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

Monday, May 24, 2010

HP Monday: Walking the Line – Gray vs. Black and White

Let’s just pretend it hasn’t been almost two months since I posted a blog, admit that I suck beyond the telling, and move past it into an HP Monday post…

I keep harping on the shades of gray in HP – and usually those shades manifest in Hermione Granger. As I’ve said in the past, I like Hermione in book form (not so much in movie form where they only tend to show her girly, goody-goody side) when she realizes it isn’t all good and bad – there are definitely shades of gray in the wizarding world.

Book 6 is no exception: Hermione performs a Confundus charm on McLaggen so Ron ends up with more saves during Quidditch try outs and keeps his Keeper spot; she creates birds when she’s distraught about Wan-Wan and Lav and their budding relationship only to sic them on Ron in a fit of anger – um, I might point out that a) she created these weapons without a spell book and with a wand (Ms. Corey) and she attacks her best friend/love interest with them (kicking a little ass along the way and again by herself).

…but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.

In general Hermione often speaks outloud about the books she’s been reading from the restricted area section or different ways to get around the rules and regulations when others may be listening. She continues to walk a fine line in book 6. She’s not alone on the gray line path, others walk the walk as well; but Hermione’s appearance of goodness and her willingness to defy that goodness when justice is at stake makes her more of a vigilante than a do-gooder.

Yin and Yang of the Gray Line
I know I’m going to start babbling at any moment and words will flow onto this blog like three rivers meeting and swelling over the bank of one of the tributaries – I’m testing a hypothesis here so feel free to comment on my failed attempts and flawed logic at any point. I’ll take comments on my pure brilliancy as well; I’m not really that picky.

Hermione does her gray line walking for a decent or good purpose; conversely, Malfoy does many of the same things for a somewhat more dastardly purpose. Does this show off Hermione’s goodness, Malfoy’s badness or just that they are both the same?

I’m not sure we ever get a clear-cut¸ spelled out answer from Rowling – she (slightly) leaves it up to the ethics and moral code of her readers. Now you can argue her intended readers (mid-grade to begin with) are only just learning about moral code and ethics. As a young adult we start to realize adults aren’t the be all and end all in right and wrong – we’ve got a lot of gray in us as well. But what I do love about Rowling is her circumspect way of dealing with the issue. We know Hermione is a good character and Malfoy is a bad character (OK, actually I don’t know either of those things at all – but that’s the surface perception) and in book 6 there’s an “evil outcome” performed by Malfoy or another Death Eater for every gray line thing Hermione’s done in this book or other books. Rowling draws up a mirror parallel, a good idea/bad idea list as it were.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Confunding McClaggen during Quiddutch try outs so her friend Ron is made a member of the Gryfindor team.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Using the imperius curse on Rosmerta so he can know where Dumbledore is going when he’s not at Hogwarts – and so he can deliver things to people inconspicuously in an attempt to kill Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Putting a charm on the DA coins as a way of communication so the DA can continue to fight the man (in this case not just the governing Ministry of Magic but also Delores Umbridge, whose made gray¬-line walking an extreme sport, ultimately loosing all scruples and jumping off the dark, deep end.) and study/practice actual Defense against the Dark Arts in year 5.

Bad Idea
(Malfoy) – Putting a charm on coins to keep in contact with the cursed Rosmerta as a way of communication whilst he is inside Hogwarts and she is inside Hogsmeade.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Uses a necklace (Time-Turner) so she can skirt the rules and still study all the subjects she’s registered for in year 3. Also uses it to go back and save Sirius from the Dementor’s Kiss – a fate worse than death in many ways.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Uses an opal necklace by cursing it and handing it off to Katie Bell in an attempt to skirt the rules and yet again smuggle something into Hogwarts to kill Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Harry) – Using Expelliarmus as a go-to incantation to in the end save the world.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Using Expelliarmus as a go-to incantation to in the end get rid of Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Harry & pretty much every DA member) – Using secret tunnels to get in and out of Hogwarts for early on hijinx and fun and later to again save the world.

Bad Idea
(Malfoy) – Using the vanishing cabinets to get Death Eaters in and out of Hogwarts to pretty much end the world.

Good Idea (Harry & DA) – Using the Room of Requirement to secretly practice in and also hide things in.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Using the Room of Requirement to secretly fix things (and hide things) in and again get the Death Eaters in and out of Hogwarts in an attempt to end the world.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Recognizing and discussing Filch’s lack of potion recognition as a useful thing.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Slipping poison past Filch after overhearing Hermione’s discussion in (what else?) another attempt to kill Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Creating and using polyjuice potion in year 2 with Ron and Harry to discover the real Heir of Slytherin.

Bad Idea (Malfoy & Barty Crouch jr.) ¬– Creating and using polyjuice potion to sneak in and out of the Room of Requirement without anyone suspecting – or in Barty’s case to impersonate a Hogwart’s teacher to gain Harry’s trust, make him Tri-Wizard champion and get him to help bring back Voldemort to full power.

Good Idea (Weasley Twins) – Sticking a Slytherin in an old broken vanishing cabinet as a joke on their way out of Hogwarts. (Yes, you can tell me this isn’t actually a good idea – especially if you are a high school teacher and really don’t like kids like those pesky Weasley Twins – but it was still a laugh riot.)

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Listening to the plight of said Slytherin and realizing the other cabinet was in Borgin & Burkes and could be repaired as a way to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts (and you guessed it – END THE WORLD. Also, no “I told you so” from the aforementioned high school teachers).

The Choice
And with all of that going on, in book 6 Malfoy still has options. He’s done all of these bad idea things and yet he’s still walking the line. When we finally learn about Horcruxes, we learn that KILLING is what rips apart a soul – and I’d say ripping apart a soul is like the spring-board into the dark side (no more gray line for you). So Malfoy has a choice – his ethics and morals have been tested but he hasn’t jumped off the deep end yet. Dumbledore – as the beacon of light (oh, but he’s towing the gray line too!) is encouraging Malfoy toward the white-side of the line, “Come over to the right side Draco…you are not a killer…” and again he tells Malfoy it is Dumbledore’s strength and power that matters most in this scene – Dumbledore choosing when and how to die over Malfoy’s choosing to utter the killing curse, “No Draco,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It is my power, and not yours, that matters now.”

Thoughts, ruminations, word-babble? Have I jumped off the deep end in my nerdy HP obsessions? On that note – and because I would like to discuss the movie vs book next time – here’s something from the VlogBrothers (Yes, Ms. Corey strikes again. Except I think I clued her in to these guys in the first place – through Tera of course. I always try to cite my brilliant friends when they send me things I can use in a blog post!)

Stay tuned for more HP. Hey, maybe we’ll even get through book 7 before the first-part movie comes out.