J.K. Rowling’s Egregious Divination

Ron as Vovlo-Driving Suburban Dad

It is not hard to nitpick such a sprawling literary work as Jo Rowling’s Harry Potter septet. The characters are many, complex, and develop over the course of seven years, many of them through the emotional chaos of puberty. The narrative is a complex and interwoven mystery, made all-the-more plastic by the magical context and Ms. Rowling’s peerless ingenuity. It is hardly surprising that fans of the series point to books that were weaker than others, characterization choices that rubbed them wrong, slain characters they wished had survived (or vice versa), and plot details they might have spun differently had they been Ms. Rowling’s editor.

But nitpicking it is. There are only two truly abominable parts of the otherwise magnificent ouvre.

The first is in the early portions of book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which Ms. Rowling seems to have been forced by her editors to recapitulate everything that happened in book one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so that the book could stand on its own. This betrays the publisher’s a disheartening lack of faith in the success of Ms. Rowling’s astonishing project – they seemed to think we wouldn’t read the work in its seven volume entirety, as it was meant to be read – and creates sections of writing so uncharacteristically bad that they hardly seem to come from Ms. Rowling’s head.


The second groansome part is the epilogue at the end of book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is where Ms. Rawlings gives us a glimpse of the all-grown-up Hogwarts batchmates, and how they are occupying their adulthoods. Sadly, we learn that they fought the Dark Lord so that they could become suburban, Volvo-driving, soccer moms and work-a-day dads, with 2.5 children and a mortgage. And you thought the Death Eaters betrayed the wonders of their magic!

I should add, in fairness: The epilogue’s tragic look forward was greatly, though not entirely redeemed by its brilliant summation, contained in Harry’s deeply touching line about “one of the bravest men I’ve ever known.”

Egregious and crushing as it was, the epilogue stands. If Ms. Rowling wanted to consign her intrepid, idealistic young characters to an adulthood of vapid, upper middle-class conformity, it is her right. Bummer, though.

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