06 November 2010
Prisoner of Azkaban
With each book I change my mind, but I think Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite. It's where we really commit to the series. Sure the first two books set things up, but it's PoA that makes us need those four more incredibly long, incredibly dark books. It's our first real glimpse of the bigger picture.
Right now, all I really want to do is start Goblet of Fire, and since I still have 2000 words to write for Nanowrimo before I can do that, I'm going to list the things that stuck out to me while I was reading (I thought to write them down this time through). These are in no particular order.
-Wish fulfillment. In the beginning, it was almost funny how much wish fulfillment there was. Harry is a thirteen year old wizard and yet, at the beginning of the book he is granted a surprising amount of independence. Sure he's pretty good at looking out for himself, but the Minister of Magic himself gives Harry permission to stay by himself for about a week in a room above a bar. He gets to explore the wizard shops by himself and eat free ice cream. Then he gets the thing he wants most in the world, a Firebolt, which makes him the envy of both friends and enemies. Then, he gets the marauder's map. THEN, he wins the quidditch cup against his school nemesis, Malfoy, where he literally snatches the snitch out of Malfoy's hand, completely humiliating him. By the end of the book I realized that we--and Harry--needed all those good things to happen in the beginning, because in the end Harry loses something worth more than all of those things. He comes so close to proving Sirius innocent and gaining the closest thing he'll ever have to a real father. Of course, the Weasley's try, but they are Ron's parents, not Harry's and Harry has never had an adult who cared about him to call his own. Sirius is that person and Harry loses him.
-Defense Against the Dark Arts.... I adore Lupin, but his class is more Defense against not-so-nice magical creatures. It bothers me every time. I think Harry's got the right idea with Dumbledore's Army in book five (and yes, I still kind of want that tattoo).
-At one point, when everyone still thinks Sirius is guilty, Ron says "Why couldn't Black have hidden in Snape's office, eh? He could have finished him off for us!" This made me laugh at loud, because of how much I think it would have amused Sirius. (As a side note, Sirius is my favorite character. I like him better than Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I'm so glad to finally get to the third book so that I can finally talk about him.)
-Rowling does a really good job establishing the theme of friendship in the present so that it is believable and more effective in the past. Hermione and Ron both pass up Christmas with their families (that is a big deal), because they know Harry needs them. This strengthens the story Lupin tells about how his friends not only accepted him as a werewolf, but became animagus so that they could be with him during the full moon. I could definitely see Harry, Ron, and Hermione doing that for each other.
-The dementors bring out Harry's hidden memory of his parents dying to protect him. It's horrible and yet he has trouble with his patronus because part of him wants to hear that memory--it's all he has of his parents. This breaks my heart because it feels so raw and honest. All I could think about was the JK/Oprah interview where JK says something along the lines of Harry Potter exists because my mother died. You can see it on every page of the books. They only exist because I loved her and she died. That's a paraphrase, don't quote that.
-How many students attend Hogwarts? This always bothers me. At one point in this book, Rowling mentions there are 200 people cheering for Slytherin, which I would assume means there are 200 Slytherin students, because nobody else likes them. Assuming that the houses are more or less equal, that would mean about 800 students at Hogwarts. But.... There are only five boys in Harry's year. If we take that to be average, 10 students per year per house, we get 70 students in four houses, or 280 students. Not that it matters, but this bothers me every single time.
-I think one of the most important functions of the book is that it does a great job of humanizing Dumbledore. It is the first time that we really see limitations for him. He can't control what people believe and he can't prove Sirius innocent. Yes, he is a great wizard, but the best he can do is guide Harry and Hermione to help Sirius escape. This book tells us that things are about to get dark and complicated and not even Dumbledore is going to be able to just fix things and make them better. We feel safe when Dumbledore's around and this is a gentle nudge to the realization that we have been lured into a false sense of security.
And now I'm off to Nanwrimo so that I can get moving on book four.