Thursday, July 20, 2006

HP Book 7: More Final Confrontations for Harry

In my last HP post I focused exclusively on Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort. Clearly that is the big showdown we've all been looking toward for many years now. Before Harry can get a shot at the big guy, however, he has plenty of other hurdles to jump and obstacles to face, both inner and outer. Along the way, he's bound to run into some other friends and foes. Today I'd like to focus on some of those possible meetings. Let's begin with:

Harry meets...his memories

Harry's been wrestling with his memories for as long as we've known him. In some of the very earliest pages of PS/SS, we see him struggling to recall memories of his parents and the night of their deaths. More of that evening has been revealed to him, slowly, as the years go by. He first recalled the high, cruel laughter of Voldemort when Hagrid revealed to him the truth that his parents had not died in a car crash but had been murdered. He first recalled his parents' voices when he had to face the demnentors and his own worst fears in PoA.

The subject of memories in the series and how Rowling uses them to advance both her plot and the deeper meanings of her stories is a topic I'm trying to delve into more fully. So I won't post much here for now. Suffice it to say, we've been almost promised that Harry's memories, and that fateful, shaping event of his infancy, will have a role to play in the final book. At the end of HBP, Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he won't be coming back to Hogwarts in the fall, assuming it re-opens. When Hermione asks him what he's going to do, he replies:

"I thought I might go back to Godric's Hollow," Harry muttered. He had had the idea in his head ever since the night of Dumbledore's death. "For me, it started there, all of it. I've just got a feeling I need to go there. And I can visit my parents' graves, I'd like that."

What Harry will find at Godric's Hollow is anyone's guess. It may not be anything physical or tangible, though it might be. At the very least, he may tap into more memories, important ones, or discover a new piece of understanding about what happened the night his parents died. Somehow I think that will be crucial as he moves forward to accomplish this huge task that's been laid upon him, a task he now willingly takes up even if it means walking in the dangerous and costly footsteps his parents once walked.

After all, there are still many things we don't understand about that night ourselves. Chief among them, I think: why did Voldemort offer Lily Potter a chance to "stand aside"? (making her death more of an overt choice/sacrifice, as JKR herself has drawn our attention to in interviews). Where were some other key players that evening, especially Snape and Pettigrew? Did Voldemort intend to make another horcrux based on the Potters' deaths, and if so, was that process actually *in process* when the AK curse backfired? So much we don't know! So much we'd like to find out.

Harry meets...Ginny

I've never been wildly enthusiastic about the "shipping wars" in HP fandom (those heated debates among readers regarding who will eventually be paired with who romantically). I have always thought, however, that it was likely Harry would find himself with Ginny, at least eventually, as it seemed clear Rowling was setting us up for that. The biggest surprise to me when I first read HBP is that it happened so soon.

Upon further reflection, however, it made sense. The romance issues are primarily "side issues" -- not that they don't mean anything, and not that we don't feel some emotional investment in them (especially as they lend interest and amusement and pathos to the development of our favorite characters) but they don't drive the main plot. I think Rowling intentionally resolved some of those lighter-weight issues in HBP, not only as a gift to her fans, but as a way of sort of "clearing the deck" for the bigger issues as the epic heads down the homestretch in book 7. She doesn't want her readers wasting all their energy wondering who Harry wants to kiss. She wants readers focused on Harry's main task: defeating Voldemort.

But along the way, he's got some growing to do, and the love, support and help of his community is a huge part of that. The orphaned Harry's growth in relationships and community is not, arguably, just a "side issue" but a very important key to his becoming the man he needs to be...Dumbledore's man through and order to face and vanquish Voldemort.

And how many of us think it likely that Ginny will just acquiesce and bow out now that Harry's made his throat-swallowing "you-make-me-so-happy-but-we-can't-continue-to-see-each-other-because-I'm-afraid-Voldemort-will-make-you-his-target" speech? I don't mean to belittle the speech: Harry's making it seems completely in character with the young man we've grown to know and love, especially because we know he can't bear the loss of too many more people he loves. His substantial losses of people close to him has made him perhaps more vulnerable to suffering, not less. But let's face it, he's going to need everyone he can get on his side going into this final battle, and is it likely that Ginny, who has essentially loved him since she laid eyes on him at the age of ten and finally knows he returns her affection, will not want to help?

We don't know nearly as much about Ginny's character as many people would like. Much ink has been spilled by fans in an attempt to add to Ginny's development as a character. But we don't have to speculate too imaginatively to know she's not the kind of person to sit idly by while the boy of her dreams goes off to war. She may have been named in part as a nod to Arthur's Guinivere, but there's not much handerchief waving maiden about Ginny Weasley. Let's stop and consider what we do know:

-- She's a Weasley. This means several things: 1) She's got the red-headed temper, stubbornness, and quick-wittedness that seem to run in her family. 2) She's grown up as the only girl with six brothers, and the youngest child of seven. That means she's learned to be tough, assertive and crafty when necessary -- and that's not mere speculation, but backed up by things like the reference to how she learned to fly and play Quidditch so well...she used to break into the broom shed and borrow her brother's brooms when they weren't looking. 3) She's Molly's daughter. That not only cements some of the traits mentioned in point 1, but reminds me that, like Molly, she's likely to have some serious fears about the potential deaths of her loved ones (remember Molly's boggart?) and connected to that comes 4) Her entire family is already involved on the good side of the war effort, with the probable exception of Percy (unless you believe he's a spy). It's not just Harry's life at stake, but the lives of her brothers and parents. Ginny, skilled and courageous, has already proved her mettle in the Department of Mysteries battle at the end of OofP. She will likely prove it again.

Two other potentially relevant points to make about Ginny.

-- She knows the mind of Tom Riddle. I don't think we can underestimate that. Perhaps more than anyone else in the series, she can emphathize with Harry in knowing what it feels like to be mentally invaded and physically possessed by that evil wizard. I know that the version of Voldemort that used Ginny in CoS was a younger version (sort of a bug-ridden 3.1 instead of a fast-loading XP, not quite a full-bodied or full-souled version) but it's still the same guy. Beyond the empathy this enables her to have for Harry, I'm wondering if it might not also mean she'll be able to provide some valuable insights into Voldemort's vulnerabilities or potential strategies on down the line. Personally, I think she needs to be clued into the whole horcrux hunt.

-- She has a deep sense of gratitude to Harry for saving her life. I don't think this is the equivalent of a the "life-debt" that Pettigrew owes Harry. In that case, Harry actively spared Pettigrew's life when it was in his power (and the power of others) to take it. Ginny's situation is categorically different. She was on the brink of death, and Harry's actions brought her back from that precipice. But can you imagine the depth of gratefulness you'd feel to the one who rescued you in that way? (The whole scene in the chamber, as John Granger has pointed out, plays like a beautiful miniature salvation allegory. And Rowling has indicated that a lot of what happens in CoS is important for the end of the story.) Ginny's not just in love with Harry...she genuinely loves him. And I think if Rowling is smart -- and of course she is -- she won't use Ginny's character as mere spunky comic relief (more bat-bogey hexes, etc.) or even just as a romantic happily ever after.

Ginny should be a part of the effort to defeat Voldemort. So she and Harry really need to talk. Where better to do that than at Bill and Phlegm's (er...excuse me...Fleur's) wedding at the beginning of book 7?

Next HP post will be my last on Harry's final confrontations though I still hope to post about possible confrontations between other characters in the series. I plan to look at potential meetings between Harry and Neville, Harry and Dumbledore (??stay tuned...) and Harry and Snape.


Erin said...

I can't wait to see more of those memories too...

That end-of-the-book speech is so Peter Parker and Clark Kent; I'm just hoping Ginny winds up more Mary Jane Watson than Lana Lang. Perhaps the key will be whether Harry decides to confide in her. As you point out, she knows a great deal already; if he takes that knowledge a bit further, she could prove an indispensible ally. I think you're right about all that character bubbling just under the surface, and most likely book seven will be her time to shine...

Beth said...

So funny that you compared Harry to superhero alteregos...this just came up the other day on the HogPro board, where a couple of us where comparing Harry to Peter Park especially! Like PP, HP didn't really ask to be "marked" and yet find himself called upon to be a hero. He struggles because deep down, he'd really like to have a "normal" life...whatever that means. :-)

I definitely think Ginny *should* get further development in book 7, but I wonder if she will. JKR's got so much to accomplish in one book!

Beth said...

Argh! I meant to say "Peter Parker" not "Peter Park." Long day today and I'm a bit tired.

Why can't we go back in and edit these things?!