harry potter and the half blood prince
Some might feel a little like Ron Weasley when he sees Hermione Granger reading the unreliable, indispensable wizard tabloid, the Evening Prophet. “Anyone else we know died?” enquires Harry’s bosom pal, with a “forced toughness” in his voice. Well might he ask, for the body count has been mounting. Just as Jane Austen’s sixth novel, Persuasion, was full of deaths, so is Rowling’s. It begins, in the non-magical world of us Muggles, with reports of murders and “dozens” of fatalities from a collapsing bridge (arranged somehow by the wizard villain Voldemort). It ends with the notably unconsoling funeral of one of her chief characters. In between there are plenty more deaths put on by cunning and forc’d cause.
There have been deaths before in Potter novels: the very first one tells us of the killing of Harry’s parents in its opening chapter. Now all the characters are prone to what Hermione bluntly calls “survivor’s guilt”. The deaths scattered through the previous Potter novels return in their minds to produce a prevailing mournfulness. Psychologically speaking, most are clad in inky robes. Rowling has spoken a good deal about her characters growing older, and now that Harry, Ron and Hermione are 16, the almost oppressive awareness of mortality is clearly a novelistic aspect of their maturity. Adolescence is anything but cheerful.