Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Endings Are Important, Too: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling

Okay, so that was quite a title.  Moving on. 

    As you've probably noticed, this is a series on book endings.  Sooo . . . I'll be talking about book endings.  This little paragraph is just a disclaimer explaining that, so I don't have to mess with a "Spoiler Alert!" announcement every time I write one of these posts.  Sound like adequate warning?  Good. 

    Today, I'm going over Deathly Hallows.  J.K. Rowling cuts from the main wrap-up of the book to an epilogue set 19 years later.  In that epilogue, you learn that Harry and Ginny have three kids, who they're seeing off to Hogwarts.  The fates of a few other characters are revealed, Harry talks to his kid about a few of his own experiences at Hogwarts, skipping to the ending now --

        " 'He'll be all right," murmured Ginny.
        As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absentmindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead. 
        'I know he will.'
        The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years.  All was well."

    Maybe I expected too much, but this ending really didn't do it for me.  It seemed too abrupt, almost . . . I don't know.  Forced, maybe?  The words didn't flow, if you know what I mean.  Read the last two sentences out loud.  Is it just me, or do they seem sort of -- stilted?  

    The only Oprah episode I've ever watched was the one where she interviewed J.K. Rowling in Scotland.  There, J.K. explained that she'd originally intended the last word to be "scar," but something -- either she didn't mention it or I, you know, forgot -- made her change her mind.  Instead, she wanted the last line to be "All was well".  She did just that, but in some ways, I wonder if it would've been better if she'd stuck with "scar".

    Also, this is just personal opinion, but I generally don't like it when authors end series with a tell-all epilogue set a number of years later than the rest of the book, the rest of the series.  With Mockingjay, I wasn't 100% sold on the idea, but I've accepted it over time -- and that's the only book I actually like the post-story epilogue for.  But that's another post, isn't it?

    In her interview with Oprah, J.K. also talked about how she'd grown close to Harry -- understandable, since he's been her protagonist since 1990.  (Plus, you know, her stories of him catapulted her into fortune, fame, and writing legend.)  And after he'd been through so much, it makes sense that she'd want him to have a happy ending; she probably felt like a mom toward him, fictional character and all.  But sometimes, you just shouldn't give the obvious happy ending.  The series had plenty of darkness in it, so I feel like this ending should've had some, too.  Perhaps something not quite so positive, something a little more subdued, bittersweet?  Look at all the people (yeah, I always call characters "people") who died throughout the books.  I'm sure she could have referenced something to make the ending feel a bit more melancholy.

    Still.  I can't really call J.K. Rowling out for anything -- she's a genius, literary royalty, agreed?  I love tons of other stuff that she did with the series, and how she wasn't afraid to kill her darlings.  She deserves tons and tons of praise -- and she gets tons and tons of praise.  All I'm talking about here is the ending she wrote for the series, which, unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed with.  Not when I really think about it.  Because if I had to make a list of the top endings, out of all the books I've ever read?  Deathly Hallows wouldn't make the cut.  And that's surprising, I think, considering the impact that Harry Potter and his adventures had on so many readers, on the world itself. 

    Agree?  Disagree?  Both?  Feel free to share your thoughts. 


Jenna Cooper said...

I agree that the ending wasn't quite up-to-par with what I expected. It didn't hit me as hard as other books endings have when there has been such a serious subject like war. I don't think she could have gone wrong with just cutting the epilogue and answers questions about after when fans asked, like she has already been doing.

Barbara Kloss said...

Cool post! Goes to show you how subjective everything is, and really, in the end it's your story and you have to write it the way you want to!

I loved the ending. I agree that it didn't have that "punch" at the very, very end, but for me, this ending was totally appropriate and fitting. It finished a series of seven books with multiple subplots. I look at the entire book of Deathly Hallows as "the end". She'd already had Harry deal with so much death and "melancholy" subject matter, that for me, this book was a nice way to weave it all together in a satisfying way. (and I didn't want to shed any more tears!)

I also liked the epilogue bc I was so emotionally invested in the characters I wanted to know ON PAPER what would happen to them. It was much needed closure for me.

Then again, I prefer happy endings :) And I'm still mad at her for killing Snape the way she did! *sigh*

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think it's hard to create a satisfying ending to such a popular book. Even JK Rowling. You're right, she's a genius.

Jenna said...

Jenna: I would've preferred it if she'd just left it open, too, without the epilogue. Some people like knowing exactly what happens, but I'd rather be able to interpret it for myself.

Barbara: Thanks! I've never thought of the whole seventh book as the ending for the series, but that's a really good point, and I'm glad you mentioned it.

Natalie: I agree -- figuring out an ending for something as big as the Harry Potter series definitely wouldn't be easy. I think that no matter what you do, there are going to be people that agree and disagree with you and your choices. So I guess the main thing is doing what feels right for you -- like Barbara said.