Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

(Whole series spoilers. Well, at least through book six. If I knew anything about book seven, I wouldn’t have to make these guesses.)

Reading Prisoner of Azkaban certainly got my brain moving. But more of that in a second. First I should talk about the first time we read Prisoner of Azkaban. It was also in a snowstorm, right on the heels of Chamber of Secrets. I was reading when we got to the Shrieking Shack, and I read that scene with a growing sense of dread. I knew it was too soon, that there was too much book left (though not quite 100 pages, as I said in the comments of the last Harry Potter post). That there was no way it was going to end quite that neatly.

And, in fact, our happy ending does go down the drain. I found it especially hard to read this time. I think each successive book makes the reality of what happened that night more and more grim.

Prisoner of Azkaban raised some serious questions in my mind. Ready?

1. Does Aunt Petunia really not know who Sirius Black is? She makes no indication that she knows who he is when Sirius shows up on TV. But is that really possible? In her correspondence with Dumbledore, the letter he left with Harry on the doorstep, was Sirius never mentioned? Or does Petunia, again, know more than she lets on? I am very interested to see what book seven has to reveal about her.

2. Snape is a big old question mark in this book. Earlier in the series, Voldemort, in some form, said, “There is no good and evil, there is only power and those who pursue it.” Or something like that. If ambition is Snape’s defining characteristic (and I’m not sure it is, but let’s run with this for a minute), he is a Slytherin through and through. And that’s fine. It’s good to be reminded that ambition isn’t bad, though I don’t know that you could argue that Snape’s behavior at the end of the book, practically going insane with bitterness, jealousy, anger, and, I think, ambition (loss of the Order of Merlin) is something to admire. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about in regards to Snape. For the record, I am still firmly in the camp that believes that Snape is evil, that he chose evil over good, that Dumbledore was deceived (more on that in a second). You should know that, so you understand where I’m coming from. What gets me, though, is how awful Snape is to Neville Longbottom. Why is he so mean to him? Does he feel that Neville isn’t worthy of his parents’ sacrifice? Is he just an unpleasant fellow? If Snape has genuinely forsaken the Dark Arts, how can he continue to favor Slytherin? Is it part of the overall plan? Arrested development? The more I think about it, the more I wonder if his repeated bullying (the book uses the word bullying several times) of students outside of Slytherin isn’t fairly significant. What kind of adult treats children like that? Can he possibly be a good guy? Unfortunately, we won’t know for sure until Deathly Hallows is over.

3. Okay, time to move on. In thinking about Dumbledore, one thing came to mind – a lot more gets past him that I used to think. He didn’t know that the Marauders became animagi, he didn’t know that the Potters switched their Secret-Keeper, and he didn’t know that Peter Pettigrew was still alive. I feel like this is all significant because I like to think of him as infallible even if book five goes to great lengths to show that he’s not. But the fact that he’s gotten so many things wrong is significant because I do genuinely think he was wrong about Snape, that he assumed there was good where there . . . maybe wasn’t so much. Maybe I’m wrong. But I think the books have made sure to prove to us that Dumbledore doesn’t know everything, and in the interview she did with MN and TLC, JKR made sure to point out that Dumbledore has been isolated by his intelligence, that he has no confidant. All of that is, to me, worth another look.

And, you know, this book got me thinking so much that I have some new horcrux theories I’d like to share with you. I could wait until we get to book six, but . . . I just don’t want to.

I have long shot down the theory that Harry himself (or maybe his scar) is a horcrux. But, as I have been reading through this time, I have actually started to entertain the possibility. Here are some thoughts on that topic.

If Harry is/was a horcrux, perhaps that’s what Dumbledore’s “gleam of triumph” has to do with in the fourth book. Perhaps Dumbledore was already assuming that Harry was a horcrux. But perhaps taking Harry’s blood was a serious miscalculation on Voldemort’s part, and by taking Harry’s blood into his own body, he caused Harry to no longer be a horcrux. And Dumbledore knows that because, even though he isn’t into the Dark Arts, he’s smarter than Voldemort. This could explain why Dumbledore never mentioned to Harry the possibility that he could be a horcrux (which, let’s face it, seems odd, given what we know). It’s a moot point now.

In that same MN/TLC chat, JKR says that Lily’s death is significant because she is given the chance to survive. Perhaps that’s because what Voldemort had in mind was a horcrux? It’s possible.

Additionally, keeping in mind that I believe Snape is evil, let’s talk about the fact that Snape didn’t kill Harry at the end of Half-Blood Prince. People who believe Snape is good often cite this as evidence of his true allegiance. But if Snape believes Harry is a horcrux, he knows better than to kill Voldemort’s horcrux. Yes, Voldemort himself might decide having pesky Harry as a horcrux is more trouble than it’s worth, which is why he has tried to kill Harry himself. But Snape is not going to try to kill his master’s horcrux.

I’m not completely sold on this idea, but I think it does work. Here’s a good essay on Harry possibly being a horcrux, if you are so inclined.

So, anyway, I started Goblet of Fire (my favorite!) this morning. I will continue to try and work out some of the clues and details.

Meanwhile, I think we can all agree that I think entirely too much about this series.

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6 Comments

  1. Well, you’re not alone (in thinking too much about HP). I have been mulling these things over too, and it’s good to know I’m not the only one!

    Posted 5/17/2007 at | Permalink
  2. Thanks for the alert. 🙂 I’m only up to around page 60 of this one.

    Posted 5/17/2007 at | Permalink
  3. I will second the “you are not alone in thinking too much about HP” thing, Kari. And very interesting ideas! I’m gonna have to go read that essay now.

    Posted 5/18/2007 at | Permalink
  4. Susan

    So….. I really want to believe Snape is good. Because I don’t want to believe Dumbledore is QUITE that fallible.

    But… Snape is so, so, so, SO terrible at the end of this book. I really had forgotten, and didn’t really catch it in the Spanish translation. I mean… really terrible. He lies, essentially for his own glory and for the satisfaction of getting Sirius killed. I know he didn’t see Peter transfigure, but still… so much nastiness.

    Which makes me think… is this how Jo is turning the archetype on its head? The great, good, wise character is ultimately… completely fallible, in a way that costs him his own life? He isn’t a willing sacrfice, but the consequence of his own failures?

    Sad.

    Posted 5/30/2007 at | Permalink
  5. Kari

    Well, that’s what I wonder, too. And I get so frustrated when people say, “No, Snape is good, end of story,” and I’m like, “But wouldn’t it be more interesting and more of a surprise if he wasn’t good? If everyone is so sure that he’s good, maybe that’s part of the misdirection.”

    In reading book 5, I notice that, time and again, what causes Dumbledore to be fallible is his own ability to love, which is, of course, the power that the Dark Lord doesn’t have. If Snape is bad, I will still admire Dumbledore for his ability to love and trust and believe the good in people, even if he was ultimately misguided. And that’s a pretty darn interesting story.

    Posted 5/30/2007 at | Permalink
  6. CJ

    After finishing book six, I find it really REALLY hard to believe that Snape could POSSIBLY be good. Part of me wants Dumbledore to still be right, for there to be a reason revealed in book seven so we’ll all understand why he trusted him. But… I think Snape is bad.

    Posted 6/24/2007 at | Permalink

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