reenka: (angest!! PANE!!1)
[personal profile] reenka
I've been thinking about characterization consistency-- what I believe is the most serious problem I have with JKR's books, and from which several other issues flow (like The Slytherin Problem, definitely). There have been several posts on this, and this is just the most recent, focusing on Snape. Snape, who-- ironically-- has been one of the most consistent characters all along, as far as I'm concerned.

One of the reasons I haven't been bothered about the sudden shock of character inconsistency is that it was always clear to me this is the case-- as someone who read lots of Draco meta in fandom, one the most common complaints (or just-- statements) about Draco's function in the books is that precisely-- that he 'serves a function' of the plot, and is basically 'on the author's bad side'. Harry goes from dismissing him at the end of OoTP to obsessing over him in HBP and no one thought his was odd after the initial startlement-- people were just happy he got more development.

But I wasn't sure sure; I knew that Harry wasn't interested in Draco per se as much as in the mystery (because he had to be); this is borne out by his subsequent fixation on the Hallows in DH. Even Harry's own development was a stretch to me post-OoTp rage and uncertainty-- he leaped quite far from where he was, only barely dealing with his issues by repressing/controlling them. And fandom wasn't having many issues then because you know what? People simply liked HBP Harry better and were glad OoTP!Harry got over himself.

So I've had these issues already; I've worked through them. To me, DH was actually a relief because the weird unstable intensity of HBP (and OoTP, though I personally loved both-- OoTP extremely!-- on their own terms... but not how they connected in several ways) was gone and yet-- and yet!-- Harry was actually dealing with his old doubts about Dumbledore, wanting to know the truth-- this is the fall-out from OoTP, at least in some form!! Better than having a nice talk with Dumbledore and being 'all better'! I was happy just to see any continuity, and here's all this meta I see surprised that there wasn't tons more continuity-- as if it was there before, y'know? I was just happy he spent so much of DH remembering: with 'In Memoriam', going through his things and having these objects represent his feelings (like the shard of mirror he kept on top of everything); looking through 4 Privet Drive and narrating his memories to Hedwig; sleeping in Sirius' room and looking through Grimmauld Place again and getting reacquainted with Kreacher; memory was a huge part of this book.

I'd even say Hermione's keeping the memory of Ron vivid and crying for weeks, Harry's remembering Ginny by looking at the Marauder's Map (another memory in itself), reading the unauthorized biography of Dumbledore and wondering what the real man was like, vising his parents' graveyard-- all of that was way more than I'd dared to hope from JKR's books based on the evidence of the last one-- and hell, all the ones that came before. So this sudden... disillusionment doesn't make sense to me, I guess.

As apparently inconsistent (or rather, jerky) and plot-driven as JKR's characterizations always were, I think she's not that bad at keeping the character's individual thread of internal logic going (whether it be Harry or Snape or Draco); she's just not as good at having that character interact with another and dynamically resolve issues (rather than through internal dealing, where we only really hear Harry's monologue and even then not about everything). She's also a bit too fond of having characters 'develop' by having huge rifts in how they're perceived (Sirius in PoA, James and Harry and Ginny in OoTP, Draco in HBP and Dumbledore, Snape and Harry again in DH) with only retroactive justification and the need to read between the lines and go by clues as clarification.

In order to understand why Harry is 'suddenly understanding' in DH, you need to do a retrospective of Harry's development going on clues in prior canon: the same thing you'd have to do to understand 'suddenly spunky' OoTP!Ginny or 'suddenly out of control' OoTP!Harry. The thing about that (which is also why I don't see the surprise about Snape or Harry) is that JKR has always consistently been like that, as I mentioned; also, in each case, the only 'explanation' that worked was going by old circumstantial clues (something like 'why was Snape's worst memory of a prank'). These were sometimes given directly by other characters, like the comments about 'old Ginny' being a misunderstanding and/or only an issue because she liked Harry). And even if it was rarely (all right, never) transitioned properly, the fact remained that with each 'revelation' (sort of like a sudden resolution of a mystery) about a character, you could see the trail of bread-crumbs if you squinted, and it was pretty logical. I guess it just tended to hinge too much on claims other characters made about themselves or other characters (meaning, either it was direct telling or really circumstantial showing, with some possible exceptions like Ron & Hermione's relationship), rather than upon actual direct observation.

In order to enjoy JKR's work at all, I have had to make my peace with it with the arrival of OoTP & then especially HBP; in this sense, DH was nowhere near as revolutionary or surprising (and in fact I gather people's issue is how unsurprising it was, really). If you see OoTP as the Harry crisis book & HBP as the Draco/Snape crisis, it makes sense that DH has to resolve rather than further transform/revolutionize within the context, and I gather the problem is indeed that things didn't get resolved, though a part of this is certain beliefs or actions (like Harry's 'Crucio' or Snape's largely Lily-centric morality) that seem inconsistent because they're based on some circumstantial and partly symbolic connections (ie, Harry's implicit role as arbiter of justice I'd mentioned here). This, of course, gets into what you were expecting; in my previous post, I tried to show that Draco's arc was believably continued (if not resolved), and I'd need another post to show excatly how Harry's arc worked, but the thing here is that JKR's counting on the readers having similar moral/philosophical outlooks, to some extent, and otherwise the developments won't make sense the same way. I don't really share a philosophy with her, but I can suspend my personal judgments while I read if I want to.

I realized with the horrid transition from OoTP!Harry to HBP!Harry that JKR is leaving the job of connecting the dots squarely to us readers. If you don't do the work, trying to see the clues and understand how it's meant to hang together, I sincerely wonder what you (general you) were doing in the OoTP/HBP era, honestly; the only explanation is that most people were simply relieved with HBP 'letting up' on OoTP the way I was relieved with DH letting me down gently and upset at HBP's Harry.

See, the thing is, with OoTP, there was a sudden ramming up of tension-- it was very obvious a book for 'dealing with all that emo Harry mess' that's been building but on the back burner for the whole prior 4 books, and there was other messes to deal with in HBP that ramped up with OoTP (Draco, who was so clearly on the brink in OoTP and whom I was dying to see followed up on because no one ever came close in post-OoTP Dracofic, okay, not even CLOSE). And then she did the same thing to Draco after HBP as she did to Harry after OoTP-- she had them reach the very furthest edge and then back down.


Because now it was time to deal with Dumbledore and Ron & tie up the series; the journey Harry has to maturity is therefore largely sublimated to his growing understanding of the other characters' stories, Dumbledore's and Snape's (both from the Half-blood Prince third and the two parts of his pensieve experiences split between OoTP and DH) and Draco's (and Riddle's from HBP). Harry is... well, kinda filled up and influenced by them, to the point where he's infected with Dumbledore's obsession with the Hallows (though it does parallel his old fascination with bringing back those he'd lost ever since the Mirror of Erised-- a connection established in the first book). And this is extremely important; if one doesn't give enough credit to Harry's obsession with the Hallows and thereafter his 'awakening' after Dobby's death (realizing the reality of death once again, and the finality & nobility of it both), one cannot hope to understand Harry's responses to both Draco and Snape (and Voldemort) at the end of the book.

I notice the people saying they don't get Harry's Crucio and his forgiveness of Snape are generally the same ones saying they don't get why there had to be all that big deal about camping and angsting about the Hallows (and also 'wtf, who cares about Dobby'). A lot of this is symbolic development, of course-- the symbolism of the Hallows, the symbolism of the locket for Ron. At the same time, though, there are real issues involved, just not shown; and that's what I think holds it all together for me. Scenes like this with Hermione crying and Harry silently putting the wards up instead, or like this where Ron and Harry simply hug.

I think pure emotion is where the books work for me: the sheer poignant reality of Snape's delight at Lily's saying his name; of Draco breaking down and then getting angry at Harry in the bathroom; of Harry actually feeling 'corrosive hatred' for Ron after being afraid Ron's thinking precisely the things he said about Harry's leadership; of Harry not wanting to be human anymore screaming at Dumbledore at the end of OoTP, paralleled by Snape saying he wished he were dead talking to Dumbledore after Lily's death; the painful way Harry realizes he never asked Dumbledore about himself, and the one time he did-- about the Mirror of Erised-- Dumbledore must've lied. And of course then there's the apex of all this with the second pensieve scene and, more importantly, with Harry using the Hallow to see the living memories of the Marauders and his parents and then Dumbledore-- and much as everyone seems to hate the exposition heaviness of that chapter, something would've been missing and incomplete if there's all this fixation on Dumbledore and 'what if' and 'what was it' without a resolution of any kind; they already had the books and the photos and the pensieve with Snape, what else was left? Of course, it could still have been done better; still, this is JKR.

On some level, talking about meta-- how it doesn't hang together thematically, how the transitions are shot and the follow-through and development are shoddy-- it seems so obvious, so ingrained in the books all along, that it's pointless to dwell on it, I guess. Which is why my natural reaction to DH was so fangirly and carelessly surface-emotional in some ways. But I was never so attached to meta anyway; I know I used to go and on about the symbolism of Harry/Draco and how it's deeply transformative and meaningful, etcetc, but that's always been mine, not JKR's. These are my issues, my dreams, my feelings-- not Harry & Draco's, quite. Certainly not in canon. And the reason I was so fannishly stymied-- and all but left fandom after HBP-- was because HBP took away what it gave me as an H/D fan. It gave me follow-through on Draco beyond my wildest dreams, but took away the Harry I needed to react to him in a transformative manner. Far from transforming, Harry stabilized. H/D cannot work with stable Harry; CANNOT. Especially since I wasn't holding out hope Draco was really going to be transformed when Harry wasn't.

HBP we reached a sort of apex, a height of intensity, and the only way for the plot to progress was to do the same thing that happened after OoTP. I mean, in my head the obvious progression would be for Harry to murderously go after Snape, not hunting Horcruxes and Voldy, and yet I knew it was the latter he'd actually do. The first clue was actually within HBP itself; his 'chest monster' explosion for Ginny (implying his feelings were sudden, explosive and violent) was put on 'pause' so easily, weren't they? But no one in my corner of fandom really minded, instead taking it as a sign that he didn't want Ginny that much in the first place; yeah right. Of course he did.

This is why I was happy there was actually follow through in DH for a number of old GoF and OoTP issues-- for Harry and Ron and somewhat Draco-- but in a less over-the-top way. After the 'pause' in HBP, things reverted to their natural dimensions enough so that there could be a quiet, introspective realization (even on Ron's part when he went away) rather than a huge confrontation. I was actually glad these issues still existed, y'know? I was happy about the rememberance of the fallen, for the ongoing connections with past characters and places, even if fleeting. Sometimes it was kinda sentimental, but it was... there.

    Anyway, Snape. I said Snape is one of the most consistently characterized characters in the books, and I think this is true; it's just that there's been a lot of stuff left out to create an air of mystery about his motivations, and a lot of obfuscations because Harry & Snape both overreacted to each other for sort of... apparently silly reasons. Most characters in the series have a central conflict, a major theme that defines them (Harry with his abandonment issues, Ron with his jealousy/loyalty insecurities, etc), but most of them don't get as transformed in fandom as Snape (and Draco), mostly because they fit pre-existing archetypes. In Snape's case, it was the Byronic anti-hero archetype, who naturally has to struggle with good and evil ala Harry (except be a lot more uncertain); in retrospect, that's more Regulus.

People say Snape has become collapsed to a single dimension, but he hasn't. We merely see his center now (one that he'd been particularly stubborn about in a way that seemed childish and nonsensical before, because who's really that fixated on old slights for anything other than overwhelming emotional reasons?); the nonsensical part was actually thinking Snape is qualitatively different in nature somehow than every other character in JKR's books. Of course, personally I think his feelings about Lily actually are the most vivid and human thing about him and I never saw his former complex 3d glory in the first place, so what do I know. I figure I'm still not the person to write Snape meta :P

I do agree with [ profile] maeglinyedi's explanation of why it made sense for him to die when and how he did (besides just it being OOC for him to throw himself in front of Harry, probably, though he'd do it if he had to... but what would be the point of that?) I think Snape's death wasn't pointless anymore than Sirius's was; neither was it 'merely' a plot-point but rather a major turning point in Harry's development as a character (even if we didn't see it, we see its effects, I believe). And yeah, I think it's hard to really make sense of the HP books unless you take It's All About Harry as a major axiom for why things happen the way they do on a deeper level.

I feel like that should be a deep criticism on my part, but then I just don't care, hahahaflskjafsklaj. Sorry, fandom.
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October 2007

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