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Chiastic structure in Harry Potter

August 1, 2007

Acording to some, for example Merlin over at Muggle Matters and Pastor Joe Thacker, there is a certain Chiastic structure in the Harry Potter books, which uses the structure; abcdcba. John Granger explains this like this:

In brief, it is the idea that the novels are something of a circle or loop in which books 1 and 7, 2 and 6, and 3 and 5 are each a paired set and book 4 the “turning point” with elements of the three sets.

According to a friend of mine, there is in many writings, both old and new, a Chiastic structure with three main parts; an anabasis (“ascent,” which here would be books one through three) a turning point (which here would be book four), and a katabasis (“descent,” which here would be books five through seven.) Book four was for long my favorite, before book seven came. One of the reasons was that in book four, everything became darker and more serious. It was indeed a turning point, and everything after that became more serious. With that in mind, let us take a look at these sets (1&7, 2&6, 3&5.)

Book one & seven

There are a lot of similarities (and this also includes) between books 1 and 7, such as Hagrid driving Harry on Sirius’s motor bike, Harry coming to the Dursleys in book one, leaving them in book seven, and so on. But the main difference lies in the seriousness of the books. Like Neville. His courage in book one, which earned Gryffindor the House Cup, beating Slytherin, are paralleled in book seven, but this time it is serious, it is war and it is a matter of life and death. This time he uses the Sword of Gryffindor and gives Voldemort, the heir of Slytherin, the last blow, destroying the last Horcrux, Nagini.

Book two & six

The main theme in books two and six is clearly the Horcruxes. In book two, we do not regard the diary to be very important, although that changes later on. But the seriousness doesn’t become apparent before we enter into chapter 23 of book six, entitled, “Horcruxes.” Here wee see how serious the diary — and its destruction — really was. And this is also clearly mirrored in book four, where Voldemort talks about how he made himself “immortal.”

Book three & five

I believe one of the main theme of books three and five are depression and “the Dark Night of the Soul,” a theme “first” described by St. John of the Cross. The Wikipedia entry for the term Dark Night of the Soul informs us that the expression “is used as a metaphor to describe the experience of loneliness and desolation that can occur during spiritual growth.” And it adds that the poem of St. John of the Cross “tell of his mystic development and the stages he went through on his quest for holiness.” It continues:

The “dark night” could generally be described as a letting go of our ego’s hold on the psyche, making room for change that can bring about a complete transformation of a person’s way of defining his/her self and their relationship to God. The interim period can be frightening, hence the perceived “darkness”. In the Christian tradition, during the “dark night” one who has developed a strong prayer life and consistent devotion to God suddenly finds traditional prayer extremely difficult and unrewarding for an extended period of time. The individual may feel as though God has suddenly abandoned them, or that their prayer life has collapsed.

We see that this begins in book three, with the introduction of Dementors and Sirius Black’s break out from Azkaban. The Dementors are foul, but they are not really serious before the end. And Sirius is not the way we believe he is. But after book four, when everything becomes more serious, things change. In book five, the Dementors are in fact dangerous, being sent by Umbride. She is not a Death Eater (right then, anyway) but she is clearly delusional. And the mass break out from Azkaban, including Bellatrix Black LeStrange, is really serious.

So, my point is that what happens in the firs three books are mirrored in some way in the kast three, after going through a turning point in book four.

One Comment leave one →
  1. John permalink
    August 3, 2007 3:08 am

    Hi, Im from Melbourne Australia.
    The Potter books were/are good entertainment but really quite passe in their “theological” communications of (mis)-understandings of the current world situation—or the situation in any time and place.

    Theological “understandings” never fundamentally change anything. The deep currents that create his-story are hardly even discernable to our normal everyday dreadful sanity.

    That having been said please check out these references which give a truly Divine Understanding of quite literally everything.
    The author knows with 100% certainty EXACTLY what He is communicating. Every small detail of His work is precisely and deliberately made/done.
    His essential communication is WAKE UP from the unspeakably dreadful nightmare that you are living in and CREATING in the image of your collective insanity/madness.

    2. The Divine Person as Artist
    3. The Mummery Book the authors (PROPHETIC) literary masterpiece.

    Plus some essays on the origins & consequences of the current universal insanity.

    3. The Taboo Against the Superior Man

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