The Life or Death of Harry Potter


A guest essay by Jason Powell,

I want to start this by acknowledging millions of fans that don’t want to believe Harry could die. I really believe that if he dies, and I think it’s likely, there will be people who cry. People will be angry. People will run through every stage of grief that we normally go through, but a lot of them won’t do acceptance.

Harry being fiction, he can be brought back. I seriously hope that never happens; it’d be the most fraudulent thing to do to the story and its fans. There are a few things that need to happen to setup Harry’s death. His death would need to be the culmination of seven books; the last dot that’s necessary to reveal a picture, and Rowling will need to have made it the only possible conclusion.

She did make it so there could only be one conclusion–she wrote the final chapter years ago, and she’s kept it with her since. Harry’s final outcome must fall into place perfectly. You should be able to look back at each book and see it was the place he was headed the entire time, and it can’t be a ham-fisted ending. If he dies, the very way it happens will be a part of the piece, too. Rowling won’t have Harry’s death seem random or avoidable. I think Harry may choose his death, in some way.

Harry Potter’s story has a lot of themes, but I’d say the most important, central, is Life and Death. Fear, and the meanings of courage, would be a close second, and even Fear can be construed to be an aspect of the Life and Death theme. It’s important to remember the aspect of Fear; it’s what makes me think that Harry may somehow choose his demise. It’s easy to think that Harry represents Life in his story and that Voldemort represents Death.

I think that was true…well, more true, at the beginning of the series. Harry starts out representing life, Voldemort, death. The values have gradually swapped, like I’ve heard the Earth’s poles sometimes do. And, as they swapped, the associated values of Life and Death did too. By values, I’m going to simplify and say positive and negative, as in good and bad.

We started here:

Harry -> Life -> PositiveVoldemort -> Death -> Negative

But we’ve been moving here:

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Harry -> Death -> PositiveVoldemort -> Life -> Negative

At the beginning of the series, it was good that Harry lived, and Voldemort died. Voldemort was a murderer (a negative association of Death). As the story has progressed, we found out that Voldemort achieved immortality through the murders he committed (by creating horcruxes through the act of murder). A horcrux stores a part of one’s soul, and so long as the horcrux exists, then one cannot completely die.

So, here is where Life attains a negative association, in Voldemort’s obsession with immortality. Yes, Death is still a part of what Voldemort does, but we knew that from the first book onward. The stories grow more concerned with Voldemort’s return to Life and it seems that’s his primary motive: to live. Harry lived, and it was good. It’s how the story starts. Through the series, Harry is gradually surrounded by more Death, and it’s a manifestation of his most inner character in how he copes with it. Harry laments the deaths of innocents, and I doubt he’ll ever kill as the easy way to end a threat from anyone. That may even apply to Voldemort.

Harry would give his life, die, to protect others, just as his mother did for him. Is it reasonable to think that Harry’s greatest weapon against Voldemort is his ability to face Death as a natural element, whereas Voldemort cannot face it and continues to exist almost solely to defy it? I think there’s a circle here. Voldemort tries to kill Harry to live. Voldemort surrounds Harry with Death in the same effort. Harry lives with Death (and even represents it, to Voldemort, which is why Voldemort tried to kill him in the first place, due to a prophesy). Harry doesn’t fear Death as a result, and his ability to face it is his weapon against Voldemort–a weapon that Voldemort indirectly gave him.

How can Harry’s ability to face Death be a weapon against Voldemort? If Harry chooses his own Death, and his death undoes Voldemort’s corruption of Life. The riskiest interpretation I’m going to make is the title of the final book, “The Deathly Hallows.” Hallow means holy, so a holy death? Hmmm…”holy death.” How about this: Voldemort has come to represent an un-holy life (he becomes immortal through the deaths of others, creating the horcruxes). The polar opposite (hah!) of that would be a holy death. “The Deathly Hallows.” A holy death, to me, is most likely one of sacrifice.

Harry will face that which Voldemort fears most and choose a holy death to end Voldemort’s unholy life. Harry’s ultimate act may be to restore the purity that Voldemort has corrupted to both Life and Death.

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