Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter - the end is nigh, but for whom?


Harry Potter and the Philosophers' Predictions  

Part 1 of 3

Is Snape really evil?


 As the publication date for the final installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, looms ever closer, the questions left unanswered in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince become every more urgent. As a Potter fan, I've been musing over questions like "Is Snape really evil?" and "Will Harry die?" ever since reading the (literally) shocking last chapters of book 6. I've re-asked them when listening to Stephen Fry's excellent reading of the book with my kids. And I became more worried when J.K. Rowling spoke of book 7 involving a "bloodbath" in her recent TV interview with Jonathan Ross (even if she did backtrack on this a bit).

My own hunch is that Snape can't be on the side of the Death-Eaters, because that would turn Dumbledore into a Neville character of the worst kind - Chamberlain not Longbottom. Dumbledore is really wise, right, so he can't make such a howler? Regarding Harry's survival -well I'd hate to see him die, but after JKR's "bloodbath" comment I'm a bit concerned. In the same interview she also said "I think that Harry's story comes to quite a clear end in Book Seven". Are we to see a Hamlet-like ending in which all the major protagonists are killed? As a reader who has  seen none of Rowling's plot twists coming, perhaps I ought to leave the serious predicting to the experts....

But which experts? The fan sites are full of predictions, and I'm sure the correct ones must be there somewhere - but where? It so happens that three excellent books have been written by academics about the philosophy in Harry Potter. Perhaps "lovers of wisdom" who are also lovers of Harry Potter books can set my mind at rest. I tracked down the books'  authors and they were kind enough to share their thoughts with us ...

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    The Wisdom of Harry Potter
  by Edmund M. Kern

 If Harry Potter ran General Electric
by Tom Morris

Harry Potter and Philosophy
 by David Baggett & Shawn Klein (eds.)


It's been said that if you put 3 philosophers in a room together and ask them a question, you'll usually hear at least 4 different answers. Surprisingly - and perhaps significantly - there was almost complete agreement amongst these three Potterphile philosophers.

So, over to Professors Kern, Morris and Klein ...


1) Is Snape really evil?

Tom Morris:

Remember that Dumbledore seemed to plead briefly with Snape right before Snape killed him.  I can't imagine that the Headmaster was asking to be spared.  After all, this is the man who famously said that there are things much worse than death, and that "After all, to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."  I think Dumbledore was pleading with Snape to go through with a plan and use his wand in a way that Snape never would have wanted to do.  So I believe that Snape has been on the side of Dumbledore throughout the books, and has infiltrated the dark lord's army.
Can Dumbledore make a misjudgement?  Certainly, we see him do so in the case of overly protecting Harry and withholding truth from him.  But this is a mistake too big for such a wise man and wizard to make.  I see his trust of Snape as definitive.

Ed Kern:

Snape is a very interesting case, because, I believe, his animosity toward Harry is genuine, but he has also chosen to associate himself with the righteous cause.This conclusion is dependent to a large degree upon speculation, but I also think that Rowling has provided us clues about Snape's true disposition if we look to his eyes... Take a look at Snape's eyes when Dumbledore asks him to return to Voldemort's service: they tell us that he can't wait to exact his revenge. I'm 99% sure that Snape will die while defending Harry. No other character is more overdetermined for redemption.

I think we'll find out that Snape did have a hand in  Dumbledore's death, but it was primarily because the
headmaster himself wanted it  - for a number of reasons, not least placing an agent in Voldemort's inner circle.

Of course, the most important question posed by several characters is why did Dumbledore trust Snape. Simply, we can't know for sure at this point. But I don't think it's stretching things to surmise that the headmaster and potions master entered into a kind of magical contract that was made possible by Snape's genuine remorse over having a hand in the killing of Lily Potter. We are likely to learn that she had shown Snape friendship and understanding, and that he had turned away from her because of her interest in James Potter. Upon the occasion of her death, he felt true remorse. In a sense, the only person Snape detests more than Harry is Voldemort.


Shawn Klein:

I think ultimately Snape is redeemed. If Snape turns out to be truly a Death Eater, then Dumbledore has been made quite the fool. Snape has been the red herring in each of the books, and I think he's still the red herring. Then again, Dumbledore has admitted to making mistakes (at the end of Bk V where he takes some of the responsibility for Sirius's death and for placing Harry into more trouble than Dumbledore expected). Moreover, maybe the biggest red herring of them all is that Snape really is evil. As the saying goes, the best hiding place is in plain sight. This scenario is, I think, unlikely.  It would end the series on such a sour and malevolent note.


So we are all agreed then - Snape is Dumbledore's man, he killed Dumbledore because he was asked to by Dumbledore  he will probably die helping or even saving Harry.  But will Harry survive? And who are the characters (more than two ...) who will die in book 7? Find out what the experts think in part 2 of "Harry Potter and the Philosophers' Predictions", coming very soon to this website...
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At Tuesday, December 29, 2009 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a very smart person!


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