Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Finished it! I thought the middle got a bit too much like a computer game (the heroes have to charge around collecting magical objects, overcoming obstacles on the way – fun but only occasionally enriching our sense of their characters ) but the last few chapters are terrific, as the story’s meaning gets twisted one way and then another in quick succession.

I was struck by how the book uses many of the same narrative conventions that are found in thrillers of the twenties (by Buchan, Sapper, Dornford Yates, etc.) here are a few of them.

  1. Characters prove themselves (discover their “true” natures) in combat.

  2. Luck is on the side of the good characters.

  3. Bad characters are motivated selfishly, good ones collectively. Bad characters desert each other in a crisis, allowing each other to die (or in extreme cases killing each other). Good characters will risk anything (including the success of a larger project) to save each other’s lives.

  4. The heroes have less understanding of the overall situation than do the villains. The heroes have to discover the larger truth as they go on. In Harry Potter, as in Buchan, the main hero is kept partly in the dark by someone on his own side who knows more. Like Sandy Arbuthnot, Dumbledore reveals no more than the hero needs to know, and has an agenda of which the hero only gradually becomes aware.

Where J.K.Rowling is different from most thriller writers is that she allows some of her characters to have mixed motives, and allows some of the best to be tempted by evil. The back story of Dumbledore is very cleverly filled out in this book.

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