After the quick foray on succesful endings on the last two posts, we finally return to the issue in question that started the debate: why is the ending to Harry Potter so inadequate? Remember that we talked about the conclusion of a story taking two main ways: the closing of the cycle and, with it, the story and the open ending, with a great chance of creativity in this last case. Now it is time to contrast those endings and see how much of these you can see in that dreaded novel.
Part 3 – Finding an Ending
We will use both ways to analyze the ending, since any defender of the Potter series may say one or another of the following arguments (more or less):
- It’s a good ending (it’s over)
- It does not tell you everything, so you can imagine the rest (open ending)
I have heard a bit of both, although I personally think none of them really apply to explain what it was that really happened when J.K. Rowling faced the task to finish her epos. But let us first examine each argument.
It does not tell you everything
When talking about the Deadly Hallows, people told me that the open ending was on purpose, so the reader could be part of the story and imagine any possible outcome. I do definitely not agree with this. Even in Anne Rice’s and George Martin’s works, who do tie-ins into their next novels, there is some sort of conclusion. A cycle ends, giving way for new growth in the next volume. Let’s contrast this with Harry Potter: the last battle at Hogwarts is, to be sure, an end of the cycle. Many people die (off-screen), signaling the end of the conflict. Voldermoth’s story has a conclusion. After that you skip to a scenario around ten years later, at the rail station 9 3/4. the surviving characters have kids and they still bicker as if nothing had happened. This sudden cut-away leaves a bad taste in the mouth, something similar happening at the end of the first Star Wars trilogy: a huge party and then the credits. Although, to Lucas’ credit, at least we know that Anakin found peace (the original cycle), Han Solo keeps the chick and, in the remastered versions, we see some happy citizens of the galaxy enjoying a party and toppling old statues. In Rowling’s series we saw none of it.
Even Lovecraft had to explain the conclusions he gave his reader: if this or that person survived, even if it was for unknown reasons, what happened with the occultists, etc. In Harry Potter we have no further explanations. It is as if the deaths of the friends that helped Harry for years just disappeared from the memory, with no further trace. I always wanted to know how the surviving Weasley twin would cope with the death of what was essentially his other half. Instead we get silence.
I understand that Rowling is trying to apply a cyclical thought to the conflict between the wizards, but this cycle had met its end. Why not explain it? The answer may be simple: lazy, rushed writing. Well, at least not enough to live up to the expectations created after years and years of waiting.
It is a good ending
Here I have to return to The Lord of the Rings. While the book dedicates a whole part of the third part in explaining the consequences of the War of the Ring, in Harry Potter shows no real consequence to its own war, which resulted not only in a myriad of deaths, but also the infiltration of the wizardly institutions. For me this is a pretty big deal. Why not explain the consequences?
Second, if the Malfoys have proven for the second time that they were murderous and deceitful bastards, why do they still roam about the world? It was very easy to incarcerate Sirius Black, but what about Lucius? There is no real punishment behind the actions he carried out. No wonder there is a cycle of violence in the wizard-world: they let the bad guys free no matter how dreadful their crimes.
Rowling had already written six books. Why not finish the last with a full explanation? Some say she was pressured, but the movie came out many years later. Nay, I say, she was already tired of her own creation. All we see is a gap in between the conclusion and the last chapter. Harry even died and revived to be able to defeat the dark lord, and still all we got from his new state of being was that he married and got kids. What about his school? How did he finish it? Did he repeat the seventh year or did he get it just because everyone is happy? As you see, there are questions upon questions, and they had a need to be responded, even if partially. Why else would he fret in school for six years while defeating and evil overlord?
The simple omission of the details turns this ending into an inconsistent one; everyone is free to behave as they like, even though Harry Potter and his friends were continuously watched over, criticised and punished for every little thing. I do not understand now if, in the wizard-world, you have to be responsible for your actions or not. But the lack of consistent consequences just shows you that there is a huge missed opportunity. All the buildup of Rowling was smashed by simply not even punishing the Death-Eaters, at least not visibly.
I feel that the whole seventh volume of the series was just a desperate cry of the author to finish the whole issue she had gotten into; be it to satisfy the ensuing pressure because of her popularity, the films, or just because she was already bored with the whole concept. It is a sad way to end the books that carried me throughout most of my teenage years, leaving me with a sad bitter taste in my mouth. In any case, there could have been a better ending. It just needed one more chapter, not half a book!
I hope you enjoyed this first part of the series. I will bring up some more topics around the writing of fantasy, hopefully bringing some interesting details out in the books that have fascinated us with their magic. Up to then, fare well!
May they smile upon your way!