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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

By , Rockville, MD
14 years, thousands of pages, 7 movies and one theme park after the publication of the first Harry Potter novel, fans lined up this July for the culmination of the Harry Potter phenomenon—the final movie. No one would disagree that Harry Potter has become an icon of our generation. Fans reminisce about first reading these books at the tender age of 7 or 8, and literally growing up with them. We can quote from each novel and have memorized every bit of trivia, from Hermione’s middle name to Dumbledore’s favorite flavor of jam. Harry and his friends have in many ways become our family, and when some of them met a fateful end in the final book, we mourned them like real people.
The final movie provided a special opportunity to go all out to show our love for Harry, one last time. At the midnight showing at my local movie theater, fans wore pointy black hats and school uniforms, shot spells at each other, and even staged a duel between “Harry” and “Voldemort.” The unity that Harry forged between total strangers amazed me. We cheered loudly when Hermione and Ron kissed and when Neville decapitated the fearsome snake Nagini. One fan instructed everyone to say “Mischief managed!” when the film finished. The universal enjoyment of Harry’s adventures prompted me to wonder how and why a children’s series had become such a global hit. It had to be more than chance that allowed Harry to sell millions of books.
People who dismiss Harry Potter as just another “pop culture fad” underestimate the thought and emotion underlying J.K. Rowling’s work. After reading the final book multiple times and seeing the movie twice, I realized that the most touching aspect for me was Rowling’s treatment of the death of loved ones. Of course, from the beginning of Harry’s story we know that he struggles with the loss of his parents, who died before he can remember. But he feels an enduring love for them that never wavers, proving that love lives on beyond death. Over the course of the books, Harry loses more parental figures: Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore. We all remember the mysterious whispers of the dead behind the veil at the Ministry of Magic. Rowling never backs away from death, and forces Harry to deal with unbelievable loss.
In the final chapter, death becomes an even more prominent theme. Voldemort’s ultimate goal is immortality; to conquer death. We are introduced to two ways of doing this: Horcruxes, or dark magic that mutilates the soul and preserves part of it in a physical object, and the Deathly Hallows; three powerful magical objects (a cloak, a wand, and a resurrection stone) that when united will make you “master of death.” In the climactic final battle at Hogwarts, death abounds: Fred Weasley, Remus and Tonks, and even the house elf Dobby bravely lose their lives in the fight against evil. Then Harry learns the shocking truth: in order to defeat Voldemort, he must sacrifice himself. If he is to save the Wizarding World, he must calmly walk into the arms of death.
I am not the type that cries during movies. But as my best friend sobbed into my shoulder, even I shed a tear as I watched Harry walk into the Forbidden Forest and find the resurrection stone. He turns it in his hand and the figures of the all the loved ones he has lost appear around him, to accompany him on his march to death. When Harry asks if they will stay with him until the end, his father replies, “We never left.”
This final scene illuminated one of the key themes of Harry Potter: dealing with death. I also realized that Beedle the Bard’s story of the three brothers was far more than a simple fairy tale. The wisest brother, who asks for the invisibility cloak, seeks not to defeat death, but to hide from it until he reaches an old age. Then, he greets death as a friend and goes “with him gladly, and, equals, they depart this life.” Rowling tells us that accepting death, not fearing it, is the way to truly be its master. Voldemort fears death, and in trying to outdo it corrupts his soul. But love transcends the boundaries of death and our loved ones will be with us forever, so we have nothing to fear. Rowling dealt with the loss of her mother while writing the first Harry Potter novel, so she wove in death as a central theme of the books. What will stay with us about Harry Potter is its message of love enduring beyond death. Rowling teaches us to embrace death, not avoid it, and this poignant lesson is what makes people around the world identify with Harry. As the wise Dumbledore says, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”





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