war is like that (HP7 spoilers under cut)

I know it’s a little presumptuous of me, with my safe protected life, to be pontificating about what war is like. On the other hand my earliest memories are of a time when we were at war and war and its effects have been in the news every year of my life. Some things are pretty plain even when you look at the from outside.

Below the cut, some thoughts about the nature of war and how it affected the handling of some events in Deathly Hallows.


One complaint I’ve been seeing a lot in a lot of places is that many of the deaths in this book seem to be throw-away items, that there is no time to mourn.

I don’t think that’s a flaw; I think that’s the whole point.

This is a war – and not a somewhere-else war, like the ones Americans are used to reading about in the papers, but one that’s right there in the center of the lives of our viewpoint characters. It overshadows everything for every character mentioned in DH; even during the wedding they can’t escape it. In a war, lots of people die. That’s especially true when you’re fighting someone like Voldemort, who actually does consider other people’s live to be throw-away items, important only insofar as they are useful to him. But even for those who do
value life – in a battle you don’t always have time to stop and grieve. Sometimes you take that grief, stuff it back inside and sew it in for as long as the stitches will hold, because otherwise there would be additional deaths, possibly including your own. (And to consider the gut-wound metaphor, you just hope you get to deal with it properly before peritonitis sets in.)

Then after the war, you celebrate and then you grieve and I suspect mostly you just try to get over your exhaustion and try to figure how to put the world back together. The world’s much more disrupted than we really see in the book; people haven’t been able to go to work for months and the Ministry and Hogwarts haven’t done their proper job for a year or so. Even the Muggle world’s been affected, and there are likely resulting food and infrastructure problems we don’t see. People don’t just have to rebuild their lives when the ones they love are dead; they have to rebuild some of everything, because every part of their world has been damaged. And this comes at a time when, triumphant theough they may feel, they’re also all exhausted from the final battle and all of the lead-up to it. We see a glimpse of this in the Great Hall at the end – Ginny sitting with her head on her mother’s shoulder is the perfect image for me, expressing all at once gratitude for saving her from Bellatrix, love, pride, grief, and exhaustion. (I may be reading in a bit too much here!) That’s likely also why the epilogue is set nearly two decades later; all the hard work (and the hard-to-write bits) are
over and the world is more or less back to normal.

So people do die casually and in the background, as accidents of war and on the Death Eaters’ whims. The ones who love them can’t grieve at the time, and then later when they can catch a breath there’s so much to do and each single loss is so much a part of the bigger catastrophe. It would have been nice if we could see George trying to run the joke shop on his own, Harry trying to be the father-figure to Teddy that Sirius didn’t have time to be to him, whether Winky ever decided if freedom was worth the price Dobby paid for it. But if JKR didn’t feel up to writing all of that, I think I can understand it.

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