This mini-essay explores why I think Ms. Rowling should stop discussing “what happens next” to Harry and his world.
I know many of us felt a little let down by the epilogue; that it was too vague, or that we didn’t find out what happened to our favorite character. And Ms. Rowling has recently in several interviews given us information about Luna, Neville, Ron and others. I am a voracious fiction reader, but I have yet to encounter anyone who approaches Ms. Rowling’s concern for her readers. I’m sure, unexpectedly and perhaps unlooked for, she has come to realize how important these works are to so many and that with her pen she holds the emotional and even spiritual heartstrings of so many. I, for one, am glad of it. Few great authors have shown such respect for their readers, such compassion.
And, so, I think that she is at some level worried about the finality of it all. That she fears ending, if you will, abruptly as a period, a sentence, a book, a series, a world. So, she has, in her desire to show compassion for the reader, continued to try to “let us down easily.”
I don’t think she should.
Mr. Rowling has instilled in me, like CS Lewis and Tolkein before her, a profound sense of JOY through her works. Joy, as CS Lewis defined it:
“The indescribable longing to be part of something beautiful.”
I will have more to say about joy in future essays, I hope. But as you read the definition, I hope you will surely see what I mean. She has created a world of beauty, of nobility, of grand purpose, that I ache to be part of. Not in the literal sense, for me anyway, but in the ideal sense. I long to make a difference in something great, to have relationships so deep and meaningful, and to fulfill a purpose for which I am uniquely designed.
Lewis, in his discussion of joy has brilliantly discovered, however, that it is not the thing itself for which we long, that is so exquisitely painful. No, it is the longing itself, that we feel we would trade a year of our life, maybe even our life itself, for a moment’s worth. It is that wanting, that yearning, that almost overwhelms us and suffocates us when it hits.
It is, for example, the memory of a thing, and not the thing. I have an exquisite memory of my first kiss, so many years ago. Some part of me wants desperately to go back to that time and relive it, to feel it again. But the better part of me knows it probably wasn’t as I remembered it; and oh, the devastating disappointment I’d feel if that were so. I realize that it is the memory of what I thought it was like that is so beautifully excruciating. I could not face it not being how I remembered it being.
And, so with HP. I am grateful that Ms. Rowling answered so many of my questions in the books; and I don’t think I quite could have recovered had she not told us who Harry, Ron and Hermione end up with, but I simply don’t think there could have been three better words at the end than “All was well.” Yes, I want to know what happens to everyone else, and yes I want the stories to keep going. But more than that, I want to long for knowing. I want to not know so that it might be as I hope it will be. “all is well.” It offers so much. I want to be sitting in a café or on the train or on a hilltop at midnight, and have my heart crushed by not knowing and wanting to know. As my heart ached for everyone these past ten years, I want my heart to have something to always ache for in the future.