Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Into the Forest

I'm still mulling over the Harry Potter finale, even as I move on to other reading.
Warning: This might spoil the ending if you haven't finished yet!

There's a great deal that I like in the last book, but I think the most moving part of the whole series is when Harry goes into the forest prepared to die. Rowling did a wonderful job of articulating what that selflessness might look like. Harry thinks he's been betrayed by Dumbledore and comes to resigned acceptance of that, with the stunned silence that we might all feel. But he also sees how giving himself up to Voldemort will save those whom he loves. So in spite of the apparent betrayal he accepts what he must do.

I think it must be very much like what the Garden of Gethsemane was for Jesus. We don't see any evidence the Jesus was eager to walk into Pilate's hands. His friend, Judas, betrays him, and in his cry from the cross, "Why have you forsaken me?" we see that he also felt betrayed by God. But he somehow sees through that, in the Garden, to what must be done. And so he tells his friends to let him go, and he walks unarmed into the grip of the soldiers who have come to take him to his death.

Whatever came next - for Harry and for Jesus - that act of relinquishment, of self-offering, is itself efficacious. It breaks apart the pattern of violence and opposition, of one force battling another. Voldemort and Pilate still pursue their violent plans, but the power of their actions has changed. Jesus and Harry make the more difficult, and ultimately more powerful choice, to give themselves up, leaving their opponents powerless over them.

Whether or not J.K. Rowling intended such an explicit allegorical reading, she absolutely understands the power of selflessness and describes it beautifully.

No comments: