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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

HP Tuesday - The Eyes Have It

Last time I left you all in the midst of book 7, a rather large, dense novel. I could continue on with mothers because they appear more and more as time passes in the book, their importance becoming stronger and more fleshed out. But I have other things to discuss, so I’m moving on. Eyes. Yep, I’m going to focus on one body part today; an important part – the windows to the soul and all. Other eye imagery? I keep thinking of writers like Fitzgerald and Orwell – using eyes to watch and see; Big Brother/billboard-esque type imagery. Bespectacled eyes – like Harry’s, James’, and Dumbeledore’s – usually mean wisdom. They also mean God, but I don’t think Harry or James or even Dumbledore is supposed to represent God in this series. Harry is an everyman character, to the extent that we champion him BECAUSE of his lack of knowledge, pig-headedness and general teen-angsty self. Sure, he figures it out in the end; but because of his entire supporting cast (do I sound like Voldemort there?). His sacrifice is only his own, which is why he succeeds, but the figuring out comes from a lot of different people. I think the only God-because-of-his-disembodied-eyes character in the novel is Aberforth Dumbledore – what the heck does that mean? (PS – That link back there is one of my very favorite vlogbrothers – yes, them again – videos ever!) I haven’t figured out what it means. But Aberfoth’s piercing blue eyes – the same eyes as Dumbledore – look at Harry at the beginning of this last quest, they continue to look out of the mirror each time Harry needs egging on – forward motion. I love that this disembodied eye is in a mirror and always turns back into Harry’s own, green eye – the same eyes as Lily. There are so many eye-like parallels here.

Some Thoughts on Imagery
Thinking about imagery, I started thinking about Shakespeare. Truth be told, I think about Shakespeare a lot – rat bastard. It’s because of him I care so much about symbolism and imagery in the first place. Shakespeare finally made me stop asking, “Does every writer mean to add these things to their works or are we just critiquing to sound smart?” and start asking, “What is this author saying about the human condition when she adds symbolism and imagery?” So Shakespeare and eyes; he does it a lot but HP 7 makes me think of King Lear the most. King Lear could not see what was right in front of him and literally lost his eyes. (Side note: This also makes me think of season 7 of Buffy; add Joss Whedon to my growing list of rat bastards who make me think too much…and for making me use the phrase rat bastard come to think of it.) Who’s the sightless character in HP 7? It is Voldemort, who can not possibly win because he doesn’t see what is right in front of him; so many things that are right in front of him. And where are his human, Tom Riddle eyes – his windows to the soul? They’re literally a piece of his soul. One he cut off and discarded in an attempt to seek eternal life. His eyes are a bit of soul, shielded by a window in a locket that belonged to his greatest descendent; it’s become a horcrux. Voldemort gave up his sight and soul and replaced them with snake-like slit-pupil, red eyes. And in the end, the last thing we read of Voldemort are his scarlet pupils rolling upwards as he dies. In the next sentence, Rowling gives the lifeless body lying on the floor Tom Riddle’s name once again. Neither Tom nor Voldemort can cheat death.

Some Thoughts on Symbolism

Thinking about symbolism, I started thinking about the symbol on the spine of my book (British edition) and also the name of this book, the deathly hallows symbol. When first mentioned, at the wedding, as worn by Xenophilius Lovegood, it is rather like a triangular eye. Actually, the exact sentences – just in case you didn’t get that eyes were important in this novel – read, “Slightly cross-eyed, with shoulder-length white hair the texture of candyfloss, he wore a cap whose tassel dangled in front of his nose and robes of an eye-watering shade of egg-yolk yellow. An odd symbol, rather like a triangular eye, glistened from a golden chain around his neck.” (Huh, apparently color is also important in this book – maybe we can discuss yellow, gold, red, green and blue next week?!) This symbol, much like the swastika – which once stood for life, sun, power and good luck – changes over centuries from something good to something inherently evil. The mark of the hallows is a clue that must be followed throughout its history, understood but not conquered; the hallows must not be wielded for power or for eternal life. In other words, the only way to truly understand and use the hallows is to know; wisdom and strength, but also a healthy dose of humility. Harry has the strength to break-up and scatter the hallows; only keeping the invisibility cloak passed down to him.

Lily’s Eyes

Throughout all seven books we’ve been bombarded constantly with the knowledge that Harry has his mother’s eyes. Her soul and his are intertwined. Not just because they are son and mother, but because she sacrificed herself for him; that great, mother-protecting magic coursing through the very soul of these novels. Whether we mean to read into this or not, every ounce of good Harry does seems to generate from this connection with his mum. Lily’s eyes, reappearing in her son’s visage, are what ultimately makes Snape turn toward the light and what keeps him from straying back into the dark. Even at his end, Snape asks Harry to look at him – not because he’s the boy who lived – but because dying is easier when looking into Lily’s eyes. Nineteen years later, who is the only child of Harry’s to inherit Lily’s eyes? Albus Severus Potter – eyes really are the windows to the soul.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you mentioned the eyes in the locket and Aberforth's eyes. I couldn't think how to respond to this comment because you said EVERYTHING I would have said. Very complete discussion! So I am mostly commenting in order to say, nice job. I agree. Please do colour next (as you mentioned you would).

    I read somewhere about the geomancy and alchemy of albus, rubeus, and black. I had no idea Rowling had spent so much time researching little known literary theory. To me that is what moves her from the realm of what Roland Barthes would call reading for plaisir (pleasure reading, or what I call fluff books) to reading for jouissance (reading for the fulfillment of constructing meaning alongside the author, or what I call broccoli books--keeping in mind I love broccoli!).

    Anyone who says Rowling is "just" a YA author--not to denigrate one of the finest professions around--has not spent enough time immersed in Hogwarts nor Muggle London.