Thursday, January 29, 2009

One More Harry Potter Thing

The ice appears to be on its way out. My porch and sidewalk are almost clear, but the driveway was still a skating rink first thing this morning. I may be able to leave the house today!

After posting about my notebook/journal collection habits, I've started using one of the nice leather-bound journals to record the books I read. I'd been keeping that list in a spiral notebook, but since the point of keeping the list is being able to refer to it later, and since spiral pages tear out so easily, keeping it in a nice journal book makes more sense. However, the journal I first unwrapped to use for that purpose turned out to be something different. It's not just a blank book. It seems to fit into some kind of daytimer system, or maybe it's meant as a diary. It's not date-specific, but each page has a blank for the date at the top, then most of a page of blank lines. There are perforated notches on the top corner of each page, so you can tear them off to show which page you're on, I guess (though it also has an attached ribbon bookmark). The really odd part is that the bottom inch and a half or so on each page is a separate section. On that is a grid of little squares, three down and eleven across, and that section is perforated separately, so you can detach that part from the page. I've never seen something like that, and it didn't come with instructions, so I have no idea how that's meant to be used. Has anyone seen anything like this before, and can you explain it to me? I'm sure it's some kind of organizational/planning system that will change my life, so I don't want to miss out.

A comment yesterday reminded me that there was one more thing I liked about the Harry Potter series that I forgot to mention. I like the treatment of good vs. evil and nice vs. nasty.

Spoilers ahead!

On the cosmic level, Good and Evil were white and black, absolutes. You were either opposing Voldemort and what he stood for, or you were at least passively allowing his ideas to prevail. A recurring theme in the series was that it wasn't even okay to side with the bad guys to save your own life, that there are causes worth dying for and that evil must be opposed, no matter what the personal cost may be. Saving your own life by betraying others means that the rest of your life will be worthless, as shown by the fate of Peter Pettigrew, who betrayed his friends to save his own life, and then spent the next ten years as a rat and then who spent the rest of his life after that as an abused flunky, only to be killed by Voldemort, which was the fate he'd been trying to avoid in the first place. On the other hand, those who were willing to die for their beliefs managed to gain some benefit from that, such as the power that came from Lily's sacrifice for her son.

But on a more earthly level, there were a lot of shadings. For one thing, being on the side of cosmic Good didn't mean that someone was necessarily nice. Snape may have been vindicated as having been on the good side all along, and he was a hero for the cause at great personal sacrifice, but he was still a jerk who held petty grudges, showed favorites as a teacher and who was quite a bully -- yeah, he had some reason for hating Harry (not that it was Harry's fault), but he tormented Neville just because he could. I liked that Rowling didn't fully redeem Snape. She vindicated him, yes, but he never saw the error of his ways, never apologized for his behavior, and he never changed. Sirius and James were shown to have been bullies as kids, and Sirius was still a hothead who got his priorities skewed at times. Lupin was an emotional coward. And then on the Evil side, there were still people who had positive impulses. Narcissa Malfoy saved Harry's life (and thus saved the day) because her love for her son was greater than her allegiance to Voldemort. Again, she wasn't really redeemed because she never recanted her belief in the things that Voldemort stood for. She just had other, personal priorities that happened to be positive and good.

So, you could be Good and still be nasty to people you didn't like (even people on your side), and you could be Evil and still be nice to people you cared about. And disliking someone personally doesn't mean that person is evil.

There was also the fact that mistakes didn't have to be permanent. Good people could screw up and redeem themselves, and evil people could see the error of their ways, repent and join the side of good (more Christian symbolism). On the minor side, there was Ron, gifted with the Deluminator that would always allow him to find his way back. There was Percy the Prodigal, who rejected his parents' teachings to pursue his own ambition, which meant he ended up working against the side of Good, and then he came back into the fold at the critical time. There was Snape, who joined the Death Eaters, then turned his back on them and went to work on the side of good (though he still had to deal with the consequences of his earlier actions). Dumbledore had toyed with the ideas Voldemort later represented, and he was able to recognize his personal weaknesses to avoid that temptation again. Even Voldemort had the chance to face what he'd done and accept that pain, and he could have been saved.

I suppose you could say that I liked that Good and Evil were absolute, but that there were still nuances within that.

I finished my amateur Shakespeare yesterday, so now I have to think about how that applies to the Nagging Idea (or even if it does). I also have some research to do.

No comments: