Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Plot or Not

And who is my hero?

by Dave Butler

Harry is a damsel in distress

Plot is this: a character has a problem.  He struggles with that problem, and either overcomes it or fails.  The hero is the character who struggles.

A basic failure of plotting is the deus ex machina.  You can look up this term on Wikipedia if you want a history of it; what it means is that your hero doesn't overcome his problems, and someone else resolves them instead.  Another way of saying this is that the character who looks like your hero isn't your hero after all.

I'm going to pick on J.K. Rowling.  I'm going to do it because my opinion can't possibly hurt her, and because you all know who I'm talking about.  Here's the thing: Harry doesn't solve his own problems.  Lost in the forest?  A unicorn saves him.  Trapped with a basilisk?  A phoenix arrives and delivers a magic sword.  Has to swim underwater to save Ron and doesn't know the spell to be able to breathe down there?  Dobby the House Elf gives him some weed to chew on that solves his problem.  Weak plotting.  Deus ex machina.  Reading the books (the first 3.75 books, since I haven't read further), I have to conclude that Harry isn't, after all, the hero of these stories.  The hero is Dumbledore, or maybe the Hogwarts community.  Who is Harry Potter?  What do you call the character who fascinates everyone else, and whom the hero has to rescue?

Harry Potter is the damsel in distress.

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