le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

horace slughorn, and who is harry potter?

I'm moving soon - a Real Moving Castle around these parts - and somehow, the stress and insecurity of moving always triggers my Harry Potter reflex. I re-read Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince in the last few days, acquiring some new appreciation for both texts.

I still think HBP is a bit of a scam; so much backstory, in dragged-out detail; do we really need to revisit all of Dumbledore's memories along with Harry? The "point" of those memories could have easily been narrated in abou six pages, instead of 100. It felt at first reading, and still feels, a bit of a cop-out.

I've become interested in places where Rowling gives us a bit of complexity - Snape being the obvious locus of this. But Horace Slughorn is becoming a much, much more interesting character to me, and I am very curious to see what, if anything, will become of him in the final volume.

The most interesting thing about Slughorn is that we finally get a decent Slytherin, instead of the unqualified evil, nasty and cruel Slytherin students. Ambition is one of the defining characteristics of Slytherin, and Slughorn has ambition in spades, though it is that power-string-pulling, backseat ambition (this description makes Slughorn sound like a much more benevolent Karl Rove, actually). But Slughorn's ambition is not for evil, or even bad; it's self-serving, but it's obvious to me, anyway, that Slughorn isn't entirely selfish. He wins students over, handpicking those he likes, but in a way, doesn't Dumbledore do something similar? or even Hagrid? Slughorn's vain in a very stereotypically insecure way; he boasts about his connections to make himself look special and strong. But he only uses those connections to help other handpicked students, or to get pretty small-time perks for himself. a hamper from honeydukes? tickets to Quidditch? candied pineapple? these are hardly criminal activities. There's a thread of anti-fat prejudice in Slughorn's characterization, really.

Even his "preference" for pure-bloods isn't quite real; it seems more a generalization based on experience (limited or narrow-minded experience, but not really prejudiced or nasty). He has a real horror of the practice of Dark Arts, it seems; he acknowledges, in giving the sluggish memory to Harry, that he fears he did something very very bad in discussing Horcruxes with Tom Riddle. Slughorn has conscience, which seems to be utterly lacking in the Slytherin camp at large. And I think he does have general goodwill towards most people. He isn't interested in collecting less impressive students, but neither does he wish them ill.

And I feel like there is real friendship between him and Dumbledore; somehow, the first chapter in which we meet him ( "Horace Slughorn") makes me feel like he and Dumbledore used to sit around the fire in comfy armchairs, shooting the shit and taking the piss out of each other over fine oak-matured mead.

My final question, or issue, is that I feel like Harry is weirdly undeveloped. I feel like I don't know anything about him, who he is. This could simply be from re-reading so many times, but he feels weirdly flat, somehow. Or rather, he lacks interiority. I guess because of the third-person narration, I don't feel along with Harry; his emotional and interior life is reported upon, but not really engaged and made visible, made palpable, to the reader. He likes treacle tart, and going to the Burrow, and Ginny, Ron and Hermione. He cares about Quidditch (but why?). One thing that has always troubled me is the way he put all his emotional stock in Sirius, leaving Lupin utterly aside, even after book three, in which Lupin (I think, anyway) formed more of a connection with him than Sirius did.

so i feel like, though I can predict Harry's behaviors, I don't really know him. It's a weird phenomenon for me, not having a sense of who he is outside of his actions. He's an extrovert, I suppose, or at least i experience him as such.

Anyway: Books five and six are good, getting better with re-readings, and I especially like Book Five, I've discovered, because so much of it takes place in the Wizarding world outside of Hogwarts, which has to me always been the place where Rowling really shines imaginatively.

1 comment:

Michele said...

Harry likes Quidditch because a natural at flying and it's fun and exhilirating, surely ?