Reflecting on Dumbledore: One Year Later, and What Lies Ahead
Harry Potter Will NOT Die, Says British Literature Expert
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry may have prepared Harry Potter to duke it out with ol' Lord Voldemort, but the real test of his survival will be the battle over who actually "owns" Harry: J.K. Rowling or her loyal fans. According to a British expert on Victorian literature, Rowling's recent threat to kill off at least two main characters in her final novel in the series may be her way of taking control of Harry once and for all, and is not unlike other actions taken by other authors whose books have become extremely popular with readers.
In the end, however, Harry will survive, says James Krasner, Professor of English and British Victorian Literature at the University of New Hampshire. "There's no way that Harry will die," he remarks. "Harry won't die largely because these are comic stories, like Dickens' novels, in which good has to win.
"Whenever an author's books become very popular in his and/or her lifetime, as is the case with Rowling, a tug of war starts between the author and the fans about just who the characters really belong to. Rowling, like Conan Doyle [creator of Sherlock Holmes], is attempting to assert her control. She's trying to remind us that Harry Potter is in fact her character, not ours; she can kill him if she wants to. Doyle actually did kill off Sherlock Holmes, but Rowling isn't willing to go that far because she truly cares for Harry. Conan Doyle, meanwhile, was sick of Sherlock Holmes," Krasner explains.
And this isn't the first time that Rowling, who has been rather adept at promoting her books, has threatened to kill off a major character. As Krasner observes, Rowling caused a media sensation when she announced that a "major character" would be murdered in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Rumors targeted either Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger, Harry's two most loyal companions --- but in the end, it was the Prisoner of Azkaban himself, Sirius Black, who, according to Krasner, "was an important supporting character, but not really a major character, like Ron or Hermione.
"Harry won't die because Rowling's too good of a storyteller to completely undercut her genre. She's an extrordinarily careful plotter, not unlike Dickens, and she has worked very hard to make all the books emotionally satisfying. Having Harry die would be a miserable plotting failure," Krasner warns.
Rowling employs the genre of British Private Boy School novels, a popular writing style of 19th Century Britain, but one that may be unfamiliar with most Americans. The most classic novel of this particular genre is Tom Brown's Schooldays, set in the Rugby School for Boys. "The stock characters featured in Tom Brown's Schooldays are very similar to those in Harry Potter. You have the serious, good-hearted hero from a modest background, the overly obnoxious, aristocratic kid who lords it over everybody, and the hero's nebishy friend(s). The stories tend to focus on rugby games [in the case of Harry Potter, Quidditch], and there are pranks which take place in the dorms when the lights go out," Krasner continues.
"Rowling's books are very well written, and we're lucky to be around to see each of them even as they are being created. Her particular talent is ploting and comic characterization. She's a lot like Charles Dickens in that she does such a good job with comedy, and predictable plotlines, that she is able to move into tragedy, and complexity, rather than starting with a tragic mode," says Krasner.
So, for all that, if Harry Potter doesn't die in the final book, who does?
The way Krasner has it figured out, "Lord Voldemort has to die. And Snape, who is likely fighting for the good guys despite all appearances, will likely die. And Neville Longbottom is the real CHosen One, so I suspect that he'll end up dead."
And readers should not be surprised if the much-loved Professor Dumbledore, who was murdered at Snape's hands in the last book, does indeed return. "Obi-wan Kenobi, Gandalf-type paternal wise-man mentor characters always die. This is a multi-genre convention, turning up in war stories, medieval romances, fantasy, adventure, cop movies, martial arts films. They all come back as ghosts," says Krasner.
Well, after all that, my fellow Magic-users, let your Dragonmaster tell you this: There are still puzzles to be solved as a result of all this Potter speculation. Hasn't J.K. Rowling remembered what B.Z. told Patch in the Salkinds' Santa Claus: The Movie --- "When you've got a hit like we have, Patch, the people don't wanna wait a whole year! They're dying for a sequel!"
And therein lies me point, kiddos: the fans won't wait for the last Potter book anymore. Their impatience is insatiable; I doubt that ol' Dumbledore would approve of that kind of behaviour, even if he had not been killed off. He would have grumbled at that kind of attitude and frowned at all of us quite harshly!
As always, I wanna know what YOU think, America. Gimme an e-mail at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.