Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday has this notebook . . .

Hello girls! It’s Monday! And I’m leaving for New York (state) in just a few hours! Gotta love impromptu road trips. :)

Alexandra: I can completely understand your viewpoint about charities, and I’m glad you went local! Supporting community is always important, especially local artists, farmers, small businesses, etc. I think you found a great cause! Also, yes, I think we can give you a blog extension during your wedding week. :)

Carlyn: IRL announcement: I miss you already. I look forward to your punishment. Should I remind you on Wednesday morning that it is, in fact, Wednesday morning?

Casey: I’m sorry you’re so crazy busy – that can get stressful! But I look forward to reading about your challenge completion as soon as you’re able to post it!

Christina: Great charity. It’s certainly a huge and growing problem in this country. Thanks for the challenge! Also, do we still owe you a punishment?

And now, onto Harry Potter. Again.

Hello. My name is Cassie (*waits for “Hello, Cassie” to echo around the room) and I am a Neville-holic.

Seriously. I love Neville Longbottom. I love Neville Longbottom probably more than is reasonable (Boyfriend in the background: “Probably?”). I would leave my boyfriend in a heartbeat for Neville if he weren’t fictional (he knows this. He’s come to terms with it). So I think it is only appropriate, during HP minutiae week, for me to talk about Neville.

I have always liked Neville’s character. He was the sweet, bumbling boy who was awkward and clumsy, and your heart went out to him because we all know a Neville in real life. And back when I was reading the first six books of the series, before I’d really learned to read critically or learned about how storytelling works, I didn’t give him much thought beyond that. I rooted for him in Order of the Phoenix, and I was proud of how far he’d come, and I was greatly interested in the fact that the prophecy could have been about him, but I didn’t really think about his role in the series overall.

But then I went to college, and I took a class on literary genres and a class on critical thinking, and I started to learn about things like the hero’s journey and how storytelling worked, and so when the seventh book came out the summer after my freshman year and I reread the series in preparation for Deathly Hallows, it was dozens of lightbulbs turning on in my brain as things clicked together and I started to figure out what she was doing and where she was going and how things were being set up. And I started to get very interested in Neville.

And then I read the seventh book and OMG, I became a Neville fangirl overnight. Seriously. This boy is awesome. And a BAMF. And Harry’s parallel hero, going through his own hero’s journey, albeit one condensed into three years instead of seven. But I’m getting ahead of myself with that last bit. We’ll return to that in a moment.

Neville became one of the most fascinating characters in the books for me after Deathly Hallows, I think largely in part to the fact that his transformation is so sudden. When we hear about Neville throughout the book, we picture him as we’ve always known him: round-faced, bumbling, awkward. But then he shows up, and he is not that person anymore. It takes Harry, Ron, and Hermione by surprise, and it takes us as readers by surprise, too. And more importantly, it serves to underline the idea that things have changed drastically at Hogwarts, and that’s forced the people there to change as well.

That’s why I had a little bit of a problem with the last movie’s treatment of Neville. Don’t get me wrong – I loved that they gave him all his badass moments, but they kept his awkwardness so that there would be that familiarity, but the point of his appearance in the seventh book is that he’s not awkward anymore – he’s a warrior, and he’s not going to stand and make a speech about banding together in front of Voldemort, he’s going to say “I’ll join you when Hell freezes over!” and kill a freakin’ snake. Just saying.

But anyway, fast forward past the book’s release to spring of ‘08. My favorite professor of all time offers a Harry Potter based seminar, specifically focused around Deathly Hallows. I, of course, sign up for it the very first moment I am able to. We spent two weeks doing an in-depth reading and discussion of the final book, and then we read essays and critical analyses of all aspects of the series and debated those as well. And our final project for the class was a paper on pretty much any Harry Potter related idea we wanted to explore. And I wanted to explore Neville.

My professor expressed concern when I showed him my prospectus, saying he didn’t know if I could generate enough material for a character analysis that was an in-depth as he wanted. I may or may not have laughed in his face at that and said, “Watch me.”

In preparation for this paper, I kept a notebook. When asked produce the belonging that serves as my badge of ultimate nerdiness, I bring out this notebook. Words don’t do it justice. Here are pictures.

  is my Neville notebook.

And this:

is what I spent a weekend doing.

Each of those half-page segments represent a book in the series. I skimmed all seven for every mention of Neville and wrote down the page number. The colored squiggles next to each page represent one of sixteen different categories that I separated Neville’s mentions into: physical description, Trevor, family opinion, memory, clumsiness, courage, friendships, academics, personal history, magical abilities, the DA, Potions class, bullying, miscellaneous activity, the prophecy, and BAMF moments.

For those of you with raised eyebrows/dropped jaws, I’m not done yet. It gets better.


is my six-page cross referencing system. Each category above has a quadrant, and books and page numbers are listed chronologically, so that when I needed to reference the times Neville was bullied, I could go to that quadrant, find all the references, and pick the one that best suited my point.

This was all before I even started the paper, by the way.

I am a nerd. Of freakish proportions. And proud. :)

Anyway, as you should not be surprised to learn, I had more than enough material to work with. I wrote a 19-page analysis that outlined Neville’s role in the series as a parallel orphaned hero to Harry and as a child of the prophecy. I put forth the argument that because the prophecy had once applied to both boys, it continued to do so, even after Voldemort made his fatal choice. I argued that Neville as well as Harry fulfilled every particular of the prophecy, and that it was only when both boys were equals that Voldemort was able to be defeated. If anyone should be interested, I am more than willing to talk about these arguments in more depth, but I won’t recreate all 19 pages here. :)

So yeah, basically, I love Neville, and I’ve kinda made myself into an expert on him. He is my all time favorite character. I’ll be honest, I like him more than Harry. His journey is incredible, and the parallels that JK sets up for him? Brilliant! If you’re reading for them, it’s clear from book one that Neville was always going to grow into what he became. When he takes on Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle in book one, it’s a direct parallel to taking on Voldemort and his Death Eaters in books seven. When he stands up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione before they leave to go through the trapdoor, it’s book seven Neville in the Room of Requirement telling the Trio they can’t just show up and then leave. Neville is the boy who Could Have Been, and his job, therefore, is to remind Harry and the rest of us that this was everyone’s fight, not just the fight of the Chosen One(s).

I look forward to hearing more about Potter from all of you this week!

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