I'll keep this brief, since I just posted a huge long discussion on the Order of the Phoenix movie and I'm almost analysed out. Plus, I'm almost through the book for the third time and my head is still swimming a bit.
With regard to all the deaths in this book, I was slightly surprised that most of the major names survived. Rowling did kill off quite a few of the good guys, but I felt they were almost all peripheral characters. The obvious exceptions are Dumbledore (in Half-Blood Prince) and Snape, but otherwise we have:
- Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin (these two provide the "married couple with surviving baby boy" image to bring the overall storyline full circle)
- Fred Weasley
- Mad Eye Moody
- Colin Creevey
- assorted other folks, including the Muggle Studies professor
One interesting thing about this book is that Rowling makes several allegorical references which could go undetected by the non-practiced eye. Here they are:
- Harry is referred to throughout Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows as "The Chosen One"
- Harry gives his life to the Dark Lord in order to ultimately end the threat of evil, lending the protection of his blood sacrifice to everyone fighting with him against Voldemort
- In the Christmas Eve scene outside the Godric's Hollow church we see a statue of Harry's parents, holding their infant son, with a halo of snow over them
- In attempting to kill Harry (taking both times together), Voldemort actually destroys himself, leaving his intended victim with a scar by which his followers identify him
- Harry is resurrected after his death, returning to his mortal body to lead his followers in the final assault against evil
I do love me a good allegory - somehow it always feels like the author is talking my language. As an aside, I find it amusing that people think Deathly Hallows - or any allegory, for that matter - is "inspired by CS Lewis". Go a little farther back, folks.
Here are some I-Told-You-So's. I KNEW the invisibility cloak was important. And I knew right away the "stone" part of the tripartite Deathly Hallows was Gaunt's ring. And ever since Philosopher's Stone I've been waiting to hear the back story of Dumbledore's defeat of Grindelwald. The Chocolate Frog cards (or was it "Great Witches and Wizards of the 20th Century"?) say that Dumbledore defeated the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945. So immediately I figured it was the magic version of the contemporaneous Muggle war, and that Grindelwald was the figurative doppelgänger of Hitler. Ethnic cleansing and all. I WAS RIGHT, HA HA HA!!
And I must also say (sorry, everyone) that I'm surprised and disappointed at the plot hole I pointed out in the comments to Gwen's speculation post...it turns out that Nagini is, in fact, a horcrux, though during priori incantatem at the end of Goblet of Fire, the only spells that come out of Voldemort's wand are the avada kedavra curses which killed Cedric Diggory, Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins, and Harry's parents. If Voldemort had made Nagini into a horcrux while in hiding in Albania (Voldemort himself obliquely refers to this event - or at least to the time in which it must have happened - I believe in Philosopher's Stone?), then some sort of horcrux spell should have come out of his wand in between Lily Potter and Bertha Jorkins.
Or maybe there's something I'm missing, which would explain it all...anyone with a theory, please expound.
I was rather disappointed not to finally learn the 12 uses of dragon's blood, though of course one of them is to splatter on your walls to simulate your own gory death.
Snape. Let me just say that I have always loved this character and felt he was maligned, misunderstood, denigrated, and disrespected. It's true that he looked bad, and that he was malicious and spiteful to Harry throughout. However, it was always clear to me that, despite his feelings toward Harry, he came down squarely on the side of good. The line at the end of Goblet of Fire makes this clear: Dumbledore looks at Snape and says "You know what I must ask you to do." Snape nods and sweeps out of the hospital wing....from then on, it's obvious that he is fully immersed in his role of Death Eater double-agent. His talent at occlumency, brought out in Order of the Phoenix, is the most important clue to his real loyalties: the Dark Lord is never able to fish thoughts out of Snape's head, therefore he's the only possible informant for the Order to use.
In Half-Blood Prince, a lot of people, both characters and readers, felt Snape was evil after all. I never doubted him for a second. After all - he is the ultimate spy: he is focussed, convincing, poker-faced, has credibility with those he's spying on, and is maybe the only character in the book who is concerned only with the ultimate goal of defeating Voldemort. He's willing to appear odious to his comrades, ingratiate himself to Voldemort by whatever means, kill Dumbledore, and betray Lily's son to his certain death, to bring Voldemort down. I LOVE this guy. When Harry named his son "Albus Severus" in the Epilogue, it broke my heart and brought me to agonising tears...I had to go cast myself on my bed, clutching my chest and sobbing stormily into the pillows.
Poor Snape. That moment when he is dying and he commands Harry to look at him, just so he can see Lily Evans' eyes one more time...gah. Still gets me.
There's an interesting scene at the end of the book during the final moments of the Battle of Hogwarts. Voldemort puts the Body-Bind on Neville and jams the Sorting Hat down onto his head. The Sorting Hat bursts into flames, but Neville is untouched by the curse (because of Harry's sacrifice), pulls the hat off, pulls Gryffindor's sword out of the hat, and kills Voldemort's snake with it. I love that that this exact sequence of events also happened at the end of Chamber of Secrets - as Dumbledore says of Voldemort, "he never learns".
Well, that concludes (or, more probably, begins) our discussion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There's a lot I've left out: this review barely touches on 10% of my thoughts about the book, so please do comment if you have something to add. It's been an exciting ten years, watching Harry's every move, waiting for each installment. I'm sorry to see the end of it.