Here’s my reflections on the Harry Potter books as I cruise through them before the final movie is released:
The first book is cute. I’m not very insightful, am I? I was struck by how close the movie was to the book and while that’s commendable for the makers of the first movie, I’m kind of hoping it doesn’t last through the series because I’m trying to dive into the whole story. I did remember a thought that went through my head a while ago when I gave Sorcerer’s Stone a read; that while I loved the school dynamics and the very British-based tradition of “houses” and what not, it bugged me that all the “good guys” are Gryffindors and everyone in Slytherin is essentially evil waiting to happen.
For one, this is a children’s…young adult series and plays very much into a black and white moral world. There’s good and there’s bad and the bad must be stood up to. A familiar literary trope and not an undigestable one. Yet Hogwarts is constructed as a kind of morally-neutral world where the purpose is learning and even if you’re bad-to-the bone rotten, they’re not really concerned, as long as you’re in bed on time.
I thought Rowling created some engrossing foundations with the four houses (who doesn’t think about what house they would be in? ) and then basically junked Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw because they’re not on one end of the moral spectrum and therefore unimportant to the story. I think it would have been, I don’t know, more engrossing to an older audience if Harry and Ron were Gryffindors, showing the duel ends of the spectrum of bravery, Hermione was a studious, know-it-all Ravenclaw and Neville was a blundering, but endearing Hufflepuff (isn’t that who all the Hufflepuffs are?).
I also had an outlandish idea; namely that Malfoy, while remaining in Slytherin, was part of our central group of kids, not as the foil, but as the difficult and narcissistic bad boy character (misunderstood anyone? who doesn’t love the misunderstood boy?), but was absolutely one of the main cohort of friends. After all, at the end of the day, these books are about friendships, difficult as they are, and about Voldemort and his troop of baddies against the wizarding world. If you’re a member of his pack, why would you send your kid off to a school where they taught “good” magic?
That group of kids would have been my method of telling the story. A…Stand by Me version of the Hogwarts kids I guess you could say. Alas, it was not to be. Now I’m off to book 2. Gotta pick up the pace!