J.K. Rowling’s Choice

The following is about the very end of the Harry Potter series, thus, if you haven’t read book 7 or watched film 8 but plan to, be aware of spoilers herein.

It is strange, how many readers and probably even more literary critics seem to think J.K. Rowling‘s choice for her last chapter — actually the coda — is wrong, taking down the whole series. Why?

Harry Potter is all about decisions

One of the big themes is choice. Several times in the books the nominal hero does what should befit everybody, he doubts himself. He voices his doubts towards his close friends and towards his mentor, asking, ‘I am so similar to Tom Riddle, may I be bad?’ Everybody comforts him, especially Dumbledore assures Harry that it is not how you are born but what you choose in life.

Another on-going strand of narration is that evil has to be fought by every generation anew. Dumbledore fought Grindelwald [and in essence his own self-delusion], Harry’s father fought Voldemort, Harry fought Voldemort again. Over and over again we get to read how wizards and witches through the ages fought evil right from the founding of Hogwarts.

What else? Oh yes, while Harry Potter likes his new capabilities, world, and even his hero status in the very first novel, later on he more and more despises to be seen as something special. He doesn’t want to be special, he wants to live a normal family life — just like he sees it in the Weasleys.

What’s wrong with optimism?

Throughout the whole series Rowling’s tone is optimistic. She never gives in to fatalism or nihilism. It seems to me quite obvious she not only says that life is about choice, she really believes it. Among the optimistic elements is Harry Potter’s fate, he was saved by unconditional love from sure death. He is viewed by everybody, including the bad guys, as the one person capable of stopping Voldemort’s plans. He, Harry, is the legacy of the original resistance towards Tom Riddle’s army of Death Eaters.

Wouldn’t it be quite strange to have Harry die in the end [forever that is] instead of fulfilling his father’s and mother’s fight? I cannot see any hint of such a nihilistic move anywhere in Ms Rowling’s writings.

A life in peace

But what about the tagged on end, perceived by many as overly kitschy? It shows the ultimate fulfilment of Harry’s chosen destiny, he does not want to be the eternal hero wandering the world in pursuit of adventure and evil. His fight was for peace on a very personal level, he looked for a peaceful, quiet life.Why not show it?

The coda has a metatextual level, too: Whatever you think about the boring life of your parents, they were young once, they might have been anything but dull. Isn’t that what the author tells her readers?

4 thoughts on “J.K. Rowling’s Choice”

  1. Ich habe von Harry Potter nur den ersten Band gelesen, und auch den nur sehr unaufmerksam. Ich habe deshalb rein gar nichts hinzuzufügen und bin somit der perfekte Kommentator. Ich frage deshalb: Gibt es nichts Wichtigeres, über das man schreiben könnte? Und: Warum muss das auf Englisch sein, hasst du unsere schöne deutsche Sprache so sehr? Und nicht zu vergessen: Ich bin absolut anderer Meinung und verlange, dass ich dafür respektiert werde.

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