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Ok, I had heard that somebody was going to die in this book, that it hurt JK to even write the death scene. Did anybody think it was a bit of a let down when Black ate it? From the talk I thought it was going to be Hagrid, or at least Mr Weasley. But Black? While I like the character I didn't have nearly as much vested in him as a lot of the other characters.

It also feels to me as if Snape is being set up for really big things in the last book. There is the constant reminder that you should believe everything that you hear, that you should give a person a chance. Still, Snape is demonized by the rest of the Order and by the kids as well, only Hermionie and Dumbledore seem to give him half a chance. We have been shown again and again how James Potter picked on Snape, but how Snape still fought against Voldermort. Dunno, it seems to me as if JK is setting him up to smack the kids with a big ole bag of I told you so.

While I dug the book, it did seem to me to be a set up for the next ones. Voldermort didn't do a whole lot in this book, merely tried to get his mits on the prophesy.

Ford
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I loved the book, but agree with you about Sirius. It was sad when he bit the dust, but it's not as if you expected him to have a long and happy life anyway. I had thought Ron or Mr. Weasley would bite it.

I also agree with you about Snape, we are seeing his character being developed more, probably to make the ultimate sacrifice (as expected).

I like the Umbrage character, she was really evil. Very glad to see Lucius Malfoy get arrested, wish she had inserted the scene where they led him away, I want to see him suffer. As in "Shawshank Redemption" suffer.

"Dumbledore's Army" was pretty cool, I thought. I am thinking in either the next book, or the one after that, Harry is going to be the professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts.
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I loved the book, but agree with you about Sirius. It was sad when he bit the dust, but it's not as if you expected him to have a long and happy life anyway. I had thought Ron or Mr. Weasley would bite it.


Ron biting it would have been epic, but maybe a little much for something that is suppose to be a kids book. It seemed to me that JK played on the whole "Somebody is going to die" thing, with both Hagrid and Weasley getting hurt in the book.

I like the Umbrage character, she was really evil.

And I liked the fact that this lead to Hermione calling her an idiot in class, and the other teachers turning a blind eye to the acts of rebellion against her. Kicking HP off the Quidich team is, of course, the ultimate evil.

Ford
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It seemed to me that JK played on the whole "Somebody is going to die" thing, with both Hagrid and Weasley getting hurt in the book.

Not to mention MacGonagle getting hit with four Stunners straight to the chest. I also thought Percy Weasley might be the one to buy it.

I was both satisfied and disappointed with the book, and the biggest disappointment was that, for what it was, it should have come out a year ago. Three years between installments may mean interest will die before Rowling is finished writing the series. Human attention span is only so long. I realize she was juggling too many balls at once, but I think that she should finish up the entire series within four years, especially when you consider the ambiguous Neville/Harry prophesy.

That said, man, is Harry a snotty teenager! Angst drips off every page, although you have to wonder how much is adolescent hormones and how much is Voldemort. I'm really glad Rowling didn't make him perfect, but Hermione and Ron always arguing is starting to get old (it probably didn't help that I reread One through Four in the weeks before getting this one).

I wasn't that surprised about Sirius dying. As some else pointed out, no one really expected him to find a nice Animagus girlfriend and settle down to raise a litter of little Blacks. I did think that Harry finding Snape's memory of being bullied by James Potter and his homies revealing, and Harry's reaction to Snape after that, despite knowing the truth, is realistic: Snape's memories destroyed Harry's ideal dad and showed his feet of clay.

The Ministry taking over Hogwarts and putting Umbridge in charge as High Inquisitioner could have been a lot of things -- recent events, history, social satire, TMF Bogey... Whatever it was, it was creepy. It reminded me of the old adage about boiling a frog to death by gradually turning up the temperature; he's boiled before he realizes he's even in hot water.

Speaking of Shawshank Redemption moments, what happened when the centaurs carried Umbridge into the woods?

I agree that Snape is going to play a more important role in the next book, and I think Lupin is, too.

I'm going to have to read this one again. Eight hundred plus pages is a lot to digest in two nights of reading, so I know I missed a lot.

Uhura :o)
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"I also thought Percy Weasley might be the one to buy it."

Wishful thinking. Though it will be interesting how the Weasley's react when Percy tries to come back into the family fold next book. Not visiting your dying father in the hospital is a pretty big thing to look over. He has Death Eater written all over him.

"especially when you consider the ambiguous Neville/Harry prophesy"

I re-read that prophesy five times. In fantasy novels, a prophesy is never what the characters first think it is. I'm wondering if what it really means is that in order for Voldemort to be destroyed, he has to kill Harry (Harry did show a willingness to die towards the end there)? Or Harry has to offer himself up? Naw, it's a childrens' series, he has to kill Voldemort.

"I did think that Harry finding Snape's memory of being bullied by James Potter and his homies revealing, and Harry's reaction to Snape after that, despite knowing the truth, is realistic: Snape's memories destroyed Harry's ideal dad and showed his feet of clay"

I thought that part was really interesting, too. I think the two need to come to terms with each other in the next book. Though Snape is quite the nit.


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I'm going to have to read this one again. Eight hundred plus pages is a lot to digest in two nights of reading, so I know I missed a lot.

I finished it on Saturday, but I started reading it again right away. My first time through was a bit rushed, just to see what was going on, the second time through I tend to go a bit slower and admire the details. Sort of like the books that run from many characters point a view (Martin comes to mind), I tend to breeze through the characters I am not really interested in. In this case I was breezing through wanting to know what happened next.

That said, man, is Harry a snotty teenager!

He does spend a lot of time speaking in caps doesn't he. I think he yells at just about everybody in the book. A lot of that comes from the fact that nobody believes him, and that he is being kept in the dark, but that does a lot to go back to Snape. He is spying on Volermort and everybody hates him when he should be called a hero. No wonder the guy is in a bad mood all the time.

With regard to Harry being the Dark Arts prof, I thought JK would give the job to Snape in the last book. Mainly since JK mentions how much he wants the job in every book.

I did like the order having a talk with Harry's uncle. "Do I look like somebody that can be easily threatened?" "Yes, you do"

But now we will have to wait a gods age till the next book

Ford

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What do you think about Harry using the Crucio curse in anger towards the end (at least I remember him using it, I was kind of blurry by then)? Using the curse is unforgivable, isn't it, even against Death Eaters?

I think Snape may be Dark Arts teacher and that is how he and Harry bond.
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It also feels to me as if Snape is being set up for really big things in the last book. There is the constant reminder that you should believe everything that you hear, that you should give a person a chance. Still, Snape is demonized by the rest of the Order and by the kids as well, only Hermionie and Dumbledore seem to give him half a chance. We have been shown again and again how James Potter picked on Snape, but how Snape still fought against Voldermort. Dunno, it seems to me as if JK is setting him up to smack the kids with a big ole bag of I told you so.

I, for one, hope you're right. Snape is by far the most interesting and complex character in the book, and his backstory is a long time a-comin'.

I'm also getting annoyed by the number of times Snape has either saved Harry's life or tried to without Dumbledore ever even suggesting that perhaps Harry owes Snape at least a cursory "thank you." Snape keeps coming through for Harry, and, while Harry's blindness with regard to Snape's obvious good side might be understandable, one would think that Dumbledore might be a bit more forthcoming with Harry about his supposed nemesis.

Snape's a thoroughly intriguing character -- and the very brief glimpses we've been given into his past remain insufficient to explain his apparently contradictory behavior. I'm hoping that the relationship between Harry and Snape is one day resolved in a way which makes psychological sense for both characters, but which also does full justice to the real complexity she's created with Snape.

SLL
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Though it will be interesting how the Weasley's react when Percy tries to come back into the family fold next book. Not visiting your dying father in the hospital is a pretty big thing to look over. He has Death Eater written all over him.

Not at all. I think he is in for a few nasty shocks, and will be rehabilitated in the end. He's going to learn about betrayal, I suspect, and his shallow and self-serving, pompous little self is, I think, going to be humbled by circumstances.

I wouldn't be surprised to find Lockhart returning, as well. He's making progress with his memory, when last we see him, and may have a role yet to play before the end.

I'd also like Dumbledore to explain, eventually, why he's never given Snape the Dark Arts job. Is it possible that he's trying to teach Snape a few lessons, as well -- and that his non-interference in Snape's relationship to Harry is meant to allow them both to grow?

Rowling has created a great many questions about her characters, and I profoundly hope she's aware of them -- and that she plans to resolve the most pressing ones, at least.

One minor quibble. When Harry sees Snape's memories in the penseive, he hears and sees things Snape couldn't himself have heard or seen, what with his head and -- presumably -- mind immersed in the exam papers. It strikes me as an inconsistent P.O.V. error which feels wrong and distracted me during a critical scene.

SLL
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My 15 yr old daughter has been lost at Hogwarts for the last 2 days. I came home from having dinner with a friend at about 8 and saw that she was pretty close to the end. No one had died but she told me Mr. Weasly almost went down.

I came upstairs for about an hour and then went back down to check on her progress. I walked over to the couch and she looked up at me with big, teary eyes and said, "Sirius died - I cried really hard."

I had to ask who Sirius was as I didn't know. She explained that he was Harry's Godfather and then continued with,
"I liked him. Harry liked him. He was going to go live with him. It was just too sad."

So maybe it's no big deal for some people but for her it was pretty traumatic. I offered my sympathies and told her I was really sorry that it upset her so much. Then I said, "At least it wasn't Hagrid - a lot of people thought it would be Hagrid". She took some comfort in that.


P.
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I think that's the reaction most people had, "At least it wasn't [blank]"

It would have had more impact if we didn't know in advance that a significant character was going to die.
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It would have had more impact if we didn't know in advance that a significant character was going to die.

If it had had any more impact than it did my poor kid would be catatonic by now. She cried off and on for hours :-(

She is 15 for those who are skipping the spoilers and haven't read what I posted.

She's okay now but she was so in the HP zone and when "it" happened she wasn't prepared, even though she knew there would be a death. For those of you who have kids reading the book please be prepared to console them.

P.
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I enjoyed the book very much. I am enjoying how Rowling is leading her young readers through a slowly changing perspective of the characters as Harry grows older (even though he is draped in denial about many things - realization is the first step). In so many ways Harry has been forced to be an adult and successful as such in so heroic a manner. I feel like she is really setting us up to see an understanding of Snape as we might not expect at this point.

I would also be curious to see if she goes the route of not committing the sins of your father and perhaps a joining of Harry and Draco before it is all over. Perhaps inspired by Voldermort's murder of Lucious or something like that and supported by a maturing Harry.

I was truly happy to see Neville show that strength of character we all knew was in there - stifled by his Grandmother, likely not wanting to see him suffer the same fate as her own son and then by her constant reminder that he is not as good as his father. I was worried that Neville might become the Peter Petigrew of HArry's life, but I am happy that is looking less and less likely.

And lastly I am just happy - obviously speaking of how glad I am to see characters in a children's fiction novel evolve in certain ways. I am dyslexic and the read took me roughly 40 hours - it was well worth it. What wonderful pictures she paints.

Many more thoughts, but taht's enough for one post I suppose.

Biz
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Wishful thinking. Though it will be interesting how the Weasley's react when Percy tries to come back into the family fold next book. Not visiting your dying father in the hospital is a pretty big thing to look over. He has Death Eater written all over him.

It will be interesting to see how the Weasleys react, but I don't see Percy going Death Eater. Remember he *was* a Gryffindor and the Sorting Hat is never wrong, although it may take a while for us to see why it put people in certain houses. (When we meet Hermione she seems set for Ravenclaw and it takes a while to see that no, she's a Gryffindor. And Neville started off looking for all the world like a devoted Hufflepuff but we're seeing him grow into being a Gryffindor too.) So far Percy seems to be a not-terribly-evil sort of Slytherin, consumed by ambition, but he wasn't a Slytherin, he was Gryffindor. (And that's not just because he's a Weasley -- the Patil twins are in different Houses.) I'll be interested to see what comes up next for Percy.

I'm a little confused about the prophecy thing. So Sibyll made this prediction when Harry and Neville were babies. Voldemort knew about it, which is why he tried to kill Harry. But if Voldemort knew full well what the prophecy said, then what's the hubbub about getting the record of it from the Department of Mysteries? What's the big deal when it smashed? (Luring Harry to apparent doom is just good clean fun, that I can accept.)

KrissyLou
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I'm a little confused about the prophecy thing. So Sibyll made this prediction when Harry and Neville were babies. Voldemort knew about it, which is why he tried to kill Harry. But if Voldemort knew full well what the prophecy said, then what's the hubbub about getting the record of it from the Department of Mysteries? What's the big deal when it smashed? (Luring Harry to apparent doom is just good clean fun, that I can accept.)

Because going on only the first couple lines he attact and got himself into a world of hurt. He now wants to know what is in the rest of that prophesy fearing that not knowing could also land him in a world of hurt again.


And Neville started off looking for all the world like a devoted Hufflepuff but we're seeing him grow into being a Gryffindor too.

Dunno, Neville, while always a bit of a putz also has shown courage right from the first book. He has the guts, but he is unsure of himself for good reason. He is sort of a counterpoint to Harry. In that it is a lot easier to be brave when you have your friends around you and you are good at what you are doing. Neville still makes a stand even though he is likely to get smushed. Good lord, if you were Neville would you have gone to the ministry to help HP?

I'll be interested to see what comes up next for Percy.

I think Percy may a lot of character development in the next book. He is head strong as only an 18 can be. But now his father, whom he thought was all wrong turns out to be right when the ministry wasn't. While, I also don't think he will go the way of the death eater, I think that there are intersting things ahead of him.

I really want to see what she is going to do with Snape though


Ford
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"Dunno, Neville, while always a bit of a putz also has shown courage right from the first book. He has the guts, but he is unsure of himself for good reason."

Yeah I was watching the movie version of Philosopher's Stone last night and he challenged all three of them to fight.
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Yeah I was watching the movie version of Philosopher's Stone last night and he challenged all three of them to fight.

True, but that was something of a shocker and it came at the end of the book. Nobody would have thought that of Neville -- but turns out he has untapped depths. And I think we've been seeing more and more of that side of Neville over time.

KrissyLou
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Yeah I was watching the movie version of Philosopher's Stone last night and he challenged all three of them to fight.


I actually thought of this scene when Neville was having such trouble summoning a Patronis charm. I can see how Neville does not have all that many happy memories to draw upon to create such a charm, but then I remembered the end of the first book when he was awarded the 10 points for standing up to his friends and was carried off by everyone for winning the house cup. I figured that memory would have produced a nice patronis.

I think JK has a real soft spot for Neville anyway. He's a good character with all that room for growth.

Ford
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I had to ask who Sirius was as I didn't know. She explained that he was Harry's Godfather and then continued with,
"I liked him. Harry liked him. He was going to go live with him. It was just too sad."


There's literature, and there's marketing. IIRC, there was supposed to be a death of a "major character" in HP IV. We got the death of Cedric Diggory. While Cedric's death should be very upsetting to the other characters, it isn't very upsetting to the reader. Cedric just wasn't that major a character in the literary sense.

So when I read the spoiler that Sirius was going to die, I thought that this was another one like HP IV. Kill off someone who means a lot to Harry, but who wasn't that major a character in a literary sense. So far, I'm pleased to see some character development in Sirius before he bites it. This should build us up to where we care more when he dies. I was a bit annoyed to see the hospitalization of Arthur Weasley; it looked too tailored to the "someone you care about is going to die" hype.

When I re-read this series five years from now, the hype won't matter. The writing will stand or fall on its own merits. Arthur Weasley's hospitalization should look better then.

The good: Harry is considerably less than perfect. His rages, including raging a bit irrationally, are consistent with being a troubled teenager. (I'm raising one, and it looks really familiar.) This is also consistent with what's gone on in Harry's life. The stuff Harry has been through could reasonably be expected to produce depression and potentially worse mental health problems. Harry's conduct is consistent with this. I get the feeling that J.K. Rowling has had to deal with a troubled teenager.

The bad: Hermione's patronizing attitude towards house-elves and continued efforts to liberate them are, at best, comic relief. She's supposed to be a smart girl; can't she learn?

The ugly: The casual changing of laws to remove Dumbledore's power at Hogwarts just isn't very believable. If the Ministry of Magic can do that, why has Hogwarts been allowed to be so independent for so long? If the Ministry of Magic can't do that, why don't we see legal appeals by adult witches and wizards? We are never told the political structure of the magical world. We see the bureaucracy, but we don't see elections or a legislative body or a heriditary aristocracy. We see a Minister of Magic concerned about public opinion and keeping his job, but we don't see whether he is elected or appointed. If appointed, we don't see who can appoint him. The whole political thing doesn't hang together in a coherent whole. Yeah, I know--you don't put that kind of detail into children's books. But it would be nice if it were worked out logically and could be explained in an appendix, a la Tolkien.

Patzer
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The bad: Hermione's patronizing attitude towards house-elves and continued efforts to liberate them are, at best, comic relief. She's supposed to be a smart girl; can't she learn?

I don't know about that. I wouldn't be surprised if something major does happen with the house elves in the next couple books. Maybe Hermione's onto something that no one else realizes.

I'm impressed that we've gotten to know three house elves and they're each very different.

I was thinking of Sirius's statement in Book 4 regarding Crouch's treatment of Winky: If you want to take the measure of a man, look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

And then in Book 5 we see Sirius disregard Kreacher, despite Dumbledore's pleas for kindness. And then Kreacher lies to Harry and that leads to Sirius' death. Would the story have turned out differently if Sirius had listened to Dumbledore (and himself) and taken Kreacher seriously? Treated him with mercy rather than as an object? Maybe not. Maybe he'd been too warped by living his whole life at 12 Grimmauld Place. But maybe it would have made a difference ...

KrissyLou
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"I don't know about that. I wouldn't be surprised if something major does happen with the house elves in the next couple books. Maybe Hermione's onto something that no one else realizes."

I had that thought when I read the second book, and Dobby showed some pretty serious magical ability. He could make himself disappear with a snap of his fingers, move objects around, and put lucius malfoy on his ass.

If all those house elves got fired up, they could be pretty powerful.

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I wouldn't be surprised if something major does happen with the house elves in the next couple books. Maybe Hermione's onto something that no one else realizes.

I don't think so. I think she's just being dumb about house elves, when she's otherwise smart both academically and politically.

I'm impressed that we've gotten to know three house elves and they're each very different.

I'm a lot more impressed by the house elves than by Hermione's attitude towards them.

I was thinking of Sirius's statement in Book 4 regarding Crouch's treatment of Winky: If you want to take the measure of a man, look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

And then in Book 5 we see Sirius disregard Kreacher, despite Dumbledore's pleas for kindness. And then Kreacher lies to Harry and that leads to Sirius' death. Would the story have turned out differently if Sirius had listened to Dumbledore (and himself) and taken Kreacher seriously? Treated him with mercy rather than as an object?


I had forgotten that it was Sirius that said that in Book 4. Chalk up a minor inconsistency between that statement and Sirius' treatment of Kreacher in Book 5. Then again, Kreacher is a tough person to be nice to.

I guess the Sirius inconsistency looks like a missed detail, but Hermione's attempt to trick the elves into accepting freedom just looks too dumb for Hermione. I understand the creation of S.P.E.W. showing her idealism, but she should have figured out that the Hogwarts house elves aren't interested by now.

Kreacher is a lot more interesting than S.P.E.W. I haven't finished the book, but I'd like to see a meeting between Kreacher and Dobby. They would surely have major disagreements, and how they deal with those disagreements could be enlightening.

Patzer
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I guess the Sirius inconsistency looks like a missed detail,

That's not the way I read it. I saw it as part of learning that the world isn't strictly divided into saints and sinners, which seemed to be the major point of Order of the Phoenix. We have our flaws, all of us. Sirius could see Crouch's error in his abuse of Winky, but couldn't see his own error in his indifference to Kreacher (who *is* much harder to be nice to, no argument there). That is an inconsistency ... but who among us is always consistent?

but Hermione's attempt to trick the elves into accepting freedom just looks too dumb for Hermione. I understand the creation of S.P.E.W. showing her idealism, but she should have figured out that the Hogwarts house elves aren't interested by now.

I didn't see her as trying to trick them, but as continually making freedom available. And maybe they don't want freedom now because they're sufficiently oppressed they don't know their own desires (see Dumbledore's statement that house elves are what wizards have made them to be) but perhaps over time, if freedom is continually available, they'll come to know themselves better. A bit patronizing, perhaps. But Dobby tells Harry that he's the only one still willing to clean the Gryffindor common room ... Hermione isn't told that. And I'm not going to criticize her for thinking "if they think they prefer slavery that must mean that they don't know themselves ... they'll come around in time."

As for the idea that Hermione should have learned by now that the house elves like their lives ... surely by now Hagrid should realize that all these dreadful creatures he keeps tending are really dreadful ... except he does have a way with them. And in Order of the Phoenix we see how that proves useful. I wouldn't be surprised if something similar happens with the Hermione and the house elves later on.

KrissyLou
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Dunno, Neville, while always a bit of a putz also has shown courage right from the first book. He has the guts, but he is unsure of himself for good reason. He is sort of a counterpoint to Harry. In that it is a lot easier to be brave when you have your friends around you and you are good at what you are doing. Neville still makes a stand even though he is likely to get smushed. Good lord, if you were Neville would you have gone to the ministry to help HP?
Ford


Neville reminds me a lot of Samwell Tarley...(?) from Ice and Fire.

Does anyone watch ED on TV?? If you remember the blonde with the vacant stare at the Bowling Alley, I think she is a dead ringer for Luna Lovegood.

At first, I thought the book was too mechanical, and then she got into it and did some really nice characterizations. Like Cho, and how HP gets butterflies whenever he sees her.....but she really showed her shallow character when she got jealous of Hermione, don't you agree?
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(I don't consider this a spoiler)

I love the series, but I do find the whole house elf thing to be a bit of a sore spot. I'm curious to know how she will resolve it. Some of you will groan for me saying this, but the whole "happy slave" thing is not cool with me. "I is going to do this for Master" sterotypical slave talk bothers me as well. Though I read one article that suggests Rowling is trying to play on mainstream America's (former?) perception of slavery - that slaves wanted to be both ignorant and slaves.

Yuck. In this respect, I am rooting for Hermione, and I'm irritated that no one else will take her seriously. Dumbledore says that the house elfs are what their owners made them to be, so they want to be slaves because their masters want them to be? Well then, let's not want them to be slaves anymore.

laura
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I love the series, but I do find the whole house elf thing to be a bit of a sore spot. I'm curious to know how she will resolve it. Some of you will groan for me saying this, but the whole "happy slave" thing is not cool with me. "I is going to do this for Master" sterotypical slave talk bothers me as well. Though I read one article that suggests Rowling is trying to play on mainstream America's (former?) perception of slavery - that slaves wanted to be both ignorant and slaves.

Yuck. In this respect, I am rooting for Hermione, and I'm irritated that no one else will take her seriously. Dumbledore says that the house elfs are what their owners made them to be, so they want to be slaves because their masters want them to be? Well then, let's not want them to be slaves anymore.



Might be spoilers:

















Depending on how Rowling decides to resolve this, the issue of the house elves may prove to be another of the many issues of moral ambiguity which make these novels so rich.

The question of the status of house elves parallels, in some ways, the issue of the status of Muggles and Muggle-born wizards and witches, as well as the attitudes of the "magic community" to giants and goblins. The world she has created is populated with "peoples" with varying characteristics and powers, and the central theme of evil, represented by Voldemort and his followers, concerns the notion of "racial purity." It was this notion which broke apart the friendship which originally existed among the founding members of Hogwarts, and it is this issue -- along with issues concerning wealth, ambition and power -- which infuses the struggle between the "good" wizards and those on the "dark side" of magic.

We've learned, along with Harry, how painful it can be to recognize that no one is perfect, and that each of us has a dark side. Harry's father, with accomplices Sirius and Lupin, proves to have been no paragon of virtue, taking joy in the unnecessary tormenting of the young and unpopular Snape -- and Harry's vengeful tormenting of Dudley early in the book mirrors this very human attempt to exert power over others. We still don't know the details of the relationship between James Potter and Snape, but we do know the details of the relationship between Harry and Dudley, and we see how Dudley's treatment of Harry for 15 years results in a power struggle between them, with Harry in the ascendency.

Part of the theme of the overall work, I think, is captured in the line about the measure of a man being a function of how he treats his "inferiors." It isn't merely the issue of the proper uses of power that Rowling is examining here, I suspect, but the issue of what right we have to call others "inferior" in the first place. So even the "good" wizards have their prejudices -- against giants and goblins, for instance -- and their blind spots with regard to dignity -- in their callous enslavement of elves. The whole "half-breed" issue is raised again with Firenze -- centaurs being yet another set of creatures with issues about superiority and control.

As the cause of Syltherin's original breaking away from the others, as the central tenent of Voldemort's philosophy of power, and as a pervasive theme infecting all inter-species relationships with wizards, one of Rowing's most urgent concerns, I suspect, is to connect the problem of racisim with the even more basic problem of the very human -- and very destructive -- urge to power and a sense of superiority over others, whether it's reflected in the acts of a group or the acts of individuals.

How well she manages to "teach" this issue to the young people who are her target audience will, to a large extent, I think, determine the importance of the overall work. She has two more books to write in which she'll have the opportunity of clarifying the moral lessons I think she intends, and to resolve the ambiguities she's so expertly laid out before Harry. If she goes in the direction I sense she's going, this series of books could prove to be something much more valuable than a casual reading would reveal.

I, for one, hopes she pulls it off.

SLL
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I love the series, but I do find the whole house elf thing to be a bit of a sore spot. I'm curious to know how she will resolve it. Some of you will groan for me saying this, but the whole "happy slave" thing is not cool with me. "I is going to do this for Master" sterotypical slave talk bothers me as well. Though I read one article that suggests Rowling is trying to play on mainstream America's (former?) perception of slavery - that slaves wanted to be both ignorant and slaves......laura

You bring up a very good point of this story. And one that may be overlooked by the stronger characters of HP and those fighting the Dark One.
We may have to look at the house elf dilemma through the lens of the British 'upstairs/downstairs' perspective (rather than from the American slavery issues.) While very cute and appealing, Nobby isn't really human. (Of course, the Black race in American history was not accorded full 'human' status, at one time, either.) So one doesn't know whether her direction for this issue - and she does make it an issue with Hermione championing their cause - will be emancipation or simply a recognition that every sensient being deserves the dignity of respect. Oddly, the very act of giving them decent clothing also gives them freedom.

Yuck. In this respect, I am rooting for Hermione, and I'm irritated that no one else will take her seriously. Dumbledore says that the house elfs are what their owners made them to be, so they want to be slaves because their masters want them to be? Well then, let's not want them to be slaves anymore.

The problems in tossing them out of slavery are immense if there is no infrastructure there to catch them, so perhaps the question Hermione needs to address is "What is the consensus of 'house elves' as to their destiny??" It matters little what 'we' want, if it doesn't make them happy or fullfilled.
But I do thank you for bringing in an awareness of an issue that young people need to pursue.
roko2

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The problems in tossing them out of slavery are immense if there is no infrastructure there to catch them, so perhaps the question Hermione needs to address is "What is the consensus of 'house elves' as to their destiny??" It matters little what 'we' want, if it doesn't make them happy or fullfilled.

Good point. I think Hermione *is* being naive on this point. I think she assumes that those who have house elves will start to treat them as Dumbledore treats Dobby -- happy to employ them to do the same work, but with better conditions, dignity, and the option to leave and do something else. If my sense is right that most of the families who have house elves are like the Malfoys and Blacks, then this isn't going to be the case and we'll have a lot of house elves on the street with no sustenance. I can forgive Hermione for not thinking this far ahead -- she is only 15 after all and perhaps this is one of her blind spots, as Book 5 was all about exploring the human failings of good characters.

It will be interesting to see where this goes in Books 6 and 7. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of it.

KrissyLou
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I love the series, but I do find the whole house elf thing to be a bit of a sore spot. I'm curious to know how she will resolve it. Some of you will groan for me saying this, but the whole "happy slave" thing is not cool with me. "I is going to do this for Master" sterotypical slave talk bothers me as well. Though I read one article that suggests Rowling is trying to play on mainstream America's (former?) perception of slavery - that slaves wanted to be both ignorant and slaves.

I can't believe that Rowling is trying to play to the American audience more than to British audience. If there is any reference in the first five books to the United States at all, I missed it. I recall a couple references to Brazil, as being where the snake in the zoo was from and a place Sirius went to in Book 3; but those were just brief mentions. The places the wizards of England interact with are old world, primarily European. For all that I see in the books, there might not even be a wizard community in the United States.

To the extent the house elf situation is social commentary at all (and it might not be), I would expect it to be social commentary on British class issues rather than American slavery or civil rights issues. As an American who has never lived in Britain, I do not expect to understand the social commentary aspect without having it explained by a British reader.

This discussion does highlight how subtle the house elves situation is. What do we know about them so far?

Dobby is known to be well outside the mainstream of house elf culture. He disliked his master and wanted independence. The norm is that house elves consider themselves part of the familiy. Winky wanted to be loyal to the Crouches even after she got kicked out. Kreacher is loyal to the Black family tradition, to the point of disliking Sirius as a black sheep of the family. House elves in general are magically compelled to obey their masters and act generally in their family's interest. We aren't told whether this magical compulsion is part of their nature or the result of spells cast by wizards.

The clothing thing strikes me as poorly thought out. How do house elves maintain the houses without dealing with laundry? Okay, they do laundry but that doesn't count because they weren't given clothing. They were just required to maintain their masters' clothing. But then why are the Hogwarts elves afraid of cleaing the Griffindor quarters? Wouldn't caps hidden under trash count as something to clean up, and not as being given clothing that liberates them? I have to conclude that the intent of Hermione to give them clothing would be taken as a liberating action. This implies that Hermione is a "master" for purposes of being able to free the Hogwarts elves. (Note that Harry couldn't free Dobby, he had to trick Lucious Malfoy into doing so.) One can only conclude that the entire Hogwarts student body is considered a single family for house elf purposes. So why hasn't some prankster in the past freed a house elf as a joke, leaving us a story of the consequences?

In terms of intelligence and magical capability, house elves are on a par with the wizards. Possibly elves are superior to human wizards magically; they do a lot of magical stuff, but are not permitted to use wands. Dobby did all the stuff in Book 2 without using a wand, but we see human wizards practically disabled when they are deprived of their wands. Hmmm. Do goblins use wands? They do a lot of sophisticate magicl stuff, too.

I suspect the thrust of where the elves will go will ultimately be to admit them as an equal race similar to the goblins. The goblins do banking, the elves will likely excel at domestic chores. Poor wizards like the Weasleys might be able to pay a house elf service for one a month cleaning; rich wizards could lease full-time elves for services close to what they currently provide. Customers who are jerks would get charged more and might be denied service. I like this theory, but I suspect Rowling won't have the space to get there in two more books.

Anyway, the reason I think Hermione's attitude towards the elves is bad writing isn't because she thinks they deserve freedom and I think they don't want it. I think it's bad writing because Hermione is shown in every other respect to be highly intelligent and a thorough researcher of subjects that catch her interest. But in this single case, her position is a simple minded pushing of a political agenda that isn't being accepted. Why isn't she trying to talk to the elves about their point of view? If she can see the Ministry of Magic meddling in Hogwarts on the first day of class, why can't she see that the house elves issue is more complicated than simply fooling them into accepting liberation for their own good?

The good literary solution would be for Hermione to figure out the broad outlines of how the wizard economy would adjust to free house elves and present her case to the elves. She doesn't seem to be making any attempt to go there. I am disappointed in this treatment of Hermione. The kind of shallow political activism Hermione is doing on the elf issue would be more appropriate for a character like Luna Lovegood. Hermione should have more sophisticated thinking and a better plan of action to benefit the elves.

Patzer
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By virtue of your passion and willingness to spend so much time writing about this book you people almost have me convinced that I am missing something by not being an HP fan!

The discussion you are having is the very reason I love, love, love my book group. The more people you can discuss a book with the more you get out of it. I'd sort of rather see this book group discussing something more substantive but then again, the world is too much with most of us so maybe full escape into Hogwarts is not a bad thing. Haven't done it so I don't know.

Patzer, this caught my eye

Anyway, the reason I think Hermione's attitude towards the elves is bad writing isn't because she thinks they deserve freedom and I think they don't want it. I think it's bad writing because Hermione is shown in every other respect to be highly intelligent and a thorough researcher of subjects that catch her interest. But in this single case, her position is a simple minded pushing of a political agenda that isn't being accepted.


This is soooo typical of radical teens. The most intelligent, intellectually driven radical teen can become the worst knee-jerk, bleeding heart, bull-headed politico in a second. Sounds to me like Rowling has figured this out and charactarized it to a "t". :-)

The good news is that that kind of passionate, radical behavior is what drives change. In real life even the worst behavior can have good results (think Vietnam, PETA, the more violent approaches to civil rights, etc.) I'm not totally clear on Hermione and the 'elf thing' but it sounds like it has potential.

P.
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I can't believe that Rowling is trying to play to the American audience more than to British audience. If there is any reference in the first five books to the United States at all, I missed it.

Agreed. I can only think of one reference to American and I believe it involved Quidditch. It is obvious she is not trying to focus more on an American audience, but I still she made what could be references to American slavery. But, because I am not fully aware of British history and culture it is entirely possible that she is refering to British slavery and I, a pompus American, assumed she was talking about my country! :)

Anyway, I think that Rowling wants to resolve the house elf issue, and the rest of her work seems so well planned out that I'm confident she will work it out. I don't think Rowling would have included their story if she didn't have a greater purpose for them. I'm frustrated because I wanted it to be "fixed" now, as in book 5! :)

Hermione is being a bit blind (like you said, she could try talking to the house elfs!) but I don't think that makes her less intelligent, just more human. She has taken up a cause she feel passionate about, which is what a lot of teenagers do.

laura
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Anyway, the reason I think Hermione's attitude towards the elves is bad writing isn't because she thinks they deserve freedom and I think they don't want it. I think it's bad writing because Hermione is shown in every other respect to be highly intelligent and a thorough researcher of subjects that catch her interest. But in this single case, her position is a simple minded pushing of a political agenda that isn't being accepted. Why isn't she trying to talk to the elves about their point of view? If she can see the Ministry of Magic meddling in Hogwarts on the first day of class, why can't she see that the house elves issue is more complicated than simply fooling them into accepting liberation for their own good?

Was Hermione trying to fool the house elves into freedom? I read it more like she was hiding the hats and socks and whatever from the other wizards so that the house elves would be able to find them and claim them. None of the elves other than Dobby were willing to clean the Gryffindor common room because they were *offended.* I took this to mean that they weren't worried about being accidentally freed against their will but were offended at the thought that they would want freedom. Hermione would still do much better if she really got to know some house elves rather than relying on her image of what they must really be like, but I don't think she's so disrespectful as to be tricking them into freedom. I'll have to take another look at that.

As for Hermione seeing the house elves issue as too simple, I agree with you there, and we just have to remind ourselves that she is *fifteen* after all. Athena (known as Minerva to the Romans -- hence Minerva McGonagall) was the Greek goddess of wisdom and sprang from the head of Zeus fully grown. She couldn't have grown up from childhood because children by definition are not wise. They can be awfully intelligent, but wisdom is a different ball of wax. Hermione can pick up on spells awfully quickly and knows "Hogwarts, A History" backwards and forwards, but she's still got some learning to do, 'cause after all she's still a kid. So far, Hermione hasn't had to realize that she still has a lot to learn. I would expect that she will have to come to grips with this in Six and Seven.

KrissyLou
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