The unworthy finale of Harry Potter
No, neither Fantastic Beasts nor The Cursed Child are HP stories. One is a spin-off and the other is a Rowling-approved fan fiction. The Deathly Hallows (TDH) is and will always be the last HP story (not counting that one short and untitled prequel).
Just like with Half-Blood Prince, I also believe that the problem with The Deathly Hallows is it being a poorly-executed great idea! In this story, most of the characters endure their greatest adversity to date. Throughout their journey, they sacrifice their physical and emotional well-being and they have lost loved ones to Grim Reaper’s embrace. But, the eventual defeat of evil is worth the suffering. The ending should be overwhelming by stirring you with a myriad of emotions all at once. Ideally, we should feel what the characters feel. Ideally.
Instead, I feel nothing but disappointment. One cause for this is unfortunately not preventable.
The thing about Harry Potter series is each story’s plotline, excluding the prologue in Philosopher’s Stone and the epilogue in TDH, always occur within one calendar year. Almost every problem is solved within each fixed time period! Rowling seems to let her imagination limited by her characters’ strictly-scheduled school calendars, despite TDH being set mostly outside Hogwarts. That particular flaw is a sizeable contribution to the series’ unbelievability; counter-intuitively, the magical elements are more believable in comparison. As a result, the concluding work feels too rushed.
Someone (I forgot who) told me it would be better if TDH was divided to three novels… and I agree with him/her.
Prior to TDH, despite having moles working in the government, Voldemort and his followers were seen as criminals by the authorities. But, even then, they were already powerful enough to instil fear in the magical world, constantly breaking the collective morale; they were akin to real life terrorists. Now, imagine them taking over the ministry of magic. Oh, the power they would get. That’s what happen in the last instalment.
Yes, they only took over one magical government. But, that was enough to give them dominance they had never had before! They had the legal legitimacy to reign a country’s entire magical community; they could easily instil their extremist ideology to its youths and legally justify their acts of violence and prejudice, both to the Muggles and their fellow magical beings!
And TDH asserts how such regime can be defeated within one school year.
I don’t know any totalitarian regimes that were toppled within such a short period of time. The Khmer Rouge were in power for four years. Afghanistan was entirely governed by the Taliban for five years. Nazi Germany lasted for twelve years. Fascist Italy lasted eight years longer. USSR lasted for sixty-nine years. And those are just the most notable examples! I haven’t mentioned the others that are less notable globally and the ones that still prevail.
I would love it if the one-year-one-book rule is ditched at this point and Voldemort’s regime lasted for ten years! But, HP is an escapist entertainment; I would compromise by perpetuating the rule and I would agree that a decade can be a bit too long. But, the fact that our heroes’ last and most consequential adventure is only twelve months long and only covered in one book (which is not even the longest HP novel) is too farcical for me to swallow.
This is why I agree with my friend’s/acquaintance’s three-book proposal. Taking three years to defeat a regime is more believable than doing so in one! As much as I love submerging myself in escapism, my tolerance for shameless improbability is not infinite. No, being a fantasy work is not an excuse.
Oh, and this hastiness sabotages HP’s emotional immersion.
Throughout the series, the emotions refuse to take back seats; they proudly assert themselves as major performers. And yet, the ones in TDH don’t have any personal impacts on me as a fan. Despite the strong emotional content, there is a barrier that prevents me from relating to the earthly characters… and I blame it on the epilogue.
The epilogue should be the emotional closure. Rowling could have detailed about the characters’ post-Voldemort life; they would definitely have a problem returning to normal life, suffer from PTSD, mourn the dead, be disheartened by the many families torn apart and jubilantly rejoice Voldemort eternal defeat. For fans, the end of the series is the end of an epic they have been emotionally invested in; the ending should feel like the last farewell to our loved ones. Weariness, sorrow, joy and nostalgia. All distinct emotions which we could have felt simultaneously.
But, instead of treating it as a crucial integrant, Rowling saw it merely as tacky memorabilia sold at the exit of a tourist trap.
One chapter! Never mind that she didn’t divulge the entire Post-Deathly Hallows circumstances of the fictional universe. She didn’t even bother to include any emotions in it. Well, she did include one: happiness. A hollow and insincere happiness. There is nothing about the segment that signifies the existence of harsh reality. It disregards all of the hardships our characters have endured this whole time. It is one of those sentimentally pathetic happy endings.
I believe that you can fix the epilogue without altering the existing last chapter. All you have to do is to add more preceding ones. Personally, I want the entire segment to contain ten in total, each representing a different individual period. I want them to unveil how our characters are gradually leaving their turbulent past behind. If Rowling uses the multi-chapters formula to conclude the epic narrative, I can ensure the happiness would possess sincere wholeheartedness and actual artistic merit.
Once again, I don’t know how to end an article. So, let me write an analogy.
I loved to play Pokemon Ruby. It was one of the very games I had ever fully been immersed in. It was the only game I ever played on Game Boy SP. I would spend many hours daily on it.
I often viewed catching and training Pokemons as my life goals. I felt triumphant every time I fulfilled them, felt like a failure every time I didn’t. I took the game very personally. It is obvious how playing it was more than just escapism for me.
Then, one day, two certain individuals decided to help after seeing my constant struggles. When I said ‘help’, I meant playing the game without my knowledge, handed it back to me AFTER the defeat of all Gym Leaders and Team Magma and expected me to be wonderfully grateful!
Well, wonderfully furious I was! Somehow, they thought I would be happy by being denied the satisfaction of doing most of the work! Maybe they didn’t realise that I was the player, NOT the spectator! Or maybe they are the kind of people who can get satisfaction from passing exams through cheating. Well, knowing my fellow Indonesians, that is very likely the case.
Yes, it is a rather off analogy. Pokemon Ruby is interactive and TDH (the one I have in mind) is literary. One is mostly a fun, lighthearted adventure and one heavily involves evil and death. Two different storytelling mechanism, two different emotional weights. But, there are undeniable similarities between them.
Both cases denied me to experience emotional sensations. I was denied the triumphant feeling for successfully battling the final bosses. Me and my fellow Potheads were denied the opportunity to experience the amalgamation of contrasting emotions for accompanying our beloved characters throughout their entire odyssey.
Obviously, this is not a form of psychological abuse. Our lives are not and will never be haunted by traumas because of it. But, it is still infuriating to come up against. Not only that, considering how we only had ONE chance to experience the pleasure, the denial is a fucking dick move! Admittedly, this sounds a bit too whiny. For some time, I considered the possibility that I complained a bit too much.
Then, I had the realisation: both cases are rooted in intellectual shallowness. In my world, that’s not and should never be tolerated.
The two people who ‘helped’ my Pokemon gameplay seemed content with the idea of ‘achievements’ handed to them on silver platters. The close-mindedness came into play when they never bother to ask if I wanted their so-called ‘help’. They assumed their pitiful mindset was shared by every single grateful human being in existence and refusing such ‘help’ is a sign of ungratefulness. I still regularly see one of the ‘helpers’ to this day and, despite his/her age and university education, she/he is still an intellectual simpleton. Profundity is not his/her strongest suit.
For some reasons, Rowling implemented the one-year-one-book rule all the way through. She had broken a few rules before and one of them she established herself. As a result, Harry Potter became a much more dynamic series.
The Order of Phoenix is packed with conspicuous political critique, inevitably elevating the series’ already-loaded thematics; for a supposedly escapist novel, it loves to remind the readers of their own harsh reality. Even TDH managed to break one rule: unlike its predecessors, it is set mostly outside Hogwarts; of course, because the school is utilised as the climax’s backdrop, its significance is still potent. With the dynamism brought by the deviance, why stop there?
Rowling failed to realise that by being clingy to the one-year rule, she unwittingly increased the unbelievability and churned out impotency. She failed to comprehend that, if you want the story to skillfully steer forward, alteration is a necessity. It is regrettable how she, an experienced writer and an educated person overall, tethers her own creative insight.
Either that or she was pressured to write ONLY seven HP books by her publisher. If that is the case, then it is equally unfortunate. While niche works are prone to pretension and self-righteousness, blockbuster ones are prone to the strong, heavy-handed desire to fill up the piggy banks.
I still don’t know why this massive pile of disappointment exists in the first place. I keep trying to find the rationales and I always end up rambling. Perhaps, I will never obtain any definite and satisfactory answers. Among fans, I also wonder if I am a minority regarding this.
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