Harry Potter characters using Narrative Misdirection? (Scar-O-Scope 102)

Narrative misdirection is Joanne Rowling’s signature device as a writer. Using the narrative line to turn the reader from what is happening requires remarkable planning and care. This “trick” is so much a part of her way of thinking and writing that I suggested last week that the “big twist” in store for us in Deathly Hallows is learning how Dumbledore and Snape contrived to make Half-Blood Prince a case study in narrative misdirection. If you missed that post, take a minute to read it here and be sure to read the responses. Most are profoundly skeptical that the characters in Ms. Rowling’s novels are using her tricks to put one over on their opponents in VoldeWar II the way she does to us.

If she is doing this, it would not be the first time.

In Chapter 13 of Chamber, “The Very Secret Diary,” Ron and Harry find a diary in the girls’ bathroom where Moaning Myrtle “lives.” Ron tells Harry not to pick it up or read it because books can be dangerous. Harry laughs that warning off, picks up the diary, and is not satisfied until he learns how to “read” it. I wrote in Looking for God in Harry Potter that Chamber is largely a book about how to read books and how to discern what makes a book good and what makes a book dangerous. In Chapter 13 of Chamber we learn that books really can be dangerous, if not exactly for the reasons Ron gives. Trusting the narrative line, Harry shows us, can make us believe things we shouldn’t believe.

“The Very Secret Diary” is a Horcrux we learn in Prince but even in Chamber’s finale “miles beneath Hogwarts” we find out that this diary is a reservoir for Lord Voldemort’s memory. He’s not a bad writer, as a he tells us; “If I say it myself, Harry, I’ve always been able to charm the people I needed” (Chamber, Chapter 17, Scholastic pg. 310). We see him charm Harry right out of his core beliefs, in fact, when Harry agrees to enter into Riddle’s diary, in much the same way as Harry later drops into Dumbledore’s Pensieve.

Inside Riddle’s diary, we experience along with Harry the turning of the story on its head via the author’s telling the story so (1) we see only what the writer wants us to know of the story which, (2) because of our mistaken belief or leaning, leaves us thinking we know something that we didn’t see. Nothing that Riddle tells Harry about his turning Hagrid in as the Heir of Slytherin and the wizard whose monster killed Moaning Myrtle is untrue; Riddle shows Harry the facts of the matter, however, so selectively and out of context that Harry exits the diary believing that Hagrid, his best friend among adults at Hogwarts, is a monster and a murderer. Harry believes this because he knows Hagrid loves monsters and does not suspect that Riddle, the author of the story, has an agenda.

This trick of Riddle’s book, of course, is narrative misdirection. Controlling, by which I mean “restricting,” the narratological perspective in such a way that we readers believe we know much more than we really know, especially when the restriction confirms our preconceptions about the butler doing it, sets us up for the stunning ending. There we find out what we missed because our attention was focused elsewhere and because we neglected to find out (as if we had the option!) what other key players were doing or thinking.

Ms. Rowling does this by restricting our view to the “what Harry sees and thinks” without making the restriction obvious by using a first person narrator. Third person, limited omniscient narrows the view to the individual level, of course, but with the appearance of being broader than it is because it isn’t one person telling his story. If we had our choice, though, of whose shoulder and head we want to look over or into, it sure wouldn’t be Harry’s!

All “narrative misdirection” amounts to really is our being suckered into believing, because the story is not being told by Harry himself, that we are seeing the story as God sees it. Of course this isn’t the case but over the course of the tale our looking down on Harry and friends (and enemies) from “on high”, even if “on high” means only from a few feet over Harry’s head, we begin to think we have a larger perspective than we do.

We don’t, of course; we never have anything but the smallest fraction of information about what is going on with Voldemort, Dumbledore, or Snape. Of all the perspectives on the story Ms. Rowling could have chosen to give us, she chose to give us the relatively clueless angle on events in the wizarding world. Harry doesn’t know that much about what’s going on.

It is possible that Harry knows information and has ideas that Voldemort, Dumbledore, and Snape do not know about, but, frankly, I doubt what he learns on his own is very important compared to what the other three know that Harry knows.

That being the case, please ask yourself this question. “If Ms. Rowling could tell these stories from any angle or perspective she wants, why would she choose Harry’s perspective when he knows the least, perhaps nothing that one or more of the others do not know?”

The short answer to this question is “narrative misdirection.” The longer answer is “because it’s the easiest way to keep us from knowing what’s really going on so we can be stunned at the story ending.” We forget or never realize we’re looking at things from the least informed position in the stories. We believe we have a bird’s eye or God’s eye view of what’s happening, though we haven’t even got the perspective of the better informed story characters.

For Ms. Rowling’s peculiar genius with this artifice, you need to add that the misdirection always reinforces the reader’s prejudice. We revere Dumbledore because of his openness with us at the end of the first five books and, well, we just don’t like Snape. Both of Harry’s views have become our own and we have stopped asking ourselves “what are these guys up to?” We should be as eager as Harry is at the beginning of Phoenix for explanations, but, like Harry, we get caught up in the drift of things and forget once again that we know more about what Lord Voldemort is doing (because of the crisis in each story) than we ever find out about the Dynamic Duo’s machinations.

Is it implausible to think that these two have learned by deduction, observation of Harry (to include by Legilimency), and by Severus’ access to Lord Thingy’s activities that Voldemort has learned how to crawl into Harry’s head space at will? Hardly! They say as much, even to Harry, albeit in guarded fashion lest the Dark Lord think they have found him out. A better question is, if Snape and Dumbledore know Harry is a live camera broadcasting to the Chief Deatheater’s head-space, would they think to stage a drama about Horcruxes and Dumbledore’s death that would deceive Voldemort about the real extent of their successes in finding and destroying Horcruxes?

Maybe showing a few other characters doing the narrative misdirection stunt would make this possibility – a nasty idea, after all, because it means Harry has been intentionally misled and used by Albus and Severus since the end of Goblet – more plausible…. Here are the ones I found. I look forward to your sharing the ones I missed.

Narrative misdirection is so much Rowling’s way of writing that almost all her savvy characters are adept at it. In addition to Tom Riddle’s diary in Chamber, we see Snape in Phoenix (Chapter 28) trick Harry (and Voldemort) by loading the Penseive with his “worst memory” to give a deceptively one-sided view of Harry’s father. Harry has every reason not to trust the Potions Master and Occlumency instructor but the panoramic view the memory gives him causes him to think he’s seeing things as they really were. As Lupin and Black point out to him later, this incident was hardly the beginning or end of the Potter/Snape war, just one ugly slice chosen for Harry/Voldemort’s consumption. Besides planting a seed of sympathy for Severus in Harry’s mind, the story also gave Snape the excuse he needed to cut off the Occlumency lessons as Lord Voldemort no doubt had told him to.

Hermione in Phoenix (Chapter 32) uses Umbridge’s conviction that Dumbledore is plotting against Fudge to get her into the Forbidden Forest. In a bit of play-acting in the High Inquisitor’s office that would embarrass a dinner theatre thespian, Granger manages to get her to buy into a tale of a secret DA weapon hidden in the Forbidden Forest. Umbridge’s prejudice and arrogance, her thinking that she has the larger view of things, leads to her date with the Centaurs.

And narrative misdirection is almost all Voldemort is doing in Phoenix — and Dumbledore knows it! The Dark Lord tries to tempt Harry into the Department of Mysteries by a persistent dream he plants in Harry’s head because he assumes Dumbledore has told Harry about the Prophecy. Dumbledore hasn’t told him just so Harry won’t be tempted into the Prophecy vault and the Headmaster sets up faux Occlumency lessons to show Voldemort that he knows the Dark Lord’s plans. Voldemort succeeds in getting our young hero into the Ministry basement by activating Harry’s “people saving” reflex, again by telling a story that confirms Harry’s presuppositions and plays on his jerk reactions. Once that hero button is pushed, it’s hard to hold Harry back.

Not to mention, Lord Voldemort lies low the whole fifth year because he knows his remaining out of sight, when combined with everyone’s desire to believe he has not come back, will result in few people believing Dumbledore or Harry about his return. The Dark Lord understands narrative misdirection and hoodwinks almost the entire magical world because the story he writes confirms what those “readers,” the naive witches and wizards who hate the idea he has returned, want to think is true. They turn on the messengers of the bad news, news they can dismiss because Voldemort is writing the story they want to read by remaining invisible.

If Phoenix has a load of internal narrative misdirection on top of what we experience looking over Harry’s shoulder, Half-Blood Prince, as I’ve said above, may have an even bigger twist. In fact, I think the entire narrative line of the sixth Harry Potter novel is a drama written and performed by Dumbledore, Slughorn, Hagrid, and Snape to deceive Voldemort through Harry’s scar-o-scope.

It may be hard to believe at first blush, but the Scar-o-Scope Staged Story idea isn’t wrong because Ms. Rowling has never had a character tell a deceptive story using narrative misdirection. Lord Voldemort loves to do it and even the good guys have had their turn. I look forward to reading the narrative misdirection stories you have have found told by the characters within the novels themselves. I’m betting there are another three or four I’ve missed. How about Moody?


  1. John wrote:

    (P)lease ask yourself this question. “If Ms. Rowling could tell these stories from any angle or perspective she wants, why would she choose Harry’s perspective when he knows the least, perhaps nothing that one or more of the others do not know?”

    My answer:

    So that readers will identify strongly with her hero Harry Potter. If we were to read these books from an omniscient POV and go around to hear things from Dumbledore’s office that Harry wouldn’t know, we wouldn’t feel as if we were going through the Hero’s Journey ourselves.

    Instead, we would be more like passive observers rather than partners in the battle of Good vs. Evil. That’s just my initial response. I may have more thoughts later after chewing on this for awhile.



  2. Travis Prinzi says

    I think Athena is on to something here. It’s not only for narrative misdirection reasons that we get Harry’s point of view. It’s so that we experience the hero’s journey with him.

    As such, though narrative misdirection is a huge part of the novels, it doesn’t mean that everything Harry interprets is wrong.

    And that’s precisely where I think this line of thinking goes awry. I don’t think “we revere Dumbledore” just because Harry foolishly reveres him, not know the truth of the extent of Dumbledore’s sinister manipulation. Taking this from a mythological hero’s journey point of view, everything Dumbledore has taught Harry is what allows him to “rise” as the hero coming out of book 6. If the Staged Drama theory is true, it’s all a charade, and Harry’s journey has been a big deception.

    The Chamber “in-text” narrative misdirection is fascinating. I think we have to stretch a more than a bit to say Snape deliberately left the “worst memory” in the pensieve. I’m not against this idea because of the claim that narrative misdirection could occur in the text, but because of what becomes of Dumbledore and Harry’s own journey if it’s true.

    Looking forward to hearing other keys applied to the theory.

  3. Well, I just can’t agree with this Scar-o-Scope Staged Story theory. I do agree with Athena and Travis that we see the story largely from Harry’s point of view so that we can take the hero’s journey with him. But that’s not all because even though we get suckered into accepting Harry’s assumptions, Rowling concurrently gives us clues (sometimes a lot of them) that undermine Harry’s POV. The effect is to take us through the hero’s journey, but also to show us that the hero is flawed because he ignores some clues and misinterprets others. And that’s the danger we all face in formulating book 7 theories because no theory is going to be correct if it can be contradicted by clear evidence in the text and if it doesn’t connect ALL the dots in a plausible way.

    The Very Special Diary is a perfect example of how we’re suckered despite plenty of evidence to make us question Harry’s conclusions. It’s true that after viewing the memory of the framing of Hagrid, Harry, Ron, and Hermione believed Hagrid had unleashed the monster that killed Myrtle 50 years earlier. However, at the time Harry viewed the memory (Valentine’s Day in CoS), we knew that 1) Dumbledore trusts Hagrid with his own life, 2) despite Hagrid’s having been expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, Dumbledore allowed Hagrid to stay on at the school as Keeper of the Keys, 3) Dumbledore entrusted Hagrid with the task of picking up baby Harry from Godric’s Hollow, 4) Dumbledore entrusted Hagrid with the job of collecting the Philosopher’s Stone from Gringotts when he knew Voldemort was after it, 5) Draco had confirmed that Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets had truly been opened 50 years earlier (how could Hagrid have done that as a guileless thirteen-year-old and how could a spider have petrified Myrtle?), 6) Hagrid had rushed to Harry’s defense as a witness when Harry was discovered near the petrified body of Justin Finch-Fletchley only six weeks before Harry experienced Riddle’s diary-memory, etc. The trio (and readers) knew all these things when Harry viewed the memory, which should have set off enough alarms to prevent us from taking Diarymort’s version of events at face value.

    Narrative misdirection is certainly an art form that Rowling has perfected as is clear in CoS because although we trusted Dumbledore and knew Dumbledore had repeatedly demonstrated his absolute trust in Hagrid, we allowed ourselves to conclude from the diary memory that Hagrid had opened the Chamber of Secrets 50 years earlier. So yes, the reader is suckered by the third person, limited omniscient into accepting Harry’s assumptions, but Rowling’s real genius is in making us forget or ignore contradictory evidence that is right under our noses. After the twisty ending is revealed, the evidence that should have made us question Harry’s assumptions jumps off the page (there’s a lot of that kind of evidence in GoF).

    So the clues to the true nature of events occurring in each book are embedded in the text (including clues in preceding books), but we’re encouraged to follow Harry’s line of reasoning, which means forgetting information that challenges his assumptions, ignoring clues that he doesn’t understand, and misinterpreting clues. I would also add that Harry is unwilling to confide in Dumbledore when facing difficulties or puzzles (which is necessary for the hero’s story) and demonstrates a frustrating lack of curiosity (moreso in the first four books) when he fails to ask pertinent questions or fails to ask logical follow-up questions (which is part of the drama).

    I just see no evidence that Voldemort can access Harry’s mind at will without Harry’s knowledge. The idea of it isn’t implausible, but the evidence in the books kills the theory dead IMO. Harry had been dreaming about Voldemort’s activities since the beginning of GoF, and the evidence strongly suggests that Dumbledore was correct that Voldemort didn’t know about this connection until the attack on Arthur Weasley when Harry went so far into Voldemort’s mind that Voldemort became aware of his presence (as Harry was aware of Voldemort’s presence on the two occasions in OotP when Harry suddenly wanted to attack Dumbledore).

    Both before and after the snake attack, most of the images Harry picked up were surely not ones that Voldemort wanted Harry Potter to know about and had Voldemort known about the connection back then, he would have been practicing Occlumency against Harry. The first one at the beginning of GoF showed Harry that Voldemort was with Wormtail in a rudimentary body (was able to use a wand) and was planning to kill Harry in a scheme that would take a year and depend on a faithful servant at Hogwarts and information gained from Bertha Jorkins (who had disappeared and worked in the magical games office). The second one was a dream in which Harry followed an owl to Voldemort and learned that someone had been killed (and that someone had to be Barty Crouch Senior given recent events). In OotP, after the attack on Arthur Weasley, Harry had a vision of Rookwood (a former DoM employee) being interviewed and learned that Lucius Malfoy had Imperiused Bode (an unspeakable who worked in the DoM) and that Avery had given Voldemort bad information because Bode would have known he couldn’t remove “it.” It’s clear that Voldemort wouldn’t have wanted Harry to know about Lucius Imperiusing Bode; more importantly, if Voldemort had sent that vision deliberately, he would have used the occasion to transmit the specific information he wanted Harry to act on (that a copy of the prophesy that led to the attack on the Potters was in the DoM and only Harry could remove it from the shelf in the Hall of Prophesies). Moreover, when Lucius confronted Harry in the Hall of Prophesies at the end of OotP and learned that Harry knew nothing about the prophesy, he stated baldly that Voldemort had been puzzled that Harry hadn’t responded to the images and Harry’s admission had provided the explanation. So if Voldemort is able to poke around Harry’s mind at will without Harry’s knowledge, how is it that during all the months that he had been scheming to get the prophesy, he never realized that Harry knew nothing about it?

    I don’t agree with your spin on Snape’s Worst Memory. Harry’s weekly Occlumency lessons with Snape began in January and ended when Harry poked his nose in the pensieve in April (an opportunistic event only made possible by Montague’s unexpected reappearance, something Snape couldn’t have planned on), which was approximately six weeks before exams and Harry’s trip to the DoM, so wasn’t it a little late in the day for Snape to be ending the private lessons on Voldemort’s orders? Harry had also been left alone with access to Snape’s memories one other time five weeks prior when Snape had been called away suddenly by Trelawney’s drunken outburst upon being sacked (another unexpected event), so there is no evidence whatsoever that Snape schemed to leave Harry alone with the pensieve in the hope that Harry would look. Six weeks later, out of frustration over the failure of the DoM images to lure Harry to Hall of Prophesies, Voldemort switched tactics and transmitted a vision of Sirius being tortured in the Hall of Prophesy (acting on information Kreacher had provided six months earlier!!).

    Everything in the text supports what Dumbledore and Snape told Harry and their reasons for wanting Harry to learn Occlumency (and also supports Snape’s confidence that Voldemort wasn’t aware of what they were doing). If the Scar-o-scope theory is correct, it makes no sense that Voldemort would have failed to realize after all those months that Harry was clueless about the prophesy, just as it makes no sense that Snape is still alive if Voldemort had known about the Occlumency lessons and reason for them and yet never got a report from Snape from the first of January to the end of June letting him know that Harry didn’t know what the images referred to.

    Nor does it make sense to me that the Horcruxes have already been destroyed and Dumbledore spent HBP setting Harry up for a fruitless and time-consuming waste of time looking for the rest of them. Because if Voldemort can see what he wants in Harry’s mind, didn’t he know what Dumbledore was doing from the moment Harry was taken to Slughorn in July when Dumbledore flashed around the cracked Peverell ring? Wouldn’t he have gone to check on his other Horcruxes to see if they were safe? Wouldn’t Dumbledore know that he had set up Harry to be ambushed by Voldemort in one of the likely Horcrux hiding places?

    The Scar-o-Scope Staged Story idea is inventive, but not at all plausible IMO for these and other reasons that readers have mentioned in the comments to the prior post.

  4. korg20000bc says

    Although I don’t believe that the Potter series are childern’s books, Rowling has specific messages that she wants to get through to children. One of the prime points she seems to want to get through to children is that although they don’t know all the facts and situations can seem beyond their abilities, they can fight the good fight by being courageous, showing loyalty and mercy and by making good choices (like you say your daughter said in ‘Looking for God in Harry Potter’). Now, if your theory is correct she would be teaching them that situations are beyond their ability to influence, they are the pawns of adults and that their choices are unimportant- they are playing a role determined by others… well, I think Rowling would abhor leaving a legacy like that.

    Rowling has said that adults often underestimate children. Don’t you make that same mistake by underestimating Harry’s choices and his importance to the story. After all the stories “Harry Potter and the blankety-blank” not “Dumbledore and Snape and the blah-de-blah”

    Matthew Boyd

  5. I find that I’m sitting on the fence on this one. While I think there is misdirected narrative throughout all the books we have so far, and in all the interviews from Rowling, I don’t think that Rowling would carry it so far that Dumbledore and Snape would completely stage everything in HBP, just for Harry’s, and ultimately, for Voldemort’s benefit.

    The way I understand it is that the misdirection comes in because we see things from Harry’s point of view, and he just isn’t reliable as an unbiased source of information. He’s just not good at seeing what’s happening and coming up with the proper interpretation. At the end of the first five books, we had Dumbledore there to tell Harry that, “no, that’s what you thought was happening, but what really happened was…..”

    Unfortunately, at the end of HBP, we didn’t have Dumbledore doing that. Instead we had Harry taking that role, when he filled in the missing pieces of the details of Dumbledore’s death at the hands of Severus Snape, and Snape’s subsequent escape. If you read each of Harry’s comments carefully, you see that someone else told what they saw or heard, admitting that it was too dark, too quick, too confusing for any of it to be clear–yet Harry quickly jumped on each of those vague versions of what was happening, putting his own spin on it (for our benefit, via the misdirected narrative), and the characters all quickly agreed–and so did we. Until we had time to think about just how unlikely it was that what seemed to happen on the Tower is really what happened.

    The only one who didn’t fully accept Harry’s version of the story and give a resounding “yes, absolutely, Snape was evil all along” was Hagrid. His response was still unbelief that Snape, trusted by Dumbledore, would still be a loyal Death Eater. And if we think about it, Hagrid knows just what it means to have Dumbledore’s complete trust–so he may be the only one who is reliable in assessing just what that means.

    That being said, I do think that there might have been some care on the part of Snape and Dumbledore with what they said to Harry about all that was going on. In those Occlumency lessons, Snape was very careful, especially on the point of Harry saying Voldemort’s name–perhaps he was afraid that Harry’s use of the name would somehow alert Voldemort to Harry’s incursions into his thoughts. At the start of the lessons, Snape told Harry that they didn’t think that Voldemort had been aware of Harry’s access to Voldemort’s mind for very long. It was only after the snake incident that Voldemort became aware that Harry was wandering about freely. (That all makes me wonder if it’s possible for an accomplished Legilimens to creep into someone’s mind undetected. Harry seems to have been doing it, without knowing what he was doing or what it meant.) So, there we have another instance of some possible misdirected narrative. We are told that Dumbledore doesn’t want Harry to continue to have that connection with Voldemort, yet during the lessons, there are several times that Snape sees what Harry has been seeing–and that in itself gives Snape and Dumbledore a much better idea of what Voldemort is doing. Dumbledore, at least, must have realized that Voldemort was indeed planning to steal the prophecy when Snape told him which corridor Harry had been wandering in those visions. But Rowling directs us away from thinking it really is useful by having Snape continue to tell Harry that the visions have to stop, that they shouldn’t happen, and throws in some anger on Snape’s part to drive the point home.

    (As an aside, I found it interesting in one of the interviews after HBP, when someone asked if Harry ever would learn Occlumency, just as Draco did. She said no, he wouldn’t, but they didn’t ask whether he might learn Legilimency instead, and she didn’t mention it either. After all, he’s been using Legilimency for a long time on Voldemort, and I suspect, on Snape as well–now that they’ve established somewhat of a mental connection because of the failed lessons–perhaps those lessons weren’t such a waste of time after all.)

    I agree with others that Snape didn’t put that memory in the Pensieve for Harry to find. He had no reason to think that Harry would be so rude as to stick his nose into the Pensieve (which is very much like someone’s diary) where it didn’t belong–and Montague being found at that moment was a surprise–not something that Snape could have planned or counted on. I really do think that Snape removed that memory so Harry wouldn’t see it–after all, Harry had seen some of Snape’s childhood memories so Snape was aware that that was possible. Who knows what other memories he removed–possibly some conversations that Snape had with Dumbledore that would have confirmed Snape’s loyalty as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, or plans for Voldemort’s demise.

    I think, too, it’s possible that Snape removed that memory more for Voldemort’s benefit than for Harry’s. Let me explain. During those lessons which were supposed to teach Harry to close his mind to Voldemort, Harry’s and Snape’s minds were more open to each other; Harry hadn’t learned the control he needed to block Snape accessing his own memories, and when he did manage to fight Snape’s mind off, Harry saw Snape’s memories. So, even though Snape is excellent at Occlumency, he couldn’t always block Harry as a student, who didn’t have good control.

    Consequently, if Harry saw the memories in Snape’s mind during the Occlumency lessons, then those memories would then be accessible to Voldemort via Harry’s thoughts. I doubt very much that Snape, so protective of his privacy, would want to hand Voldemort memories of a time when he himself felt insecure or weak–he tells Harry that when Harry lets him (Snape) get in so far that “you are allowing me access to memories you fear, handing me weapons.” He also tells him that:

    “Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily–weak people, in other words–they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!” (OP, US version, p. 536)

    I really think that Snape is so angry with Harry because Snape is speaking from his own early experiences with Voldemort. Snape still loses control when certain people trigger memories (most having to do with James and/or Sirius). So that whole speech, while sounding like Snape is always in control of his own emotions and has no respect or sympathy for those who show their feelings, is another huge bit of narrative misdirection, IMO. He is most frustrated when he sees his own traits in Harry–and it’s Harry’s inability to control and suppress his emotions that frustrates Snape the most.

    The misdirected narrative that comes in there all has to do with our buying Harry’s view of Snape, that he is cold, calculating, uncaring, not capable of understanding anything that Harry is going through–when I think that in truth, we’ll find out that Harry and Snape have a lot more in common than either will like to admit.

    Throughout the books, Rowling has dealt with bigotry, prejudice, bullying, characters jumping to conclusions because they only have partial information. While she says she’s not intending to teach (preach), I think she is doing just that, by showing how those things that happen to us as children can have long-lasting effects on the adults we become. She may never come right out and say “This is what happened to this character and the conclusion you should draw is….” But I think she’s laying it all out for us, so that we can all get the message–especially the children who are reading the books.

    Sorry to wander a bit, but I won’t be able to post as often as I might like, and was afraid I’d forget some of it if I didn’t include it.

  6. John,

    We corresponded a bit back in 05 right after Prince came out. If you remember, I was a self-professed Snape hater and still am! So I am usually at odds with your theories (I think you are on to something with Slughorn however), although they are the most entertaining pro-Snape theories I’ve ever come across! I just stumbled across your “scar-o-scope” theory and thought my brain could use the workout, and thought I’d throw in some of my thoughts.

    I think Jo has given us enough information in things she’s told fans that makes Scar-o-scope impossible. Three big reasons (and lots more little reasons)

    1. Dumbledore‚Äôs character. I think this quote from JKR, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, blows a hole in Good!Snape theories, and I‚Äôve yet to see this explained away:

    ES: I know Dumbledore likes to see the good in people but he seems trusting almost to the point of recklessness sometimes.
    JKR: Yes, I would agree. I would agree.
    ES: How can someone so –
    JKR: Intelligent –
    ES: – be so blind with regard to certain things?
    JKR: Well, there is information on that to come, in seven. But I would say that I think it has been demonstrated, particularly in Books 5 and 6 that immense brainpower does not protect you from emotional mistakes, and I think Dumbledore really exemplifies that. In fact, I would tend to think that being very, very intelligent might create some problems and it has done for Dumbledore, because his wisdom has isolated him, and I think you can see that in the books, because where is his equal; where is his confidante; where is his partner? He has none of those things. He’s always the one who gives; he’s always the one who has the insight and has the knowledge. So I think that, while I ask the reader to accept that McGonagall is a very worthy second-in-command, she is not an equal. You have a slightly circuitous answer, but I can’t get much closer than that.

    Jo gives us profound insight into the Dumbledore enigma here. In a nutshell, Dumbledore didn’t have his act together as much as we would like to think. Sad, but true. He is isolated by his extreme wisdom and has made “emotional mistakes.” We can argue ad-nauseum over just those mistakes were, but it’s clear from the text that there were lots of them. (Not expelling Tom Riddle? Keeping Harry in the dark for too long? The Barty Crouch Jr. fiasco? ) He can’t possibly have had this elaborate plan with Snape, because Jo has just told us that he has NO PARTNER. Straight from Jo herself! Jo also agrees with Emerson’s assertation that he is trusting to the point of recklessness. You could of course argue that they are referring to other people Dumbledore has been wrong to trust, but you’d be hard pressed to give me any names that have more profound bearing on the story than Severus.

    Such a plan that you are proposing would require an astonishing amount of incredible teamwork and cooperation, and would not allow for such “emotional mistakes.” and I don‚Äôt think Snape is capable cooperating to this degree with anyone. He couldn‚Äôt even follow through with the Occlumency lessons, which Dumbledore said were of utmost importance.

    Which brings us to point

    2. The Brain Link/Occlumency. If the plan requires Voldemort to be spying on Harry through the use of his scar, it doesn’t make much sense for Dumbledore to want to train Harry to block his mind from these intrusions. We also know that Voldemort has not used the mind-link/scar-cam since the Ministry showdown – so Voldemort would not be seeing the “Tower Drama” for himself. This would not be necessary anyway, because if Voldemort didn’t witness Snape’s killing curse, a whole gang of Death Eaters did.

    3. Harry has to destroy the Horcruxes. I don’t think this is a red herring. Dumbledore would have no reason to put all this pressure on Harry, to sacrifice his own life and then send him running around on these meaningless horcrux hunts if the Horcruxes were already destroyed. More importantly, Jo has confirmed that,yes, this is Harry’s task.

    ‚ÄúDumbledore’s guesses are never very far wide of the mark. I don’t want to give too much away here, but Dumbledore says, “There are four out there, you’ve got to get rid of four, and then you go for Voldemort.” So that’s where he is, and that’s what he’s got to do.‚Äù

    I think there are too many pieces missing in the story at this point to be able to predict much of anything at all. I’m almost positive that the mindblowing twist in Deathly Hallows will have much more to do with Lilly, the invisibility cloak, and (I hope!) time travel. I think 6 is named after Snape because this is the moment where Jo has chosen to reveal the Prince for who he is – an bitter, tortured soul who is much more powerful than any of us could have guessed, and one of the most tragic figures in modern literature. I agree with you that Rowling is a master at narrative misdirection, but I don’t think that she is misdirecting us in stating very clearly that

    1)Dumbledore has all these aforementioned problems,
    2)He is without a partner, and
    3) Harry has to destroy the Horcruxes.

    Conversely, I think she has been cleverly been “misdirecting” us about Snape repeatedly emphasizing that Dumbledore trusts him, by generating sympathy in the reader by giving us glimpses into his tortured childhood, or by letting Harry learn spells from Snape’s book that save someone’s life (never mind the insidious Sectumsempra).

    Looking past Snape, one of my favorite things about the series is how well the catalyst events of the story (Godric’s Hollow, Wormtail’s betrayal, the prophecy, etc) is concealed and then gradually revealed to the reader piece by piece, yet still leaving us with so much guesswork about what really happened. After 6 books, we still don’t know:
    – how James and Lilly (or the Longbottoms for that matter) defied Voldemort 3 times
    – why Voldemort targeted the Potters instead of the Longbottoms (or at least targeted them first)
    – why Lilly was given the choice to be spared
    – why the invisibility cloak is important
    – how Dumbledore found out about this so quickly that he already had the letter ready for Petunia on the same night
    Рwhat James and Lilly’s professions were, and most importantly
    Рwhy it hasn’t occurred to Harry to ask more questions about any of these things!

    She could have filled a whole volume with this stuff and called it Book 1, but instead she started in the middle. This, I think, is Rowling‚Äôs most brilliant device “misdirection,” or more precisely, concealment ‚Äì concealing crucial backstory by not allowing Harry to ask questions about his parents that you would think he would want to know! If Prince was Snape‚Äôs book, Hallows will be Lilly‚Äôs book, and the Ultimate Answer To Everything will not be found by the revisiting the behind-the-scenes happenings of Prince (although there are definately some smaller answers lurking there). Instead, it will be found at Godric‚Äôs Hollow.

  7. I’m not anywhere near as well versed in literary dissection as many of you, but my personal opinion is that a big misdirection is Harry’s scar. My husband and many of you believe it to be a horcrux and to destroy all of them means Harry has to die. That’s exactly what Ms. Rowling wants us to be thinking by misdirection. I think Harry will begin to think it as well.

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