Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Harry Potter Book Club: Book 3, Chapters 8-9

In our trip though Harry’s third year at Hogwarts we’re full in the middle of all sorts of internal drama at the school. Sirius Black has broken in, done nothing, and broken out again while everyone is conveniently out of the way (good thinking for someone hunting information, not so good for snatching Harry) - but Snape is hinting (carelessly within-earshot of Harry & Co.) that someone on staff is helping, and since Lupin and Hagrid are the only new-appointees, it’s obviously Lupin he’s referring to (so you’re not SPOILED, right?). But why do teachers at Hogwarts never have important conversations in private?

I sort of love Snape’s chance at Defense Against the Dark Arts..finally he’s teaching his subject and it must have been so frustrating for him! (Honestly, if I were subbing for a class like that, I’d be kind of crabby too..how hard is it to just

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In her post last week, Jenna brings out the problematic ambiguity of Lupin’s encouragement to Harry in chapter 8, Harry tells Lupin that he expects the boggart would turn into a dementor for him, and Lupin gives this bit of empty encouragement:

“I’m impressed…That suggests that what you fear most of all is - fear. Very wise, Harry.”

Does it? Is it? I'm doubtful on both counts. Jenna writes:

I'm not sure what to make of this statement; to me, it sounds a little bit like "Seize the day" and other bits of popular aphoristic wisdom: helpful enough for certain people under certain circumstances, but not necessarily true in the transcendental sense.

And like her, I find it hard to feel the truth of Lupin’s little affirmation. For a few reasons:

  • I thought Rowling said the Dementors represented depression, not fear. Two very different emotional experiences. So if Harry feared the dementors themselves, wouldn't he be more afraid of despair than fear?

  • Harry’s response to the Dementors seems less based on fear and more on the horror of being helpless at his parents death, horror at his own overwhelming reaction compared to his peers, and a sort of all-encompassing sorrow for his parent’s death and all the opportunities for a loving, joy-filled childhood that died with his parents.

  • Fearing fear doesn’t seem particularly wise - it seems instinctual, something paralyzing, and something courage can overcome once Harry begins to see it as a weakness and not a strength.

I don’t see anything wrong with Harry’s fear of the Dementors - I actually love that he thought of the Dementors and not Voldemort (sometime more immediate, more directly threatening to him right now) - it makes sense that Harry would fear something that is a current threat.  I appreciate Lupin in this scene - he’s open, honest, caring, and respectful..he doesn’t shift his eyes and avoid the question; he just answers Harry’s question and it’s a wonderful indication of the character Rowling seems to be building in Lupin. But the comfort offered is weak and meaningless. 

Snape understands that hard truths have to be said..Harry should have come to him and said, "I'm most afraid of dementors." Snape would have given Harry something real to fear - Cedric Diggory goes on to become a whiny, emo, puddle of self-loathing and body-glitter. Now, work up a spell against that.

Thanks Jenna! Sorry about the Edward-hate ;)


  1. That last Snape meme has made my day!

    What I like about Harry's conversation with Lupin is the fact that Lupin gives a completely honest and reasonable answer to the question why he wasn't allowed to face the boggart. I don't think Harry gets that kind of thing often enough: the whole "you need to remember you're not really an oridnary kid, Harry" concept (which would especially have been helpful later on when SPOILER, and even more so when EVEN BIGGER SPOILER).

    No, his advice doesn't really make sense. The real answer, of course, is "that suggests what you fear most is hideous demons that destroy all happiness and can eat your soul. Very wise, Harry."

  2. HAHAHA, BTanaka. I like your rewriting of Lupin's response.

    Masha said:

    But the comfort offered is weak and meaningless. Snape understands that hard truths have to be said

    This turned so quickly into a joke that I'm not sure how serious you were about it--but while I agree thta Lupin's comment about fear is misplaced, there IS more to his comfort than that. The comfort of respect and honesty and thoughtfulness is real comfort and it enables Harry to move forward. Snape, on the other hand, uses hard truths as weapons to destroy people, and he exaggerates the truths (as with Neville) to make that destruction complete, which is why his class acts out the way it does.... which is to argue, I guess, that there's a time when comfort is of more immediate importance than truth. Provided that it's not at the direct expense of truth, of course.

    And now I'll apologize for the Snape-hate! ;)

    Snape would have given Harry something real to fear - Cedric Diggory goes on to become a whiny, emo, puddle of self-loathing and body-glitter. Now, work up a spell against that.

    HAHAHA. Maybe that's why I love Edward so much... my bad side is perfectly capable of being a whiny, emo puddle of self-loathing. I just need body glitter. :D