Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Series

In life, mirrors reflect reality rather sharply and, to some POVs, unforgivingly.  In fiction, especially fantasy, mirrors may take on a magical quality and provide insight into the subjects they reflect, or show people and action beyond its borders, such as the mirror in Snow White.  However reflections also serve as a literary device.  By mirroring a later action or scene against an earlier one, the author can, through differentiation, show character growth, deepening conflict, or earned triumph.

J.K. Rowling works frequently with mirrors both as a thematic image as well as scenic reflections. From the emulation of a heart's true desire in the Mirror of Erised at the beginning of her saga, to the providential eye of Aberforth Dumbledore watching over the Trio through the broken mirror, mirrored scenes provide the reader greater understanding through deepening perceptions and contrasts.

Perhaps one of the most striking mirrored devices is the framing of the series itself.  Have you ever noticed that the last half of the series reflects the first with Goblet of Fire as the pivot-hinge? When you look at the series from this vantage point, Order of the Phoenix reflects Prisoner of Azkaban, Half-Blood Prince reflects Chamber of Secrets, and Deathly Hallows reflects Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black is introduced as a murderous escaped prisoner intent on harming Harry and almost loses his soul. In Order of the Phoenix, Sirius is the loving godfather, imprisoned in his own home, who saves Harry and loses his life.

In Chamber of Secrets, the mysterious Tom Riddle is introduced. Through Riddle's diary, Harry explores his past at Hogwarts -- but through a web of lies as Voldemort's soul presents it. A monster is set lose in the castle, and innocent students are petrified. In Half Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore together explore Voldemort's past through the truthful reflections of the Pensieve (itself a mirror-like object). In the end, the monstrous Death Eaters are set lose inside Hogwarts, and Dumbledore is killed defending his students.

And in Philosopher's Stone, Harry must seek out an object which in Voldemort's possession would grant him immortality. He believes that Snape is Voldemort's accomplice, but in the end, finds out Snape has been defending Harry all along. Likewise, in Deathly Hallows, Harry must seek out and destroy each of Voldemort's Horcruxes before he can confront him face to face in the Great Hall. However, in DH, Hermione, Ron, and Neville also help to destroy the bits of Voldy's soul. As in PS/SS, Harry believes almost until the end that Snape murdered Dumbeldore on Voldemort's order and is his most faithful servant.  Only near the end does Harry discovers Snape's pledged protection as a faithful reminder of his love for Lily.

Like many authors, Jo seemed very intent on bringing her series full circle in Deathly Hallows.  And so, between book 1 and book 7, we can find many smaller reflections as well.

  • what Harry and Ron yearned for in PS/SS in the Mirror of Erised is gained in DH -- Harry is reunited through the stone with his deceased family, if only briefly. Ron achieves outstanding leadership and greater fame than any of his brothers as he helps Harry defeat Voldemort, including saving Harry's life and destroying the locket Horcrux.
  • Hagrid carries Harry to the Dursley home on Sirius' motorbike in PS, and away from it on the same bike in DH
  • Hagrid gives Harry Hedwig in PS, and is with Harry when Hedwig is killed in DH
  • Hagrid also brings Harry's body out of the forest in DH as he carried baby Harry out of the Godric's Hollow house in PS
  • Harry is warned (in a way) against robbing Gringotts in PS/SS and robs it in DH
  • Harry is symbolically adopted as a Weasley through Mrs. Weasley's Christmas sweater (jumper) in PS/SS and marries into the Weasley clan before the Epilogue of DH.

As a writer you can mirror your scenes to not only show plot changes and character development but to drop clues and hints of secrets as well. It’s a great technique to revisit an earlier scene through someone else’s POV to distinguish between characters, or through the same eyes as before to show how that character’s perspective has changed or developed. Once a scene’s structure has been established, its mirrored reflection can point to distinctions that hint at clues, secrets, and changes and help involve your readers deeper into the story as they analyze the parallels and differences.

Have you played with mirrored scenes or actions within a book or from one book to another within a series?  What kind of changes did you project within your reflection?