Book Review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — (18/52)

The seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series oversees Harry’s thrilling final journey to bring down the Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort


Upon finishing the final Harry Potter book, I was left with a slew of thoughts and emotions. But, one thought, above all, kept coming up again and again: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Professor Albus Dumbledore uttered those wise words at the conclusion of Harry’s second year at Hogwarts. When I reflect on everything that occurs in the seventh book from the first to the last page, it is the essence of Dumbledore’s words that drive at why Harry Potter successfully completes his mission: To end Lord Voldemort’s reign of terror.

At the midway point of the book, Harry realizes the “secret” of the Deathly Hallows and he begins to suspect that he may be in possession of one of them already (his invisibility cloak). He knows that by obtaining the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone, he alone would be the owner of all three of the Deathly Hallows, which has the added side benefit of making Harry the “master of death.” This is a huge draw for someone like Harry who is searching for any possible edges over his archnemesis, Lord Voldemort. However, in the end, Harry makes the choice that makes all the difference. He does have all three Hallows at one point, but decides against uniting them. If Harry dies a natural death, then the Elder Wand’s power would die with Harry. The cloak would be kept by Harry since it was his own family’s treasure to begin with. And, the stone was dropped by Harry in the Forbidden Forest on his way to his eventual “death” with Voldemort. So, wise beyond his teenage years, Harry chooses to not remain a “master of death” since one man should not have that much power over the natural order of things.

Harry’s friends, Ron and Hermione, also make just as admirable of a choice to stick around with Harry and follow him on his quest to take down Voldemort. Harry also has to make the tough choice to even continue the journey at times when it all gets too terrible and overpowering. At its core, the last book in this fabulous series by J.K. Rowling is all about the choices one makes and the ramifications — positive or negative — that these choices have on future events.

In continuing the trend of the first six book reviews of the Harry Potter books I’ve done, I will break the seventh and final book down into three separate sections: the funny moments, the subtle nuances, and the insightful ideas.

The Funny Moments

Clearly, this is one of the darkest books in the series. About six or so of our most beloved characters die throughout the course of this last book. Hedwig, Harry’s beatiful snow owl, dies in the first battle of the book. In the same battle, Alastor Moody, the famed Auror, dies at the hands of the Death Eaters while trying to transport Harry to his safety. Then, Dobby the house-elf dies a brutal death when rescuing Harry and his friends at the Malfoy Manor. In the Battle of Hogwarts, Tonks, Lupin, and Fred Weasley all succumb to death. And, we even feel remorse for the “evil” Severus Snape who dies an unjustifiable death in his attempts to protect Harry.

A few weeks ago, J.K. Rowling took to Twitter to show her remorse about all of these deaths. She started with Fred Weasley first.

Fred (and his twin brother, George) was one of the regular appearances in any of the funny moments throughout the Harry Potter books. And, in the seventh book, this wise-cracking duo offer some comic relief in a tense moment. In the attempt to transport Harry to the Burrow, George Weasley gets hit with the devastating Sectumsempra curse by Severus Snape. This leaves poor George with an ear less (and a gaping hole where the ear should have been).

“How do you feel, Georgie?” whispered Mrs. Weasley.
George’s fingers groped for the side of his head.
“Saintlike,” he murmured.
“What’s wrong with him?” croaked Fred, looking terrified. “Is his mind affected?”
“Saintlike,” repeated George, opening his eyes and looking up at his brother. “You see…I’m holy. Holey, Fred, geddit?”
Page 74

Another humorous moment occurs when Ron, Harry, and Hermione visit the house of Xenophilius Lovegood (Luna’s father) in attempts to seek out some more knowledge of the Deathly Hallows. Luna’s father, just as eccentric and weird as his own daughter, requested that the trio stay for dinner.

“You will stay for dinner?” he called, as he vanished downstairs again. “Everybody always requests our recipe for Freshwater Plimpy soup.”
“Probably to show the Poisoning Department at St. Mungo’s,” said Ron under his breath.
— Page 413

The Subtle Nuances

The first subtle nuance I picked up on was perhaps a plot hole in this book (it’d be great if those reading this review can confirm this). On page 96 of the book, Hermione tells Harry about how she has gone and modified her parents’ memories so that they can be safe from Voldemort or his Death Eaters if they come and ask about Hermione’s whereabouts.

“I’ve also modified my parents’ memories so that they’re convinced they’re really called Wendell and Monica Wilkins, and that their life’s ambition is to move to Australia, which they have now done. That’s to make it more difficult for Voldemort to track them down and interrogate them about me — or you [Harry], because unfortunately, I’ve told them quite a bit about you.”

Then, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione disapparate from the Burrow after the Death Eaters crash Bill and Fleur’s wedding, the trio goes into a diner to reassess their dire situation. After a fight breaks out between two Death Eaters in disguise and the trio, Harry requests Hermione to do a memory charm so that they can swipe clean the Death Eaters’ memories (which would show that they had encountered Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the diner). Upon Harry’s request, Hermione offers a perplexing answer.

“We just need to wipe their memories,” said Harry. “It’s better like that, it’ll throw them off the scent. If we killed them it’d be obvious we were here.”
“You’re the boss,” said Ron, sounding profoundly relieved. “But, I’ve never done a Memory Charm.”
“Nor have I,” said Hermione, “but I know the theory.”
— Page 167 [Emphasis mine]

Then, Hermione does go on to successfully perform the memory modification. So, how could she have performed the charm on her parents earlier on and then say in that moment that she has never done one before? Perhaps, Hermione might have said this (and Ron and Harry didn’t correct her) because in the shock of the moment at the Death Eaters’ sudden appearance, Hermione might have simply forgot about her prior performance of the memory charm on her parents. But, there’s also the off-chance that Rowling simply overlooked this error.

The Insightful Ideas

The seventh and final book contained many insightful ideas; however, as has been the case in the other six book reviews of the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore dominates this section with his barrage of wisdom. But, first, it was Harry himself who provided a rather touching insightful idea when he reminisces about what life would have been like had Voldemort never tore Harry’s family apart.

“He was about to go home, about to return to the place where he had had a family. It was in Godric’s Hollow that, but for Voldemort, he would have grown up and spent every school holiday. He could have invited friends to his house….He might even have had brothers and sisters….It would have been his mother who had made his seventeenth birthday cake. The life he had lost had hardly ever seemed so real to him as at this moment, when he knew he was about to see the place where it had been taken from him.”
— Page 321

For some of us, life hasn’t been this harsh. We’ve had the unique opportunity to grow up with all of our loved ones still with us very much so. But, for Harry, who has never known that life, this paragraph tracing his sad thoughts of the life-that-could-have-been is heart-breaking and one of Rowling’s most ethereal passages in the whole series. Just masterful writing.

The second insightful idea occurs towards the end of the book just as Harry is about to step into the Forbidden Forest to face his imminent death at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Fatigued and defeated, Harry reaches for the Resurrection Stone and find himself surrounded by his loved ones: Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and James and Lily Potter.

“I didn’t want you to die,” Harry said. These words came without his volition. “Any of you. I’m sorry — ”
He addressed Lupin more than any of them, beseeching him.
“ — right after you’d had your son…Remus, I’m sorry — ”
“I am sorry too,” said Lupin. “Sorry I will never know him…but he will know why I died and I hope he will understand. I was trying to make a world in which he could live a happier life.”
— Page 700 [Emphasis mine]

That line from Lupin really drives home the purpose behind the whole series and why Harry, Ron, Hermione, and so many of their friends and families sacrifice their lives to defeat Voldemort: It’s to ensure a better life for their own kids. That’s probably the overarching goal of any parent I’m sure: To make sure that their children have a better life than they did.

The final insightful ideas comes from Albus Dumbledore, a character who has been nothing but filled to his core with his all-encompassing wisdom.

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
— Page 718

In my (limited) understanding of how power works, I’ve realized that those who say they have the power tend to not have any (or much) power at all. It’s those people that never brag about their position of high power that actually have the most power. And, the people of this latter group are people like Harry Potter who are never seeking the power outright; they just want to use that mantle to do some good for the people of this world. Some historical examples that come to mind are Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, and Richard Branson.

But, a few pages later, Dumbledore says one of the most powerful lines in this whole book when he and Harry are conversing about Voldemort’s quest for immortality and, as a natural result, his fear of death and dying.

“You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.”
— Pages 720–721

Death is a part of the circle of life. And, thus, it should not be feared. In fact, as a bearded and wise gentleman once said, “to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”


Sources

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine, 2007. Print.

Notes

This is the EIGHTEENTH post (out of 52 in total eventually) that is a part of my 2015 Book Reading Challenge.


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