Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

From: Chekhov To: Potter re: Gun!

So last night I finally finished reading Harry Potter 5. It was a fun read, as were the previous ones, and I still like the characters, plus I think Rowling did a good job of capturing teen arrogance/angst. BUT:
I have long since resigned myself to the fact that Rowling survives via the Idiot Plot. For those not familiar with this, it’s when a writer cannot figure out how to keep the action moving without the protagonist being an idiot. It’s like in slasher films, when there’s a killer running loose and the teens decide to split up. That’s stupid but without it there’d be no movie. This book is no different, in that Harry is still a moron. He misses everything around him—you spend several hundred pages waiting for him to catch up with what you already know.
This book was different, however, because not only was Harry an idiot, everyone else was, too. Particularly one of the book’s other central figures. And without his idiocy the gut-wrench at the end would never have occurred.
Anton Chekhov, the celebrated Russian playwright, once said “If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.” In the Harry Potter books Harry routinely walks right past these guns—half the time he trips over them and bangs that stupid scar on their barrels, but keeps right on going. This time, however, not only does he not notice the gun, the other character ignores it as well—and he put it there! I felt like saying “um, hello, sir? Did you perhaps notice the gun you’ve been carrying around all this time? You know, the one you were polishing with almost unseemly enthusiasm just a few minutes ago? Oh, you did remember it? Then could you tell me why you went after that burglar with nothing but a butter knife!”
No, I won’t go into more specifics, for those who have not yet read the book. Yes, I could put it behind a cut. If people really want me to I will. But for now suffice to say that, while I like reading her books for the characters and the setting, Rowling is a prime example of someone who desperately needs a strong editor, someone who can go over plots and point out all those massive potholes—and the woolly mammoths who have become stuck in them.
Perhaps they could borrow Chekhov’s gun to put the mammoths out of their misery.


  • At 8/03/2005 11:27 AM, Blogger jenny said…

    I quite agree. I found Harry to be VERY unlikable in 5. I appreciated the "I'm an adolescent orphan and growing up is hard," but I really had a hard time with the fact that the kids thought they were smarter than, and ddn't trust any, adults.

    6, which I finshed reading on the day it was released, (tee-hee) is better on this count, I think.

    I've been looking forward to reading your novel, I'm glad I saw the cover and realized it was part of a series. I better start from the beginning. (I've yet to satisfactorally pick up a series in the middle!) I even read Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder in order. (The latter frustrated me because I couldn't decide where "Farmer Boy" should fit!)

    My little one just woke up, so I'll go feed Josie!


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