Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Life Lessons from Harry Potter

I read the latest Harry Potter over the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the many cups of tea along the way! Enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I now have the Harry Potter blues because I must wait until the next (and final) book is released. Ah, well, at least I can practice being patient and savor this one.

I've been reflecting on two important life lessons I found embedded within the latest book. The first is that of being polite - to everyone. I found that Dumbledore is a role model for this! For example, at one point Dumbledore shares a past memory of when Tom Riddle (bad guy) returns to Hogwarts. Despite knowing that Tom has done evil deeds, Dumbledore greets him politely. "Good evening Tom...Won't you sit down?...May I offer you a drink?" Then later, when Dumbledore is facing two Death Eaters, this dialogue follows: Dumbledore says, "Good evening Amycus. And you've brought Alecto Too. " The Death Eater says, "Think your little jokes'll help you on your deathbed then?" Dumbledore responds, "Jokes? No, no, these are manners."

The second life lesson I encountered was that fate can bring us to the "forming edge of our lives" (to borrow a phrase from a friend), but we must decide whether to jump. This theme of the interplay between free will and fate plays well in the book. I believe it is best presented when Harry realizes that he can choose whether to fulfill the prophecy (that either he or Voldemort will kill the other). Fate may have brought him to his present state, but Harry can choose his next move.

A lot to think about in this hefty volume! I'd like to hear from you!! What spoke to you as you read this book? Other life lessons? Your favorite part? What you didn't like? Share with me your thoughts!


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you got to read the latest Harry Potter! I loved it, as
usual...I am also a little disappointed that I don't have any more to
read until the next (and final) book comes out. I think all of Harry
Potter's books teach a great deal about right and wrong...the thin line
between them, and how to bounce back from troubled times. I also think
it teaches that friends can become your family when you need them (or
they need you). There are so many lessons. Some go much deeper, as you
have pointed out. Anyway, Harry Potter is wonderful! -KD

Anonymous said...

Another "life lesson" might be that growing up is hard to do. When we reach maturity, we make choices that sometimes prioritize the needs of many over the desires for ourself.

Cindy W. said...

It’s another year until the final book, but we only have two months until the Goblet of Fire movie! (the trailer is great -- the tournament looks much better than I thought it would, and the dragons are nice and scary)

But on to your question about life lessons. . . hmmmmm. . . . one of my favorite themes from all of the books is the idea that FUN is a necessity. Whether fun happens with magical gadgets and tricks, or if it’s just friends playfully making their way through school, it is a way for people to imagine and act out and create a better life.

Until the end of The Half-Blood Prince, I would have said that another of the main messages I took from the books had to do with not prejudging people. Poor, rich, wizard, muggle, weak, strong – all of the assumptions and stereotypes get examined, turned upside down, and spun around until we see heroic actions from the least expected (and occasionally selfish actions from those we’d considered heroes).

Massive Spoiler Alert – don’t read further if you haven’t read the latest book!

Especially in The Half-Blood Prince, we start to see things from the perspective of those who are assumed to be on the side of evil. We even got a very sympathetic look at the Malfoy family as they are caught up in bad schemes and not sure where to turn (because their own prejudices and pasts stymie them). We discover that Harry’s aunt actually has a heart. But then, this ideal fell apart as Snape seems to have turned to the dark side.

Last week in New Mexico, I had a long discussion about Snape (over margaritas) while hanging out with friends from my grad student days (when we used to spend many an hour arguing over literature we were studying). One of my friends was angry at Rowling for taking the easy way out – that the message about Snape is an important one and his betrayal reinforces prejudging and stereotyping. Another felt that Snape’s betrayal was more about how even the wisest (Dumbledore) can misjudge others, and that sometimes kids/teens are more astute as to the true character of adults. For him, Dumbledore needed to be shown as having weaknesses, just like everyone else.

I myself am firmly convinced that it is an act of loyalty, that Snape killed Dumbledore as a way to get closer to Voldemort and truly infiltrate the death eaters. I have three main reasons for believing this:

1. Dumbledore seems to know he was about to die, and he’s been scheming with Snape in secret (we see at least one occasion of this). D even tells Harry that “your blood is worth more than mine” as they make their way into the cave.
2. The cave is the most important reason for believing that Snape isn’t evil. Dumbledore insists that Harry make him keep drinking the poison, even if he protests. “You remember the condition on which I brought you with me? You swore, did you not, to follow any command I gave you?” That point is driven home several times -- give me your word that you will feed me poison. I think this is classic foreshadowing, and that Snape (as always) mirrors Harry’s actions later when. . .
3. he breaks in to the tower, sees what is going on, pauses. . . Then Dumbledore pleads with him until Snape finally points his wand and shouts Avada Kedavra.

I fully expect that Snape will save Harry in the end and redeem himself. Of course, it will be just as fun to be surprised by a different resolution, and that’s the point of this all in the end – FUN! :)

Steph said...

Thank you to all who have posted comments!!