No sooner did I finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that I wanted to start over and read it again. I won’t say anything further at this point, but a tip of the hat goes to John Granger and the alchemical connections he has made to Ms. Rowling’s work. John, thanks for providing a depth of understanding and enjoyment that I would have otherwise missed out on.
P.S. I think the chiasm theory definitely remains intact.
The following is a brief summary of a theory that I have been developing for the last couple of years,and in a few days time when Deathly Hallows arrives I will find out if my suspicions are correct. I have been bouncing this idea off of some fellow Potter fans, and while they might not be as convinced as I am, they have contributed knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) to it.
So, what is this theory? Well, as the title of this post indicates, I believe that the Harry Potter books are written in the form of a chiasm. This simply means that they follow and ABCDCBA pattern. (For a fuller definition on chiasm/chiasmus go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiasmus)
This pattern for the entire series first dawned on me when reading Half-Blood Prince, and the letter that R.A.B. leaves in the locket. Did you notice it’s diamond shape? Why is it written in this fashion? Upon a second glance it seems that that the letter is in the shape of a chiasm.
Take a look:
To the Dark Lord 
I know I will be dead long before you read this 
but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. 
I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. 
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, 
you will be mortal once more. 
Lines 1 and 7 match, referring to names/initials; 2 and 6 refer to death and mortality; 3 and 5 reference defeating Voldemort, and 4 stands alone in the middle as a hinge point, and is a single declarative sentence.
As this structure emerged, further reflection led to the notion that the entire series is structured in this fashion. Notice the following:
Chamber of Secrets
Prisoner of Azkaban
Goblet of Fire
Order of the Phoenix
Let’s consider some evidence, and then make a few guesses about the last installment of the series based on this structure (andthis evidence is by no means exhaustive, but enough, I think, to support my case).
Chamber of Secrets & Half-Blood Prince:
Horcruxes; Injuries to Harry (Quidditch) Dobby in the hospital wing; prominence of Aragog; talk of closing Hogwarts; Dumbledore gone from the school; the Phoenix Song (also Goblet of Fire); the cabinet (which Nearly Headless Nick smashed and Draco fixed); Borgin and Burkes; Harry’s
encounters with Malfoy in B&B; prominence of Ginny Weasley; use of polyjuice potion (also Goblet of Fire which fits). Ginny’s condition described in Bk. 2, ch. 10 and Draco in Book 6; Harry’s late arrival to school, encountering Snape and missing the sorting; and Moaning Myrtle (also in Goblet of Fire).
Prisoner of Azkaban & Order of the Phoenix:
Azkaban breakouts; Harry receiving special lessons (patronus
by Lupin; occlumency by Snape); boggarts (also Goblet of Fire); the prominence
of Muggle news on TV; Aunt Marge blown up, and Uncle Vernon referencing it in
Order; threat of expulsion for underage wizardry, and Snape’s history with
Goblet of Fire acts as the center and has various connections to the books before and after,
but is also the turning point for the story to progress. As Dr. Peter Leithart has stated, “Frequently, corresponding sections of a chiastic text do not merely state the same thing twice; rather, the second of the pair builds on and expands the first” (A Son to Me, 273). This certainly appears to be the progression of the books.
Philosopher’s Stone & Deathly Hallows
At the end of Half-Blood Prince, Harry states in relation to returning to Godric’s Hollow, “For me, it started there, all of it.” Indeed it did, and so Harry is going back to the beginning. And, interestingly enough, the title of the last chapter of Goblet of Fire is “The Beginning.” This language fits perfectly with a chiastic structure. Yes, Harry is going back to the beginning, but he has also developed and progressed.
So, are there clues for Deathly Hallows in Philosopher’s Stone? I seem to recall JKR mentioning in an interview one time that she had to re-write the opening chapter of Philosopher’s Stone because it revealed too much. Further, the fact that the first chapter in Philosopher’s Stone
is entitled “The Boy Who Lived” makes me think that Harry will live, though there is quite a lot of speculation that he will die. After all, sacrificial death is also an important theme, but, then again, so is resurrection.
I suspect Mr. Olivander will appear again in Deathly Hallows, having had roles in Philosopher’s Stone and Goblet of Fire. (Has he been abducted by Voldemort so that the wand lock won’t occur again?) I also think dragons and/or dragon’s blood will factor into the final book (this
has already been confirmed by some of the cover art that has come out recently). Further, Hagrid first introduces himself to Harry as “the Keeper of the Keys.” This title has not been pursued or mentioned since. Perhaps that will change. In his book The Kingdom and the
Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church, Dr. Leithart states the following regarding the Keys of the Kingdom:
“On a superficial analysis, it might appear that the people with real power are the
ones with diversified portfolios, prestigious titles, spacious offices overlooking Central Park. A personal jet, a direct line to the president, a limousine – these are the symbols of
real power. Or so we think. Deeper reflection, however, reveals that real power belongs to the fellow with the most keys. Think about it. Where would we be without those fellows with the keys? Without them, prisons would be sieves, office waste baskets would never be
emptied, and the very theory of valet parking would be utterly nonsensical. Without the fellows with the keys, the world would crumble of its own weight. The man with the right keys can get into the right places, and he can also keep other people from getting into the
same places. . . Having the right key can be, we might say, the ‘key’ to success, as well as a reward of success. Keys are suitable symbols of authority” (104).
One final note about the chiasm theory is related to the alchemical connections that John Granger makes to the stories. I highly recommend his article in Touchstone, “The Alchemist’s Tale” (http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-09-034-f),
as well as “Harry Potter and the Alchemist’s Cell (which I originally found at Granger’s site http://hogwartsprofessor.com/ but am presently unable to locate); and his books Looking for God in Harry Potter and Unlocking Harry Potter (the latter of which I’ve started to read recently and greatly enjoying.) Granger contends that Harry is moving through the alchemical stages: black (nigredo), white (albedo) and red (rubedo).
If Granger is correct, I think alchemical
stages can be seen in the books in chiastic form:
Book 1 – Red
Book 2 – White
Book 3 – Black
Book 4 – contains all three
Book 5 – Black
Book 6 – White
Book 7 – Red
Granger also says that the red stage culminates with the philosopher’s stone. The philosopher’s stone was (obviously) in Book 1, and it was red. The white stage is a stage of purification which involves washings. In Chamber of Secrets and Half-Blood Prince significant events take place in water: Myrtles bathroom; the pipes; the underground cavern and lake that Dumbledore and Harry have to navigate. The black stage is, well, black. Sirius Black is constantly mentioned in Prisoner of Azkaban and who would argue that Order of the Phoenix is anything but black in its
In regards to Goblet of Fire, I would contend that the Tri-Wizard Tournament contains all three stages. The first task was dragons, and Harry’s Hungarian Horntail was black. The second task took place in the lake; purification, washing – the white stage. The third task in the maze had stunning spells and red sparks from wands. Finally, the goal of all the alchemical stages is to produce gold, which is the color of the Tri-Wizard Cup. Although Deathly Hallows is red in the progression, the point of the stone is to produce life (gold). The cover art for Deathly Hallows seems to indicate this, as various shades of gold appear to be prominent. Also, in Philosopher’s Stone, after Harry awakes in the hospital wing after keeping the stone from Voldermort/Quirrell he sees gold. At first he thinks it is a snitch, but then, when more fully awake, realizes
the gold is Dumbledore’s spectacles.
In a nutshell that is the theory, and, even if I am proven mistaken at the end of the week, J.K. Rowling has certainly made reading her books an enjoyable experience on many levels.