The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

HP Monday – Book 6 That Flighty Temptress, Adventure

So, what did you think of book 6? We have an entire month to discuss it. In the last post, I told everyone I had 16 ideas to discuss. I guess I should be picking one of those to talk about…Sorry if I ramble around and flit from topic to topic.

I remember liking book 6 more than book 5 on the first read – probably because there is less angst – more angst in the girls this year/book, but less angst all together. This week I’d like to discuss the balancing act Rowling accomplishes in the entire series, but especially in this book. The balancing act in which each book gets darker yet still manages to be light-hearted and fun at times. The highs and lows balance out, taking turns throughout the novel. Book 6 is where Felix Felicis meets Sectumsempra; where in turn many major characters discover they are made up of shades of grey – neither completely bad nor good. We are SO coming back to this topic in another post this month.

Question to discuss: Is this series mid-grade, YA or does it transcend and change? Do we all put too much emphasis on classifying our literature, should we just enjoy it and forget about who it was originally intended for? And this is why I feel classifications are important, because I never used to think they were; but doesn’t a writer have to be writing to someone (or a group of people) to really get their message out there? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the adult world again thinking about publishing as a business and all. At the heart of a good book is a story and a storyteller – the rest is just semantics.

Sorry, I took a turn somewhere and got way off topic. If you have a strong opinion I’d like to hear it, so feel free to follow this tangent. For everyone else…

Returning to the Adventure of Book 6
The beginning of this book feels like a big call to adventure in the hero quest sort of way – or possibly the prophecy at the end of the last book is the call to adventure and book 6 is Harry accepting that call? Either way, things get darker. But can a call to adventure/action happen this far along in a quest? Yes, each HP book has its own beginning and end and I believe each has its own quest within – that’s the nice thing about Harry and his wizarding crew! But at times I feel like the overall arch doesn’t really get started until this novel.
- Dumbledore collects Harry from the Dursleys’; making him promise to go back there again next summer.
- Dumbledore than tells Harry it is time to chase “that flighty temptress, adventure”.
- Dumbledore sets a series of tasks for Harry (wow, Dumbledore is quite the puppet master in this book) including getting Slughorn to Hogwarts, befriending him and ultimately taking a true memory from him.
- Dumbledore tells Harry he must choose his own fate – Yes, Voldemort marked Harry as his equal, but it is up to Harry to decide if he will seek Voldemort out (of course, the alternative is the greatest Dark Wizard of all time will hunt Harry down if he doesn’t seek him out first, but it is still a choice).
- There’s a whole underworld type scene with fire and the walking dead once the call to adventure is accepted.
- And to boot, Harry’s captain of his house Quidditch team?!

See what I mean?! So much going on in and a Half Blood Prince thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure if the appearance of the potions book tells us more about the prince (I won’t spill yet if you haven’t finished 6 yet), aligns Harry and Ginny, Harry and the Prince, Harry and Voldemort, The Prince and the Weasley twins, or The Price and Voldemort – maybe all of these!

What do you think? Jabber away! I know I haven’t been on top of things lately, but please don’t punish me by remaining silent. We are nearing the end and I have all sorts of crazy notions. I want to know what you all think too.

And although there is no mention of fire in this title please notice the UK version in the picture!

Oh, and before I forget. The results of my Weasley Poll: Your favorite Weasley is [insert drum roll here]

A three way tie between Fred, Arthur and Ron! Also, none of you likes Bill or Percy at all. I know he’s engaged to Phlegm in this book, but I’m not sure Bill deserves the same derision as Percy people.


  1. All right. So I want to get a little deconstructivist in this post. For you anti-pomo haters out there, forgive me for using the language of Derrida. I am going to talk about the linguistic structure of the trace. Throughout the series, we see Harry dealing with traces, lingering outlines of his past. I mentioned the Mirror of Erised last time, as well as the moving photo album of his parents, the patronus Prongs, his visions in the Pensieve, Priori Incantatem, and a million more. He draws strength from all of these traces of his history, all the while hearing from everyone that he himself is a living remnant of his parents. I’m not even going to bother mentioning (paralipsis, anyone?) the scar he bears to remind him of his mother’s sacrifice.

    In this novel, we get to see traces of Voldemort’s life. Half-Blood Prince is structured around Harry's education in Voldemort's history. Paralleling this education throughout the book is Harry's experience in his Potions class, where for the first time he is one of the top students. This success is due to Harry's ability to exploit the copy of Advanced Potion-Making heavily annotated with helpful tips that enable Harry to succeed in the class. These annotations prove ethically ambiguous; they give Harry the knowledge he needs to rescue Ron when he is poisoned, yet they teach him the dangerous curse Sectum Sempra, with which he nearly kills Draco Malfoy. The textbook is a like a trace of its previous owner, who marked it with his own discoveries. Most literally, it is a palimpsest, one layer of text written over another, and both together teach Harry what he needs to succeed in Potions. Of course, Harry eventually learns that the book belonged to Severus Snape, one of the most complex characters in the series. A man motivated above all by love, he continues to watch over Harry because in him Lily endures, though with a difference that fills Snape with loathing. Harry and Snape's copy of Advanced Potion-Making is central to Half-Blood Prince because it foreshadows the difficult task of reading a trace whose meaning is not always clear. The potions book marks education as a central theme of this novel and insists on the importance of learning how to use traces. In Harry's case in Prince, he continues with the lesson he has been learning all along; power comes from knowing how to use traces—when to read the annotation instead of the printed text, and where the enemy is likely to have hidden something special.

    Interestingly, much more attention is given in this book to the construction of Voldemort's identity than to Harry's. This is because Dumbledore and Harry know that they can best fight Voldemort if they understand him, and they realize that the key to understanding a person is to read him as a trace. What people and events from the past made Voldemort what he is? This is not a question that interests Voldemort, whose sense of identity is disconnected from time, but Harry understands that he must read Voldemort as a trace if he is to destroy him. Harry spends much of this book dipping into the past and then returning to the present to analyze what he has learned. Not only is this a good educational model, it is also a demonstration, again, of Harry's ability to use time. In this case, however, he uses time not to know himself but his enemy. It is his knowledge of Voldemort that enables him, in the last book, to locate the Horcruxes and to destroy them, and he calls on details from Voldemort's past as Tom Riddle in his final encounter with the dark wizard. Voldemort dies because Harry has a weapon he lacks: knowledge of the past and a proper appreciation of traces.


  2. Wow, sometimes I forget how ridiculously smart you are. I hope your students appreciate your mad critiquing skills! I'm just glad you only use your powers for good.

    Well, you made me think a lot. I've always just taken it for granted that lack of understanding love was Voldemort's fatal flaw; but you seem to be suggesting it might be his inability to make Tom Riddle and Lord Voldemort co-exist. We are a some of all our parts – most importantly including things we've learned - but Voldemort sloughs off parts of his soul constantly (well, at least 7 times) trying hard to forget about those pieces once they've gone.

    And conversely, Snape's fatal flaw may be his ability to love the wrong things. Or maybe that's his redeeming quality and his fatal flaw all rolled up into one...

    Now I don't know what to write my blog post on today!

  3. I feel like you're being a wee bit sarcastic. A TV rant is easy; the words overflow onto the screen/page without much effort. An HP post must be more profound and scholarly and takes much more time to write - it's coming. I promise.