Monday, August 20, 2007

The Postlude to Deathly Hallows

If you don’t want to know the ending of this book, don’t read on.

Several people in my church have told me how disappointed they were with the epilogue to Deathly Hallows, when Rowling relates the small doings of all the people who survived the era of Voldemort. What they named their children, what those children’s lives and anxieties were like, a few hints as to what the parents did for a living…it’s a domestic scene so utterly unlike the ferocious unreality of the body of the 7 books that, frankly, it’s a bit hard to take. All that blood, sweat, and tears, so that we’d know that 19 year old Teddy is kissing 18 year old Victoire, (oh, how I hate that Brittish expression “snogging”: I refuse to use it!) and that little Albus Severus is worring himself sick that he will be sorted into Slitherin House at school? It just doesn’t seem quite fitting. It just goes against our ironic natures; it’s a little too happy for UU’s, I think. It’s better suited to our neighbors in the Church of Religious Science from which we return, when we stray, shaking our heads saying, “They’re so….optimistic!” We want a few more scars, more PTSD, another generation family dysfunction. We think that is “realistic.” We UU’s didn’t fall very far from our Puritan tree.

I was disappointed too, but this odd little add-on is growing on me. A bit of a poem by my colleague Lynn Unger put it in perspective. She’s talking about the Lillies of the field and our obsession with our appointments. She ends,

Of course

your work will always matter.

Yet Solomon in all his glory

was not arrayed like one of these.

Life is supposed to be lovely and happy and free and focused on the small doings of our families and gardens. That’s what Jesus was trying to say. Lynn softens it to reassure us that the stands we take and the accomplishments of our appointments do also matter. But they are derivative. The lily itself is the important thing.


Jess said...

I actually really like the postscript, because the end of the "meat" of the story left me wanting just one last glimpse of these characters that I spent seven books with. I read in an interview that JKR had written a monstrously long epilogue, and then cut it down.

As far as the mundanities of it - I liked that, too, because everything has been so Important through the rest of it, and it's comforting to know that life goes on even after an epic battle and various tragedies. The purpose of defeating Voldemort was, in the end, to make these mundanities possible. I don't think that's overly optimistic, but comforting.

Jeff W. said...

This UU, and his UU wife, liked the epilogue.

Kelsey Atherton said...

I like the epilogue for a few reasons, but my favorite has to be that it is the exact right amount of open-ended to work beautifully. Fandom, a teeming entity that Harry Potter has been fueling for the past decade or so, will make3 of it what they will. Their permutations, their untruths, adaptations, or alternate versions are more-or less free here. Certainly, the book ends a good deal of those, but the epilogue shuts of very few, and allows what fan-generated material follows to have a firm setting, in a way that isn't contradictory. The couples are set, the children are named and aged. The professions are not explicitly stated, and the world as is is built only a little, allowing a sense of normalcy, without lining out what happened.

The Epilogue is the right shape, the right simple suggestion to allow people who have made Harry Potter be a tremendous part of their lives keep Harry Potter as a part of their lives. What becomes of Albus Severus? Is Scorpio anything like Draco? What future pairings will result?

I mean, it's also a letdown, but it has to be - their's no way to conclude everything, tie up every loose end in a satisfying way for everybody. It just doesn't seem possible.

Alex said...

I, too, liked the epilogue. It gave a sense of one story ending and another beginning (though I doubt that JK will visit this world anytime soon...if ever).

Also, on the practical side: This is a kids (young adult) book. Not the sort of literature given to tragic endings.

Pearl said...

I have to say I loved the ending. It was a ray of hope. Bad things, horrible things happened to all the people in the course of seven years. Yet they were able to finally find what they had worked for- friends, family and love.

There was enough in the epi to tell me that all was well, but little enough that I could use my imagination to fill in the rest.

P.S. Your sermon was wonderful, I look forward to many more.

Jamie Goodwin said...

I loved the epiloge and I one of the things I loved most about it was the time she chose to show. 19 years later. Harry and Ginny's olderst is 12.

Perchance does this foreshadow another 7 years of mischef before settling down to have children?

I think it does, and whether or not the books are ever written is immaterial. The point is that there is more to the story than what happened in the first 7 books and what happened in the epiloge.