The theme of death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


CONTAINS SPOILERS. Since he was marked by Voldemort as a baby it’s been clear that Voldemort’s defeat rests on Harry Potter’s shoulders. The prophecy states that “neither can live while the other survives.” Harry’s  already made the choice between what is right and what is easy. His decision to face Voldemort is not “if” but “when” and “how.”

Along with good vs. evil, and the burden of being “the one,”  death is a looming theme. Dumbledore paints death as a great adventure. Voldemort fears it and seeks to power over it. Throughout the series and especially in this last installment beloved characters die heroic deaths in the battle against Voldemort. Loved ones grieve their loss. This is the nature of death.

In the first movie Harry gazes into The Mirror of Erised (desire backwards) and he sees his dead parents. Quirrell/Voldemort is mistaken or lying when he tells Harry he can bring them back in exchange for the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Sorcerer’s Stone offers fortune and immortality but it’s the Resurrection Stone that brings back the dead. Since he loves no one, the only person Voldemort would care to resurrect is himself; it is immortality of the Sorcerer’s Stone that Voldemort is after but it is destroyed in the first movie.

In an attempt to gain immortality to go with his quest for absolute power Voldemort tears apart his own soul and commits murders to create horcruxes to house the pieces of his shattered soul. Fear of death motivates a few wizards to choose life as ghosts. Nearly Headless Nick tells Harry “I know nothing of the secrets of death, for I chose my feeble imitation of life.” A ghost is merely an imprint of a departed soul, but having splintered his own this is no longer a possibility for Voldemort.

Voldemort is not even aware that the Resurrection Stone is the stone in Marvolo’s ring though it is one of his horcruxes. Dumbledore eventually destroys the horcrux but not before his obsession with the Hallows gets the better of him and he puts on the ring but its curses as a horcrux damages him irreparably. In Deathly Hallows 2 Harry discovers Dumbledore has passed him the stone.

The Resurrection Stone bridges the separation caused by death, but the story about the three Hallows in the Tales of Beadle the Bard makes it clear that the dead are not truly restored to real life by the stone. It merely permits its master to talk to the dead. Whether it’s because of the stone or the deeper magic of love itself Harry’s parents and friends are able to walk with him  through the forest for his showdown with Voldemort. Dumbledore’s words to Harry at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban “You think the dead we loved ever really leave us?” provide a more empowering, sustainable perspective on communicating with the dead.

Love is the weapon and sacrifice is the method in this battle for good over evil. Though he underestimates it, Voldemort does understand that love has power. He understands that Lily Potter’s sacrificial love is the force that protects Harry. Voldemort taunts his victims by telling them that they are not loved. He attempts to diminish Harry by painting him as a selfish coward. He taunts Harry by reminding him that people he loves have lost their lives protecting him.

There is plenty to foreshadow the powerful magic that closes the adventure. Dumbledore’s Phoenix dies and rises from the ashes, Harry’s wand core is phoenix feather, and the group trying to defeat Voldemort is the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort is out to defeat death. The Hallows represent three responses to death. The quest for power over it, the longing to bridge the gap death creates, and the desire to avoid it until the time is right. For those who didn’t read the books, engraved on Harry’s parent’s headstone is the epitaph: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” That’s I Cor. 15:26 by the way. I looked for it Deathly Hallows Pt 1 but didn’t see it. Maybe the filmmakers thought it would be too much of a hint.

In HP&tDH Pt.2 Snape comments that Harry has been kept alive until the proper moment. When Harry finally understands that he is a horcrux he willingly gives himself over to death so Voldemort can be defeated. Later in the empty King’s Cross limbo Dumbledore explains that “You are the true master of death because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.” Apparently voluntary sacrifice motivated and assisted by love defeats evil and death and may result in resurrection. It’s the theme in my favorite story ever and I liked how it is communicated  in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows. 

One Response to “The theme of death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

  • Ranje Says:

    Oh no .I’ve read Christopher Paolini’s books I found them very immature and urniigonal. He has to understand that writing a lot doesn’t mean it’s good. The foundation of the plot, characters, themes it’s all just recycled version of Star Wars and the literary masterpiece of Tokien. Except in the case the books aren’t that good. Not only did it lack integrity when it came to writing (which is actually quite necessary in the new age fantasy) it was just not good