Harry Potter and the Nice Big Knot
By Susan Faust
The Final Payoff
J.K. Rowling has already shown the ability to deliver this kind of resolution in her individual book plots. She stimulated our appetite for surprising conclusions with her previous offerings, and created our expectations for more of the same in the overall series plot. And all the evidence from her public remarks points to the conclusion that she aims to give us one.
Rowling frequently talks about the five years it took her to construct her plot—not just seven separate plots for seven separate books, but the plot for the entire series:
It took me five years to work out this very long plot.6
She emphasizes the effort she has put into it:
This is a very, very all-consuming project, a seven-novel series. …It's an increasingly complex plot, as I always planned it. Obviously it's the focus of an enormous amount of my time and energy and a huge part of my life.7
It seems that as hard as Rowling has worked to create satisfying and surprising plots for her first six books, she has worked even harder on the overall series plot. It only makes sense to expect that this plot payoff will be the best of the lot. And we know, because she has told us so, that for Rowling as for us, a surprise plot payoff with a twist is the best kind of all. Or, as she puts it, “perfection”:
I love a good whodunnit and my passion is plot construction. Readers loved to be tricked, but not conned. The best twist ever in literature is in Jane Austen's Emma. To me she is the target of perfection at which we shoot in vain.8
If that is not enough for us to be confident that we have at least one more surprising perspective change in store for us, we have Rowling’s statement from the Jeremy Paxman interview:
There is one thing that if anyone guessed I would be really annoyed as it is kind of the heart of it all. And it kind of explains everything…everything has been building up to it, and I've laid all my clues.9
It sounds like there is something coming that will knock our socks off. “Everything” has been building up to it—surely this “everything” will include quite a few of the open sub-plots listed above. It will tie everything up neatly in a nice big knot, so we can expect many seemingly unrelated threads to be connected. And it “kind of explains everything”—what better way to express the click-into-place power of the sudden change in perspective the fourth category of resolution gives us?
Rowling has carefully provided herself with a wealth of open plot threads crying out for resolution. She has shown, again and again, that she can craft resolutions that tie together unrelated threads in surprising and satisfying ways. And she has stated, as explicitly as possible, that she intends to provide this kind of resolution to her overall series plot. Would you care to wager that she won’t succeed?
I’ve looked at the loose threads in the Harry Potter series and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to tie them into a nice big knot, with a twist, that explains everything. But I’ll bet J.K. Rowling can, and has.
1. Rowling, Interview by Margot Adler, paragraph 5.
2. Ibid., Interview by Jeremy Paxman.
3. Lexicon, s.v. “Scrapbook,” item 12.
4. Rowling, “Edinburgh Book Festival.”
5. Ibid., Interview by Jeremy Paxman.
6. Matsuda, “Wild about Harry,” paragraph 22.
7. Rowling, Interview by Margot Adler, paragraph 5.
8. Boquet, “Wizard Behind Harry Potter,” part 3.
9. Rowling, Interview by Jeremy Paxman
Boquet, Tim. "J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter," Reader's Digest, December 2000. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1200-readersdigest-boquet.htm (accessed 16 November 2006).
The Harry Potter Lexicon, s.v. “J.K.Rowling—Official Site: The Scrapbook.” Member of the Floo Network. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/about/sources/jkr.com/jkr-com-scrapbook.html (accessed 15 November 2006).
Matsuda, Neil. "Everyone’s just wild about Harry," Villarum, January 2001. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/0101-villarum-matsuda.htm (accessed 15 November 2006).
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
———. Interview by Jeremy Paxman. BBC Newsnight, 19 June 2003. Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0619-bbcnews-paxman.htm (accessed 15 November 2006).
———. Interview by Lindsey Fraser. “News: J K Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival,” Sunday, August 15, 2004. J.K. Rowling Official Site. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/news_view.cfm?id=80 (accessed 15 November 2006).
———. Interview by Margot Adler. "Harry Potter," Morning Edition, NPR Radio, 27 October, 2000. Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-npr-adler.htm (accessed 15 November 2006).