectations” for Deathly Hallows.


  1. I hope all three things that you do John and one more. That it satisfy our need for the great story to be resolved in a way the will resonate with all of us Christians. In that respect I will take what she gives us. I will not be dissapointed either way with Snape. Good or Bad. I love the books because they are entertaining for me and am excited to be reading what I feel are books with a higher purpose. Not shallow or athiestic.

  2. Just an aside about literature in our schools. And article in today’s paper said that a man asked a young woman who was majoring in Literature (English and American) if she had read the classics he loved and she said, “No, I have not read any of them, just people like Maya Angelo”. He was dumb founded. Enough said about our education system, huh.

  3. Travis Prinzi says

    My “great expectation” is that Rowling will give us an ending that simultaneously (a) demonstrates the power of love over evil and death, and (b) doesn’t sound, as you said once in one of our conversations, like a Hallmark card.

    I think part of being pleased with the series’ conclusion is our being willing to hold very loosely to our own theories and let Rowling delight us. I don’t think she’s delighted us this far only to fall flat in the final installment. It’s possible, of course – she’s created quite and unresolved mess in 6 books! But I’ll be very slow to judge book 7…at least a few slow readings before I come to any firm conclusions, I think! I’ll definitely need the audio book for the drive up to Toronto this summer.

  4. I have the same heartfelt wishes that have already been mentioned. I hope that the ending will not leak, and that the series will come to a plausible conclusion.

    There should be a satisfying and credible explanation for the key scenes: Godric’s Hollow, the prophesy, Spinner’s End, the Astronomy Tower… I’ve been thinking about that for the last 2 years. I don’t mind any minor plot holes, that I could live with, but the major issues should be resolved. I certainly hope for Good!Snape, that Dumbledore’s trust was justified, because I care about these two characters, and I admit that I would be disappointed otherwise. For the rest of my theories and speculations, I don’t care, it’s Rowling’s story and I’ll just let her surprise me.

    I’m eager to learn about the “heart of it all” and about how the “power he knows not” will defeat Voldemort. I wish that the ending and overall message will not be simplistic, but provide some more food for thought and discussion.

  5. thisoldhobbit says

    In addition to what has been said above, I specifically hope for:

    1) an explanation of the inconsistencies in Dumbledore’s policies as Headmaster of Hogwarts. As we all know, Albus is a model of respect and kindess to all his students; but his regard for them apparently does not extend to making sure that they are taught by decent and/or competent teachers! As someone else observed, it seems that the only person Dumbledore has ever denied a teaching post is Voldemort himself – he allows the most incompetent people on the staff, such as Gilderoy Lockhart; he also tolerates Snape’s ongoing cruelty, which he certainly must be aware of.

    At this point (after the end of Half-Blood Prince) it seems as though Rowling, having built up Dumbledore as an idealized figure of wisdom and goodness, suddenly wants to tear him down and make him seem a bumbling fool (for having trusted Snape all those years). I really hope book 7 will not confirm this view.

    2) If Harry and Ginny are going to continue to be in a relationship, I hope that Ginny will be more developed as a character; from the first six books I don’t feel like I’ve been given a chance to know her very well.

  6. It didn’t even occur to me to wish the ending not be leaked! But you’re absolutely right. It would be very disappointing if it was. Otherwise, I’ve been very specific, elsewhere, about what I think will happen at the end, and I actually hope I’m right. 😉 In general terms, I agree with Travis that love must triumph over death. But, to get more specific, I want to see these things:

    Harry should start to understand the power of love, rather than tossing it aside as negligible, as he has throughout the series. And he should start taking responsibility for his own actions, rather than blaming others for his own mistakes and externalizing evil. (ENOUGH with the evil Slytherins!)

    Which brings me to point two: I want to finally see some unity in Hogwarts, rather than all the rest of the school united against Slytherin house.

    Going along with that, I want both Severus and Harry to understand that forgiveness and humility are a part of love. I want to see them reconcile, one way or another.

    And I really, really want to see Rowling address the deep-seated racism and fear that pervade the Wizarding World. Poor Harry can’t possibly rescue such a corrupt world all by himself, but I’d like to see the flaws and fractures in the Wizarding World addressed, at any rate.

    I think I need to see all of the above if I’m to find the book satisfying. And I’m quite apprehensive. I don’t think I’ll get it all. But the key, to me, is the healing of the relationship between Harry and Severus – whether they live or die. If they do not reconcile, I will be bitterly disappointed. Just my two cents!

  7. Coppinger Bailey says

    My heartfelt wish is that the resolution of Harry’s story symbolically mirrors that of mature Christian spiritual transformation, which I would describe in Harry’s world as a full knowledge of the abiding presence and power of Love. As John has eloquently written, Harry’s story is not a direct Christian allegory, so I do not expect God or Christ to show up in Deathly Hallows, but it is a story full of “pointers.”

    My hope is that Harry will successfully cast out the “evil within” – that bit of Voldemort in his scar – and physically survive through actions and articles symbolic of Christian salvation. Jesus successfully pierced “the veil” between the earthly & spiritual world for us, giving us the opportunity to overcome our own sinful nature through faith in him. In faith, we “die to our selves” and turn to him and his example for us on earth. While on earth, we turn to him again and again and celebrate through the Eucharist the sharing of his body and blood.

    I hope to see Harry successfully pass through the veil, casting away that bit of “sinful self,” and coming into the full knowledge of Love. In doing this, I want him to be able to return from this experience to a happy, self-actualizing physical life now lived in the knowledge of that Love. I hope that a symbol of the Eucharist, dragon’s blood, plays a role in restoring Harry to a physical life after his “spiritual revelation.”

    And I want Harry to marry Ginny and live a good, long, happy life – but I’m just a sappy old romantic, and that’s a “hoped-for ending” 🙂

  8. I have the same wishes, and I hope that the love is Biblical love, that is, love in action and not merely feelings of love. You know what I mean–I don’t want it to end like that icky Care Bears movie a friend had me show to his son some years ago, with cute little cartoon hearts throbbing out to envelope the villain (blech! I still feel sticky).

    I expect to be either extremely impressed or extremely disappointed. As soon as I finish reading Book 7 I will pass it to my 12-year-old son, and when he is finished we’ll have a grand discussion about it. No matter how the book ends, I expect us both to learn something.

  9. Re Dickens:
    I actually don’t care much for either ending of that particular book. I think in this case it probably would have been better not to tie up the loose ends at all; both endings have the air of afterthoughts.

  10. John,

    I give you my “ditto’s” to your three heartfelt wishes for Book 7, esp. point number three in regard to the final confrontation between Harry and the Dark Lord Voldemort and his minions. That will only be part of the final chapter of Harry’s saga I believe. I think JKR will also close many of the stories within the story with regard to the “postmodernist” element of the fact that “right and wrong” live within the relms of the forces of “light” (Ministry of Magic, Aurors, Brotherhood of Wizarding Creatures, etc.) as well as the forces of “darkness”. Though we as children of the “light” (the Gospel of Christ) do battle against the “darkness” of this world, we know how far short we are of the perfect “good”, ie. prejudice, lieing to gain at the expense of others, slavery (classism). JKR has shown through this series with Harry Potter that the thirst for power and the effects of prejudice do not only effect the “Dark Lord” but the children of the “light” as well. Some (Severus Snape, Draco?) may come to a revelation of this point in Book 7 and come to the aid of Harry and his friends just at the right time in the last chapter perhaps?
    Any further thoughts on this from ye “children of the light”?


  11. Arabella Figg says

    Your Great Expectations example was a fine one, John. I read this in jr. high school and really liked it; I should read it again for old times’ sake.

    I stopped reading projections months ago (have never been a rabid projection fan). I’ve copied those I want to read later (and am sure I’ll enjoy them). In reading projections I found myself beginning to have expectations, so I quit. I’d rather be stunned and thrilled in a more innocent state, rather than be constantly thinking, oh yeah, she was right/he was wrong. We’ll never have opportunity to read a brand-new Harry Potter book again and I want to savor the fun.

    In that light, I just finished rereading the whole series a couple weeks ago (third time total). I find new aspects each time. Rowling’s storytelling is the most addictive thing about the books. One becomes simply immersed in her characters and world. It’s so satisfying.

    So I agree about the things listed above and also hope to have my socks knocked off (more for Dobby) with surprises. If I have any expectation, it’s that I’ll be surprised if DH isn’t jam packed with the delightful oddities and twists that permeate the other books.

    I do believe we’ll find a much more mature Harry, Ron and Hermione in this book, as we did in HBP. They aren’t schoolkids any more. And I think the book will have a somewhat different feel because of this and the upcoming war.

    Kitties are yowling,

  12. I’m trying to *not* have any wishes for book seven. I’ve been avoiding a lot of contact with other boards or groups of Potter-predictors. I was even avoiding the Predictions for Book 7 section on the old hogpro forum. I guess I have this fear that if I get too wrapped up in all the fortune telling (divination 😉 ), I won’t properly enjoy the book when it comes out. Leakage would irk me for sure, but as far as who does what to whom, I’ll leave that up to the book. I pre-ordered it along with the audio book from I have to play at a wedding that day, but I’ll probably be up all night afterward thumbing through pages.

  13. I hope that Deathly Hallows will confirm what J.K. Rowling has said in the Vancouver Sun and CBC NewsWorld interviews regarding her faith. Like everyone here, I want an ending that is edifying and shows good triumphing over evil with love overshadowing anything that the darkness can muster against it. I have full confidence that JKR will not cheat her fans. She has, after all, said that she wanted to write books that she would want to read herself. If this book is her favorite as she said then that bodes well for all of us.

  14. I hope that everything will make sense and come together to provide both an intriguing backstory which will be totally logical and yet unsuspected, and an emotionally satisfying ending. People can die, that’s ok, as long as they die well and for a worthwhile cause. The mysteries that need to be resolved, and resolved well, are: Dumbledore’s ravings after he drank the potion of awfullness in the cave, his last words to Draco and to Snape; Snape’s angry outburst at Harry as he was fleeing with Draco, what happened to Fawkes; Petunia’s secret; Dudley’s strange reaction to the Dementors; the identity of RAB and what he did with the locket, why Snape stunned Flitwick, what really happened to Sirius Black, what effect Harry’s blood is having on Voldemort; why Snape took the Unbreakable; was Lily in love with Snape and was he in love with her; is Madam Pince Snape’s mum; is there a connection between Voldemort and Grindelwald; why did Voldemort give Lily the chance to step away; and why is there a scar on Harry’s forehead.

  15. Professor KP says

    I just hope I’ll be satisfied. I don’t want to be saying, ‘but what about?’ or ‘why didn’t she just?’ I hope the loose ends are taken care of.

    Some characters fascinate me more than others. I really want Neville to have a happily ever after. I want to know what the significance is of Sirius taking the mirror with him through the veil and being behind the veil in spirit and BODY. I want all the Weasleys to live–well, she can kill off Percy if she has to but only after he fixes things with his family. I want to know more about Petunia and what she understands of magic. I want to see Peter Pettigrew pay the life-debt he owes Harry. I want to understand more of the dynamic with the three Black sisters and with their cousins Regulus and Sirius.

    These things are all beyond the essential ‘will Harry live?’ and ‘is Snape good or bad?’ and I suppose it’s why I worry they might be overlooked.

  16. I just want to register my prediction somewhere that’s credible and from the NYTimes article this seems to be it.

    I can and will go into a longer explanation, although mostly it’s a hunch based on intuition, if there is any interest but my prediction is that:

    Harry Potter and Voldemort are in fact the same person/incarnation. That by some method, Voldemort cast himself, with Dumbledore’s aid, through time. He asked Dumbledore to keep him on the path of redemption.

    Some quick supporting points:

    -same types of wands
    -birth mark
    -Voldemort assuming part of Harry’s protection from the mother through the reincarnation
    -we know Voldemort’s soul is fragmented
    -argument between Snape and Dumbledore at end of Book 6 that doesn’t quite ring true; seems to suggest Snape knows more of the ultimate plan
    -Harry’s extraordinary luck when confronting Voldemort

    I think they are ultimately more deeply connected. Harry may be the “good” part of Voldemort’s soul that broke off. Just a thought…

  17. jdilbeck–

    Sorry to shoot this down, but Rowling has definitely said that Harry and Voldemort are not the same person. She seemed rather insulted by the idea.

  18. I find it hard to put into words what it is exactly that I’m expecting or hoping for with Deathly Hallows. John, you have certainly touched on some of them. I definitely don’t want to hear who died, who lived, who was redeemed and who wasn’t, before I read the last page for myself, likely sometime early Sunday morning.

    In an interview some time ago, Rowling said that we would find the ending satisfying. That doesn’t mean happy, but it leaves that door open. I think she must mean that the ending will follow the rest of the books to a conclusion that makes sense, that doesn’t betray all that she has set up in the first six books.

    What that will be, I really don’t know, except that I realize that I really don’t care about who ends up with whom, or why they do or don’t. The ships have always seemed like nice little detours from the main point of the story, while entirely appropriate, given the age of Harry and company. Without the relationships, and sometimes frequent snogging in HBP, they wouldn’t have seemed like real teens, to tell the truth. But that’s where I leave it–interesting and sometimes fun, but not something that I really care about one way or the other. In other words, I’m OK with Harry ending up with Ginny or Luna or Hermione–or someone else, or no one else. Harry ending up with someone would be the important part in that it would mean that he survives.

    However, that’s not the point either.

    The thing that I realize that I want and expect most is that the conclusion is consistent with all the things we have come to learn about Harry’s quest–the biggest being that he has something that sets him apart from the rest–that pure heart, and all that love. And to me that means that to remain in that state, we have to see Harry resolve his hatred of just a few people–Snape being at the top of the list.

    So my biggest expectation is that we’ll see some sort of resolution between the two of them–something that shows that they are both on the same side (Dumbledore’s men, through and through), and that they now understand that. My expectation isn’t tied to who survives and who doesn’t–I think Rowling will write that in a way that makes sense of the characters and the story, and probably in a way that will completely surprise me.

    And there are a lot of loose ends to tie up–but I really don’t think she can do all that in this one book. I suspect that when she conceived the story, and knew the outcome, that she had no idea how the readers would pick over every tiny detail in the books. That comes of having so long in between the books, and all of us having the internet available, allowing us to share all our wildest theories and obsevations. No one is perfect, nor is Rowling. But I do expect Deathly Hallows to fill in the huge missing pieces of the story–the ones that are the cause of our going off in such wild directions. What is it with Lily and Harry’s eyes being the same, anyway? And who was snogging Florence behind the greenhouse, and who was that awful boy that Petunia meant?

    Clearly, I need the book soon, to put me out of my current misery of trying to keep my mind on things other than what is going to be in that last book.


Speak Your Mind