Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by: J. K. Rowling

Chapters Sixteen–Seventeen

Summary Chapters Sixteen–Seventeen

Harry offers to stand guard while Hermione rests, but Hermione reveals that Harry’s wand was broken by her ricocheting curse. They attempt to repair it, but the damage is too great. In despair, and furious with Hermione for destroying his wand, Harry stoically borrows Hermione’s wand and goes to stand watch.

Analysis: Chapters Sixteen–Seventeen

Chapter Sixteen, with its trips to the graveyard and the memorial at the ruined house, is about visiting the dead. What drives the entire chapter, motivating their trip to Godric’s Hollow, is not really the quest, but rather Harry’s unresolved feelings about Dumbledore and about his parents. All that’s actually on his mind is his wanting to see for himself that Dumbledore really lived there, and perhaps finding out something more from Bathilda about Dumbledore than he could learn from Rita Skeeter’s book. Hermione is still absorbed in the mysteries of their quest for Horcruxes and sword, but she has not yet put anything together, and is groping along a dead end. It is simply convenient for Harry that she thinks the sword might be there.

Harry’s visit to the dead is frustrating for him, only increasing his resentment and despair. When he sees Kendra and Ariana’s graves, and the inscription “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” all that it means to him is that Dumbledore did leave behind relatives there and didn’t tell Harry. The inscription itself is meaningless to him—he misses the fact that it implies that Kendra treasured Ariana, and that Dumbledore treasured them both. Seeing his parents’ graves is even worse. Though their inscription suggests that death can be conquered, all that Harry can think when he sees their graves is that they are dead and moldering and are unable to see him or care about him. Thus, the visit to the dead makes the dead seem farther away than ever.

Harry’s desire to commune with the dead—especially Dumledore and his parents—is one of his central preoccupations in the book. While defeating Voldemort by destroying the Horcruxes is his conscious desire, the one he has professed to his friends, the desire to commune with the dead is his subconscious, unacknowledged desire. That desire seems to be most firmly denied in this chapter.

A tone of horror pervades Chapter Seventeen, with its crisis in the filthy, smelly house of Bathilda, and the snake possessing and reanimating Bathilda’s long-dead body. Incidentally, we see in this chapter the true nastiness of Rita Skeeter, who has taken advantage of an impoverished and senile old woman to write her book, and who stole the woman’s photographs to illustrate it. The climax of the chapter’s horror comes in the extended flashback where we see with Harry the cold-blooded murder of Harry’s parents, witnessed firsthand through Voldemort’s sick mind. The chapter culminates in the

devastating loss of Harry’s wand, driving a wedge of resentment between Harry and Hermione. Harry and Hermione were not led to Godric’s Hollow by any true insight or plan. It would be more accurate to say that they were misled there, by Harry’s grief and Hermione’s confusion.