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religion, death and choice in Harry Potter

July 30, 2007

So did J.K. Rowling mean to write a story that has to do with religion?

In her interview with NBC a child asked her about this, here is the dialoge:

Young voice: Harry’s also referred to as the chosen one.  So are there religious–
J.K. Rowling: Well, there– there clearly is a religious– undertone.  And– it’s always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming.  So … yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book.

Meredith Vieira: And what is the struggle?
J.K. Rowling: Well my struggle really is to keep believing.
Meredith Vieira: To keep believing?
J.K. Rowling: Yes.

And on the role of choice in the books

J.K. Rowling: I really, really, really cried after writing Chapter 34, which is where Harry walks back into the forest for what he thinks will be the last time … It was because I had to live that with Harry and feel the weight of his disillusionment and his fear because he believes he’s being sent to his death by Dumbledore who he saw wanted to keep him alive.  So that was massively moving to me to write.
Meredith Vieira: Why was it important to you, Jo, to write about the cruelty and inhumanity?
J.K. Rowling: I’m not sure why. (LAUGHTER) But it was what I wanted to write about most.  And it’s about choice.  And you are shown that Voldemort. I mean, it– I suppose we’re going to call him a psychopath.  But he’s so, in many ways, he is what he is and he’s beyond redemption. Although this being Harry Potter and because I can take liberties because I have magic in my world, it is shown at the very end of the book that he did have a chance for redemption because he had taken into his body this drop of hope or love–
Meredith Vieira: Harry’s blood.
J.K. Rowling: Right.  So that meant that if he could have mastered the courage to repent, he would have been okay.  But, of course, he wouldn’t.  And that’s his choice.  But the people around him, that’s what’s more interesting in a way. The people who were drawn to him for protection, for power, sadism.  But people who do have a choice, did make a choice, like the Malfoys of this world.  And I think that’s always worth examining why people choose to make those decisions.

 And speaking of the role of death and fear of death in the books:

Her mother was gravely ill, and then died six months after her daughter began writing the Potter story.

J.K. Rowling: One of my biggest regrets.  She never knew.  I never told her.
Meredith Vieira: She had been sick for quite awhile.  She had battled MS for ten years.
J.K. Rowling: Yeah.
Meredith Vieira: How did her departure, her death affect this book?
J.K. Rowling: Definitely Mom dying had a profound influence on the books because … in the first draft, his parents were disposed really in quite … in the most cavalier fashion.  I didn’t really dwell on it.  Six months in my mother died and I simply {couldn’t kill off the fictional} mother.  That callously.  Not– it wasn’t callous, but it’s– it wasn’t what it became … And I really think from that moment on, death became a central, if not the central, theme of the seven books.
Meredith Vieira: You mean death in terms of loss, not just the killing of people but–
J.K. Rowling: Yeah … The theme of how we react to death, how much we fear it.  Of course, I think which is a key part of the book because Voldemort is someone who will do anything not to die.  He’s terrified of death.  And in many ways, all of my characters are defined by their attitude to death and the possibility of death.

 

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2007 1:03 pm

    thanks for sharing….I miss most of these interviews.

  2. July 30, 2007 1:26 pm

    Great interview! I did feel there were stronger Christian themes with this last book & it makes sense that she couldn’t let on too much because it would have ruined the plot. LOVED this book!!!!!

  3. July 30, 2007 2:57 pm

    I’m still weepy over this book. Love the interview, thanks for posting it.

    I would love to discuss the chapter called “The Prince’s Story” or something like that (I gave the book back, so can’t remember the title). Snape is a character I would like to explore, but don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t yet read it!

  4. August 1, 2007 8:29 pm

    Interesting post.

    This interview is revealing and intriguing.

    BTW, does Harry live or die? 🙂

  5. James Carmichael permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:02 pm

    @Dannydodd: To answer your question, Both.

  6. January 5, 2012 1:31 am

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