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Thread #1: There is a fundumental issue at stake when considering these two essays: Neville and Luna: The Ship That Should Have Been and The Rejected Ship: Explaining Neville and Luna. While one fan claims they saw something significant in their own reading of the text, leading them to believe that Neville and Luna do end up together in a romantic relationship at the end of Deathly Hallows, another fan insists this cannot be so because Jk Rowling has made it clear in past interviews that these characters have romantic futures with other people, namely Hannah Abbot and Rolf Scamander.
The Question: Beneath this romantic drama is a writing question: To what degree does an author have authority in determining the behavior of their characters or the meaning of their work? Is the writer truly like a god, the final word on any issue being theirs, alone, because they wrote the thing - or can a reader draw their own interpretations to an extent through analysis of the actual text, their discovered meaning becoming something equal to the writer's own? Let's have a chat.
I believe that the writer is the original mind behind the story, so the writer has authority, more so than others. The writer definitely determines the behavior of their characters, which is my point in this essay. The point of any novel is to watch the characters develop. The intention behind writing those characters is to send a certain message. Our job as readers is to discover what this message is. The author determines the characters through text and words (both of which are equally significant to the writer) and the readers, using the text and words as guidelines, determine their own meaning.
Rowling herself stated that none of her characters are just placed there. She doesn't even kill anyone off lightly but thinks long and hard before doing it. Every character is important to her to serve some purpose. That goes for Hannah Abbot, who though minor appeared in almost all seven books as Ernie's friend. One could argue that the author can choose not to take this role of authority on, but as we can all attest to, Rowling is very protective of her characters and her storyline.
Hpboy 13 points to the idea that Luna and Neville both lost a mother which adds to intimacy. That is a good point but can be taken to the other side as well. Rowling, to give purpose, killed Hannah's mother in Book 6 to show the scars of war and to set some similarity up between her and Neville.
Comment by Harry_Potter_Prince on August 24, 2011
First, I'm thrilled that Harry_Potter_Prince was sufficiently interested in my essay to respond, and I thank him for doing so... I welcome the debate! With that said, I read the response, and I believe my points were over-simplified. Harry_Potter_Prince draws a lot of parallels to Harry/Hermione to refute Neville/Luna, and I find an inherent flaw in this reasoning.
We're privy to Harry/Hermione's interactions all the time, which means we have the context to realize that they are not, in fact, madly in love with each other. We do not enjoy the same luxury with Neville and Luna, so it's therefore easy to misconstrue possibly platonic actions as romantic. My essay pointed out why I thought they'd get together - because nothing in the books refuted it, and it seemed like hints were being dropped to support it. If we spent a greater amount of time with them, there's every chance I would've changed my mind.
But the bigger question is whether we accept Jo's word as law. I do for the most part, but because Jo is only human, we have to sometimes take it with a grain of salt. For example, in the leadup to the release of DH, Jo posted a detailed explanation of the Fidelius Charm, which then was directly contradicted in Book 7. So which one to believe? The books, I believe. Same thing goes for Hermione's middle name (Jane vs Jean), the number of students at Hogwarts, etc.
So I'll accept Jo's word only if it doesn't contradict the books. In my opinion, the books point towards a Neville/Luna relationship, and it seems like Jo just arbitrarily picked names for their spouses. If in Pottermore Jo gives us a thorough explanation of why Neville/Hannah and Luna/Rolf happened, I'll accept it, even if I don't like it.
Comment by Hpboy13 on September 2, 2011
The term author, evidently derived from 'authority', indicates to me that they have the definitive answers, the truth, in their power. The characters they create come from them, are part of them, and I therefore do not think that they would decide their futures without a great deal of thought: especially in the case of JK Rowling, who is renowned for her backstory. We must accept what an author tells us as fact, knowing that they always know more than we ever can.
However, I believe there is a difference in what the author reveals and what they hold back. Chaucer once wrote that an author releasing their work to the world must think "go, little book, go", implying that once available to the public eye the author loses control over their work. Analysis of any text will unearth meanings that the author may well have been unaware of, but this does not make the interpretation wrong. In terms of Neville/Luna, I believe we must accept that they never marry each other, as JK Rowling has refuted these assertions; however she has not said whether or not they could have been together at some point. You would be perfectly entitled to suggest that they were together at some point in their lives, but I don't think readers can ignore the author's final say. Rowling may not be god-like in her powers, but she rules over her Kingdom, and we have to respect this.
Comment by Helena on September 3, 2011
The issues of characters' behaviour and the meanings within an author's work are two separate issues. Whilst in a piece of writing a character is an autonomous creation, who will act as they see fit, meanings are entirely more insubstantial.
In my opinion, an author's authority goes as far as the actions are tangible. If Neville marries Hannah Abbott, then that is how it is. If a baby who sees a death cannot see Thestrals, then that is so. An author's job is a combination of creator and teacher; it is their responsibility to make sure everything functions together, and to show the reader how that works. Readers should of course read the texts critically, making their own decisions about the way they think situations should go - and some extremely convincing cases (alas, for me, HMS Neville-and-Luna is not one of these) have been made about theories, without any confirmation from the author, but I don't believe you can create an argument without substantial, convincing evidence, particularly in cases whereby the author has established a clear alternative.
As for an author's authority on the meaning of their work - that is something quite different. Comparisons with other texts, which Rowling may never even have considered, are valid and interesting if there is enough evidence. If there was enough solid evidence, you could probably compare Harry Potter and Downton Abbey or Glee. Meaning is entirely subjective, and the debate should always thrive, whether with or without the author's confirmation.
Comment by Abbii on September 7, 2011
The printed page of the series holds the life and times of Harry Potter. His experiences, actions and decisions are all straight from the mind of J.K. Rowling. Yet it was our imaginations which brought life to the adventures on the pages - we were able to see the Wizarding World in a way that not even the movies or the books could possibly recreate. The story is not lavished on its own through the words of the author but with the audiences' personal interpretations of said words.
"Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face."
"Severus . . . please . . ." (HBP, p. 595)
What these printed words make you, as the audience, feel is solely relative to you. Preconceived notions of either character may make each individual reader believe what they will about the situation regardless of the actual happenstance of the moment. By this point in HBP we all have opinions which will reject or accept at face value what transpires at this moment in the series. Personal analysis on the account of the reader is what created the 'Friend or Foe' camp of Severus Snape following the close of this book. And even given what we now know about Snape, that shouldn't mean that everyone who interpreted Snape as a villain was wrong. Audiences are the final word once the book is in our hands.
Comment by MaL on September 9, 2011
The author of a work is the person that sets up the 'world' of the story, populates it with characters, fleshes out those characters with history, motivation, description, and so on, and weaves the narrative by allowing or making those characters interact both with each other and the world around them. The extent to which everything about each character and the world they inhabit is described varies from author to author and novel to novel. But, as someone has said, this is set in stone, this is the author's vision and cannot be changed or interpreted.
It is what is left unsaid or not described that gives rise to interpretation and speculation and it is this that has driven the English Lit 'industry' since time immemorial. Here the author has no control even if they had a much more complete vision of a character in their head than they actually got down on paper. Any interpretation is valid.
By far the most interesting question is, does an author have the 'authority' to revisit a work and impose an interpretation retrospectively? Isn't this what JK Rowling is trying to do with Mugglenet, revealing those detailed thoughts which were in her head or notes but which never made it into the novels?
And, at the end of the day, isn't the whole experience of reading a novel enhanced by the fact that the reader can 'fill in the gaps' and add their own unique interpretation of the story in front of them, just as they visualise the world and characters that inhabit it in their mind's eye?
Comment by Stuart on September 10, 2011
The meaning of an author's work is an entirely subjective thing. It is determined by the reader in his own emotional language; this is not a reduction in the powers of the author, but one definition of their role. Authors look to affect peoples hearts, their lives if possible, and this can only be achieved if readers are given a license to define, mould and possess the work. But an author must have authority over the behaviour of their characters. How else would they navigate their readers through the story they're telling, how else would they fulfill their publication's purpose?
But this doesn't mean that the characters can only be accurately or validly directed by the author. Where the author leaves off is where the reader begins; usually this means where the book ends. However we know that in the case of JK Rowling different rules apply. Having worked for 17 years on a saga that spans 7 of the most formative years in human life, having invested much care in creating foundations upon which her characters would build futures, it is almost impossible to disregard her conclusions, even if they come after publication. She has been privy to her characters' lives in ways we haven't and probably decided their respective paths before we, the readers, even had access to all of the books. Hannah most likely had possession of her wedding ring before Ron did of the Deluminator. In cases such as these, a determined end should be respected.
Comment by ZHusain on September 16, 2011
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