10 Reasons Why I Love Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
Disclaimers: A. There are more than 10 reasons why I love this book and think it a fitting conclusion to the series, but hey, I haven't got all day. B. My love as a whole does not extend to the "Epilogue," which I thought presented a jarring change of tone and offered precious little new information that the readers couldn't have guessed on their own. (And it was, I think, rather lame.) Considering this is only 7 pages out of 759, however, my problems with and disappointment in this section hardly affect my overall love for the book. C. These reasons are in no particular order. D. I'm sure I'll think of more things to say and better ways to say them as soon as I've posted this. And now, on to the list.
Reason 1: Power and Responsibility: J.K. Rowling throughout this series has been remarkably consistent (as well as subtle and clever) in emphasizing several key themes, and I appreciate how this book unifies and underscores her messages. One example rests in her handling of the ideas of power and responsibility. Deathly Hallows makes it clear, once and for all, that those who desire and seek power are those who are most poorly suited to wield it wisely and justly, while those who do not want power when it is thrust upon them are most likely to be good and responsible stewards of it -- and, like the classical Cincinnatus, are most likely to relinquish it willingly, rather than become tyrannical. Her Orwellian portrait of the fall of the Ministry of Magic to Voldemort's control is chilling, and the readers' final understanding of Dumbledore's unwillingness to serve as Minister of Magic serves as an instructive contrast to the ambition of You-Know-Who.
Reason 2: Death and Immortality: Complete with a resurrection scene, Deathly Hallows completes Rowling's stated purpose for the entire series, to wrestle with the idea of death and how we handle the idea of dying. Like Tolkien and others before her, Rowling takes the sting and fear out of death and puts the emphasis on living -- both before and after death. It's telling that she begins the book with two quotes about life after death and how we can connect to dead ones we love: significantly, one quote is from The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus, which tells the tale of a young man with a scar on his forehead (Orestes) who seeks revenge on those who murdered his father (Agamemnon)! Dumbledore makes explicit the fact that we must focus on living (both before and after death); perhaps the most haunting image from the whole book is that of Harry, prepared to embrace his own death, walking forward to meet Voldemort, flanked by his parents, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin. "Stay close to me," he asks them. "We are part of you," explains Sirius. Enough said.
Reason 3: Arthuriana: The "Hallows" part of the Deathly Hallows title led me some time ago to speculate that there would be significant Arthurian references in this story, and I was not disappointed. In particular, the book completely drives home the grail quest message that the real power, and the real journey, is not in finding and using mighty objects, but rather in making one's self worthy of them, through enlightenment, sacrifice, and loyalty to others and to a higher calling. Dumbledore's point that he was not worthy, and Harry is worthy, is key to understanding this entire series (reminiscent, if I do say so myself, of Qui-Gon Jinn's recognition of his student Obi-Wan Kenobi as the wiser man, in Star Wars, another mythos heavily influenced by Arthurian legend).
Reason 4: Coming of Age: I think Deathly Hallows does an excellent job of completing the process that began in previous books, of Harry's coming of age through disillusionment and anger and, at last, reaching mature understanding. Part of the process of growing up is learning that your parents and/or heroes are fallible humans who make mistakes and possess incomplete knowledge and answers. Harry's already learned this about his father: now he learns it about Dumbledore. By the end of the book, however, he has overcome his anger at Dumbledore's failings, and learned to appreciate him as one of the bravest men he ever knew -- an inspiration not because he had no faults, but because of what he was despite them. Conversely, he recognizes in Snape, whose faults he already knew well, the heroism to which he had previously been blind, and he learns to forgive and respect the Potions Master. The series of revelations, and Harry's ultimate response to them, show the readers that the Boy Who Lived is now a man, and one we would do well to imitate.
Reason 5: Fairy-Stories: I love how Rowling's use of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, for example, and even the romance of The Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron, suggests that fairy stories need to be taken seriously. Tales need not be factual to be true and meaningful (though some might be factual as well!), and when we blithely disregard so-called "childrens' stories," it may be to our peril. Some of Rowling's critics should ponder that a while!
Reason 6: Trust and Loyalty: By the end of Deathly Hallows, Voldemort is fighting almost solely by himself. Where are his legion of supporters? In some cases, dead. (Aside: Molly Weasley rules!) In many other cases, however, they have abandoned him, seeking things that are more important, following their true loyalties (in the case of the Malfoys, for example, family). Voldemort has inspired no loyalty because he shows none, because he trusts no one. Harry, on the other hand, has a large, if charmingly rag-tag, group of fellow fighters: the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's Army, the Gryffindor Quidditch Team (including members from years ago), House-Elves, Centaurs, etc. This group comes together because they trust Harry, and Harry has proven his loyalty to them. Voldemort has no one, because he uses everyone for his own ends. Harry has an overwhelming show of support, because he has proven that he is willing to lay down his life for others.
Reason 7: Sacrifice: I am pleased that Rowling was true to her subject, as she has been in the past, showing that the defeat of Voldemort and lasting peace can only be purchased with sacrifice. Although my heart broke with the loss of beloved characters (including two of my very favorites), it would've been an insult to the series, the subject matter, and the readers to suggest that evil's defeat could be free and simple. The image of hiding in the woods, listening to Potterwatch, and hearing the list of the latest missing and deceased wizards, is appropriately haunting, as is the picture of the Hogwarts Great Hall, littered with the dead, wounded, and mourning. Making the choice between what is right and what is easy has serious, lasting consequences.
Reason 8: Cameos: Oliver Wood, Griphook, Dobby - Deathly Hallows offered, appropriately enough, a reunion of characters, and it was nice to see secondary actors from Lee Jordan to Professor Trelawney playing key, if brief, roles.
Reason 9: The Longbottom Effect: As much as all of the other characters have grown, it is Neville's transformation as the leader of Dumbledore's Army and, after Harry's apparent death, the self-appointed spokesman for all of Hogwarts, that is the most humbling to behold. (I had several flashbacks to marthawells's wonderful essay "Neville Longbottom: The Hero With A Thousand Faces" in Mapping the World of Harry Potter while reading Deathly Hallows.) In a way, he symbolizes much more than one boy: he sums up Rowling's philosophy about our surprising potential and promise, and embodies what Hogwarts will be in the future.
Reason 10: A Quote: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" I have nothing to add to this, except to say it is brilliant.
I haven't done this book justice, but suffice it to say that Deathly Hallows left me deeply satisfied.
I recommend checking out the "20 Discussion Points re: The Deathly Hallows" at Hogwarts Professor (or hogwartspro) for some very interesting ideas and springboards for further thought.