Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Jewish perspective

Hi everyone. I assume that everyone's had enough time now to finish Deathly Hallows, so I'm going to start writing about my thoughts on the book and some Jewish perspectives on it. Below are some general thoughts about the book, with more specifics to follow in other messages.

Overall I really liked the book. It was definitely the most fun since the early ones, in that it didn't waste time, just about every page was action-filled and important for the story.

Most of all, I'm glad that Harry won, and that he won with a sense of personal responsibility for eradicating evil. And I'm glad he did it without turning to others, although he did receive help from others. And I'm glad Dumbeldore was truly dead, not that I wish anyone to be dead, but that Harry won himself.

I admit that I'm somewhat sorry that Snape ended up being a good guy. He was fun to hate. But at least it was done in a way that made some sense, and explained how he'd been acting.

That said, I'm disappointed that his lifelong feelings for Harry's mother were described as "love" rather than "obsession." More on that point in a future message.

From a Jewish perspective, I was somewhat disturbed by the death theme at the end of the book, but not as much so as I might have been. I'd like to break this into two parts: first is the scene with Harry's dying and them coming back to life, and second is the idea that he had to die to save everyone else.

The whole scene of his dying and then coming back to life was, unfortunately I believe, a strong sign of the author's xian religious background. She threw in the line at the end about how the whole thing happened inside Harry's head, but nonetheless, the scene seemed a lot like xian death and ressurection. And it added nothing to the story, other than a bit of explanation from Dumbeldore and the sight of the "child under the seat" (more on this later). It's surprising to see such a xian scene when the rest of the books have been completely free of any religious mention, but on the other hand, it's not surprising that the author's religious background should creep in somehow.

But all that said, it didn't really change the book for me. It's one scene, and can be largely ignored without effecting the story.

Second, though, is that the book built up the theme of Harry dying as a means of giving protection to others. Throughout the series there was a theme of Harry's having received magical protection from his mother's having died trying to save his life. This was always characterized in terms of her love, not as "dying for sins" or anything like that. There a book chapter in Harry Potter and Torah that gives a Jewish perspective on magical protection from self-sacrifice, in the blog here and in book form here.

I'd like to read Deathly Hallows as continuing the same theme. Harry's being willing to sacrifice himself out of love for his friends and out of committment to fighting evil led to everyone else's receiving magical protection at the end of the fight with Voldemort. I think that the story works perfectly well that way.

Combining the two, we have a final few scenes that could be read in a non-xian way, but could also be read in a very xian way. I encourage everyone to read my Jewish perspective on magical protection, and enjoy Deathly Hallows in that light.

There's lots more to say, but I'm going to write other messages over the next week or so on specific points in the book, my thoughts on them, and Jewish perspectives on them.

Comments welcome, either as blog comments or as email to


Anonymous said...

Adding to your comment about the xian theme, here is something I read on

"Deathly Hallows should end all doubt whether JRK uses Christians themes and symbolism in the series. In Book 7, we learn that some wizards attend church (my assumption, since wizards are buried in the churchyard), and on Harry’s parents’ headstone is the Bible verse, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). The headstone of late headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s mother and sister reads, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21). And most importantly, Harry dies (sort of) and is resurrected (sort of)."

Anonymous said...

Here is the link: