Wednesday, April 24, 2013


First Paragraph: Mr. Weasley woke them after only a few hours sleep. He used magic to pack up the tents, and they left the campsite as quickly as possible, passing Mr. Roberts at the door of his cottage. Mr. Roberts had a strange, dazed look about him, and he waved them off with a vague “Merry Christmas.” “He’ll be all right,” said Mr. Weasley quietly as they marched off onto the moor. “Sometimes, when a person’s memory’s modified, it makes him a bit disorientated for a while . . . and that was a big thing they had to make him forget.”

Hi there, Esteemed Reader. I'm hoping you're well. I myself am just a bit sleepy. I've got a lot going on just lately--don't we all? But this week is particularly kicking my butt and its during such a hectic time that I'm most glad to take a Harry Potter break:)

For what's a great book for if not to distract and entertain the reader? For at least a little while this week I was sucked into the fantastical world of Rowling's imagination. I wasn't thinking about all the things I still needed to do or all the other stresses recently wearing me out. Instead, I was contemplating the Weasley family's marvelous clock that doesn't tell the time:

Mrs. Weasley glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner. Harry liked this clock. It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise very informative. It had nine golden hands, and each of them was engraved with one of the Weasley family’s names. There were no numerals around the face, but descriptions of where each family member might be. “Home,” “school,” and “work” were there, but there was also “traveling,” “lost,” “hospital,” “prison,” and, in the position where the number twelve would be on a normal clock, “mortal peril.” 
Eight of the hands were currently pointing to the “home” position, but Mr. Weasley’s, which was the longest, was still pointing to “work.” Mrs. Weasley sighed.

It's a fun clock, sort of a magical version of Facebook, but why doesn't it tell the time? Surely a clock capable of tracking all members of a family in real time could also tell the time. My phone can track email, Facebook, and Twitter. It can also play Avatar, all while keeping the time. The reason the Weasley's amazing clock can't tell time is because of this amusing description:  It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise very informative. I submit to you that if Rowling hadn't got the clever turn of phrase in her head, that magic clock would also tell the time.

Chapter 10 is about set-up and pay-off, which is Rowling's formula for the entire book: interesting set-up, satisfying pay-off. First, she pays off a set-up from chapters 6 and 7, when you'll remember she did a fine job establishing Mrs. Weasley's anger and exasperation with her boys. But my how the tables have turned:

“You’re all right,” Mrs. Weasley muttered distractedly, releasing Mr. Weasley and staring around at them all with red eyes, “you’re alive. . . . Oh boys . . ."
And to everybody’s surprise, she seized Fred and George and pulled them both into such a tight hug that their heads banged together. 
“Ouch! Mum — you’re strangling us —” 
“I shouted at you before you left!” Mrs. Weasley said, starting to sob. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about! What if You-Know-Who had got you, and the last thing I ever said to you was that you didn’t get enough O.W.L.s? Oh Fred . . . George . . .”

Witness that even as Rowling is paying off a previous set-up, she is also creating a new set-up for a later pay-off (even if it contains adverbs in speech attribution, which is a pet peeve of mine):

“What are you two up to?” said Mrs. Weasley sharply, her eyes on the twins. 
“Homework,” said Fred vaguely. (hate this "vaguely" as it adds nothing--MGN)
“Don’t be ridiculous, you’re still on holiday,” said Mrs. Weasley. 
“Yeah, we’ve left it a bit late,” said George. 
“You’re not by any chance writing out a new order form, are you?” said Mrs. Weasley shrewdly. (I don't hate this "shrewdly," but we really don't need it--MGN) “You wouldn’t be thinking of re-starting Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, by any chance?” 
“Now, Mum,” said Fred, looking up at her, a pained look on his face. “If the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and George and I died, how would you feel to know that the last thing we ever heard from you was an unfounded accusation?” 
Everyone laughed, even Mrs. Weasley.

This final laugh is icing on the cake. Rowling has fully established both Mrs. Weasley and the twins as characters who leap off the page and she did it on both the micro and macro levels. These set-ups and pay-offs don't just move the story, they create character by showing us what's really important to Mrs. Weasley and her sons. On the micro level, the details about Mrs. Weasley's worry clock and the twin's joke shop order form establish who they are as set pieces, but only by seeing them tested and in action do we learn who they are as characters. 

One metaphor I might imagine for this book as a whole is a tapestry of some sort, woven with set-ups and pay-offs, each more satisfying than the last. This business with the twins and their mother was a short-spanned set-up and pay-off, and is not a major element of the story which is why it was cut out of the movie:) 

But there are longer stands. Remember, this is the book in which Ron and Harry are going to have their lover's quarell. But if Rowling waits until the big fight to show us Ron being a big jerk, there's a risk we not like Ron anymore and worse, we may not care about their fight. Therefore, Rowling plants the seeds of Ron's resentment of Harry and his money and popularity early, starting really in Chapter 7. She does in subtle ways:

There was a silence in which Ron fidgeted absentmindedly with a hole in his Chudley Cannons bedspread.

And not-so-subtle ways:

“Mum, you’ve given me Ginny’s new dress,” said Ron, handing it out to her. 
“Of course I haven’t,” said Mrs. Weasley. “That’s for you. Dress robes.” 
“What?” said Ron, looking horror-struck. 
“Dress robes!” repeated Mrs. Weasley. “It says on your school list that you’re supposed to have dress robes this year . . . robes for formal occasions.” 
“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Ron in disbelief. “I’m not wearing that, no way.” 
“Everyone wears them, Ron!” said Mrs. Weasley crossly. “They’re all like that! Your father’s got some for smart parties!” 
“I’ll go starkers before I put that on,” said Ron stubbornly. 
“Don’t be so silly,” said Mrs. Weasley. “You’ve got to have dress robes, they’re on your list! I got some for Harry too . . . show him, Harry. . . .” 
In some trepidation, Harry opened the last parcel on his camp bed. It wasn’t as bad as he had expected, however; his dress robes didn’t have any lace on them at all — in fact, they were more or less the same as his school ones, except that they were bottle green instead of black. 
“I thought they’d bring out the color of your eyes, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley fondly. 
“Well, they’re okay!” said Ron angrily, looking at Harry’s robes. “Why couldn’t I have some like that?”
“Because . . . well, I had to get yours secondhand, and there wasn’t a lot of choice!” said Mrs. Weasley, flushing. 
Harry looked away. He would willingly have split all the money in his Gringotts vault with the Weasleys, but he knew they would never take it.

And that's all the review time I can carve out this week, Esteemed Reader. I've got to get back to running every direction, but it was nice to stop by and see you for a bit:) Let's do it again next week. 

Last Paragraph: “Why is everything I own rubbish?” said Ron furiously, striding across the room to unstick Pigwidgeon’s beak.

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