Thursday, July 26, 2007

My recent posting at HogwartsProfessor:

I see that there are a few here who reject the romantic aspects of J.K. Rowling’s fiction, but she is writing - with certain 21st century twists (we are not sure if it’s satire or serious, by the way!!) as a descendant of romantic British literature. Several types of British literature come to mind - not the least of which is the social commentary of Dickens. But for the moment, what comes to mind in Harry Potter is a sort of “marriage” of two streams of British romantic fiction - one from the south and one from the north.

From the South we have Jane Austin and her comic, even satiric look at the human condition in the late 17th to early 18th Century. Coming on her heals, we find from the North Emily Bronte with her Byronic hero and Gothic themes of love and betrayal, sin and death. In Harry Potter we see the joining of these these two forces - the humorous, somewhat satiric look at human relationships and society blended with the Gothic drama of tragic life. Jane Austin meets Emily Bronte (and Dorothy Sayers thrown in to keep us reading!).

When we compare the love-relationships to those we find in Austin novels (and they can be quite complicated) with the love-relationships we find in Bronte’s novel, or in the novels of her sister, Charlotte - we see both of these influences at work - not only in Severus Snape, but in the other relationships as well.

Having started my second read of Deathly Hallows, I am watching the unfolding tragic drama of Remus Lupin and Dora Tonks. In the start of the book, Tonks is the picture of joy and Remus is brooding, conflicted, unhappy. It is fascinating again to see the subtext, as we see Remus before Tonks returns from the flight from Privet Drive, anxious for Tonks - he nearly flies out of the house when she returns - only to see him even more conflicted after she returns. It is clear to him that Bellatrix, Tonk’s aunt, had tried to kill Tonks in the flight from Privet Drive - not because she’s trying to find the Real Harry - but because her niece is married to a werewolf. When the Minister of Magic arrives, it is Remus who suddenly announces that he and Tonks must leave quickly and he’ll explain later. My guess is that Tonks (who was looking radiant) had discovered she was pregnant and Lupin is not able to share her joy. If the Minster of Magic should discover her condition, he is not sure what will happen to Tonks since such children do not fare well in the Wizarding World, but especially as the events in Deathly Hallows unfold. It is tragic.

Tonks had spent almost all of Half Blood Prince in unrequited love, only to see a change at the end after Bill is bitten by Greyback and his fiance still love him. Tonks gets what she wants - Lupin - but he continues to be tortured by what it has cost her to marry him. Did he do the loving thing in requiting her love? Until Harry gives him a dressing down at Grimmauld Place, it is clear that Lupin regrets what he has done.

That Lupin’s fears for his son are not realized and he is only born with his mother’s hair, he is at last able to know joy. But it is short-lived and one of the haunting moments in the book is when Harry looks over and sees Lupin and Tonks - as though asleep - but asleep in death. They would not live to see their son grow up, as James and Lily were denied the same.

I do think it’s important when looking at the “ships” in Harry Potter, how J.K. Rowling hides clues through out the entire books of what is happening in the romantic field. It comes to us as surprise, I believe, merely because we’re not paying attention. We read the text as is, not realizing that there are clues all over the place of the building drama between the characters. By the time she actually points it out, we should all ready know, if we are paying attention. Otherwise, we are like Ron who is clueless about his love for Hermione until Deathly Hallows, and it’s still Hermione who finally takes the initiative in the closing chapters of the book. There love remained unrequited because they were too immature to know what to do with it and their love had to wait until they had grown up before they could see it.

Ginny Weasley had also known unrequited love from the very beginning (in Chamber of Secrets she is so terrified of her feelings being known - Harry is clueless at first - that she flees). After the Weasley family tell Harry of her feelings for him, Harry does not feel the same way about her and that continues until Book VI. We know that Ginny has loved Harry through at least five books before Harry runs into Ginny and Dean in the hallway and begins to figure out his own feelings.

The list goes on - but perhaps at the center is Severus Snape, the classic Byronic hero, of Heathcliff notoriety, but who chooses not to follow Heathcliff into madness. Instead, Snape makes a choice - and that is one of the great themes of the book. What builds our character is our choices - and the choices of Severus Snape were ultimately centered on love. He chose wisely because he loved deeply, for better and for worse.


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