Now that the seventh book in the Harry Potter series has an official release date of July 21, 2007, the theorizing about who will die has reached a fever pitch. But one professor of literature says that there is no way that J.K. Rowling will kill of Harry Potter, despite the fact that Ms. Rowling has said that two main characters will not make it to the end of the series. Professor James Krasner, a professor of British literature at the University of New Hampshire, says that Harry Potter will be alive at the end of series, because good has to win.
"Certain art forms are meant to fulfill expectations, to give gratification," Krasner said. "If you read a romance novel and the lovers don't get together in the end, you're not interested."
Krasner said Rowling's threat to kill off at least two main characters in the final book is a way of "taking control" of her creations. It's not uncommon for authors whose characters have become wildly popular to engage in a tug-of-war with readers over who the characters belong to, he said.
That kind of popularity makes authors want to reclaim their characters, and Rowling isn't the first to make such threats, according to Krasner — when Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books became too popular, the author tired of the character and sent him to his death. That tradition continues today in other forms of serialized fiction like soap operas, Krasner said.
"With contemporary television series, fans have a lot of impact on what's going to happen," he said.
But Harry Potter fans needn't worry, at least according to Krasner. He described Rowling as "very gracious to her fans," and said she understands that Harry Potter is now culturally important.
The Potter fan base is huge and is "very affectionate" toward the characters. Krasner knows this first-hand — his prediction that Harry's friend Neville Longbottom would die in book six "set off a firestorm" in the on-line fan community.
"It created a lot of argument and consternation," he said. "People are very devoted to the stories."
Killing the boy wizard would also be failure in terms of writing and storytelling, Krasner said. Genres like fantasy or action/adventure require good to triumph over evil, and Harry needs to live in order to fulfill those expectations.
"If you take your kid to see "Shrek" and Shrek ends up being killed in the end, you don't come out saying, 'What an intriguing work of art.' You say, 'I'm really mad!'" he said. "Certain art forms are meant to fulfill, to give gratification."
We sincerely hope that Professor Krasner knows what he's talking about. Because if Harry dies, there are going to be millions of angry fans. That's including us, of course.