Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 88-99)

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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22 Responses

  1. Avatar James K says:

    I’ll post thoughts later, but for now I strongly recommend we read to chapter 113, instead of 110 next week.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K says:

      If you get to a cliffhanger and are able to keep yourself from reading on, you’re a stronger person than I.

      That said: These recaps take *FOREVER* and the fewer chapters the better. (Not counting the boilerplate stuff bookending the post, that’s over 4000 words up there.)Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        Back in my time, we actually had to wait for the thing to be written!Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Jaybird says:

        That’s fair. I suggested it because I wanted to offer the people reading for the first time the same experience I had reading Chapter 113 when it came out. But I appreciate the practical considerations involved.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K says:

          Wait, let me go back and re-read 113… OH YEAH THAT ONE.

          Hrm. We could play that game. There are only 22 chapters left. I was thinking that the (spoiler) with the (spoiler) was the best place to leave that off but okay. You talked me into it.

          We’ll read the next 14 chapters and play the game.

          And that’ll make the penultimate HPMOR bookclub post that much shorter.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            Okay, and we’ll announce again, down here in comments, that if this is your first read-through, please consider playing the game that you’ll be asked to play at the end of chapter 113.

            I AM NOT ASKING YOU TO STOP READING!

            I am just asking you to consider putting the book down for long enough to open a notepad file and write a short paragraph.

            After that, feel free to finish reading everything and Rot13 (link is in the top boilerplate section!) your short paragraph and leave it as a comment to either this week or next week’s post.

            There. Now we can argue about whether Hermione would really have died from being really sad like Padme after her encounter with the troll.Report

  2. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I was pretty annoyed at the end of 89. He fridged Hermione? Come on!

    I think the second last sentence of 89, just before Trelawney’s prophecy, will prove important.
    Unseen by anyone, the Defense Professor’s lips curved up in a thin smile. Despite its little ups and downs, on the whole this had been a surprisingly good day –

    To me the Dumbledore-done-it theory that the Malfoys and Harry agree over doesn’t seem like the right one. I think Lucius’ threats about what happens if this is a trick, is going to mean something – because Lucius is not a member of the reality-based community. He’s not only uninterested in finding out who risked Draco’s life and assassinated Hermione, whoever that happens to be – he doesn’t even understand the concept of it. He only understands decisiom-based evidence making.

    Anyway, things are getting real. The adminstrative coup was interesting all right – I didn’t see that coming.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Killing Hermione was nuts. The first time I read it, my jaw was on the floor and I had to read it a second time to make sure I read what I read. (I was vaguely reminded of Ned Stark getting his fool head cut off.)

      I’m meditating on whether Hermione was fridged or not. In Green Lantern, Alexandra DeWitt’s only purpose was to be lovely and then provide emotional depth for Kyle Rayner after she died. Did Hermione do that in this story?

      The wacky thing is that, in Rowling’s story, Hermione was one of the three core players. Sure, Harry was the main protagonist, but she and Ron were co-protagonists (e.g., Harry couldn’t have finished the first book without both of them).

      If Harry hadn’t met Hermione in this fanfic, would he have been able to do the things he did? I think so. He didn’t do anything with her that he couldn’t have done without her and Daphne Greengrass or Susan Bones could have just as easily been an opposing General who also would have lost to Harry all the time. Sure, Hermione was allowed her own growth (the SPHEW chapters) but Harry didn’t *NEED* her like he did in the originals.

      By making Harry a rationalist, they no longer needed a character who did her homework to be part of the foundation. The foundation already had one. (Now, this isn’t to say that the emotional support she provides/provided isn’t essential to what becomes of Harry in the story… but that’s immaterial to whether her death qualifies as fridging, isn’t it?)Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, Hermione was fridged and, as you note, the core premise of HPMOR basically renders her fundamentally redundant and the author then tries to repurpose her character in a manner that kind of flies right into the “women exist to emotionally tame and civilize men” trope. It’s definitely not one of the stronger elements of the fanfic but it IS a fanfic and a well written and clever one. So probably best to simply acknowledge that weakness and move on.Report

  3. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I think regardless of what Hermione did earlier in the story, her death was there primarily to move the protagonist to his next character development.

    Which I guess was well foreshadowed by the whole “Harry has zero chill about death” thing all along. Kind of made it inevitable now you see it that his big character transformation would be when his bluff against death gets called.

    Hermione wasn’t a character written for nothing but fridging, but that’s what I’d call these chapters.Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    Eliezer Yudkowsky actually wrote a response to the suggestion Hermione was fridged, and that HPMOR is anti-feminst in general when these chapters were originally released: http://www.hpmor.com/a-rant-thereof/

    The tldr is that he was frustrated that he couldn’t properly defend against the criticisms when the work was not yet complete. But one point he does make that I think is worth noting is that Hermione’s death wasn’t just character development for Harry. McGonagall also developed as a character because of her death.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K says:

      I imagine that he remains frustrated that he can’t properly defend against the criticisms now.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to James K says:

      Hm. I won’t particularly address the bit about Snape vs. McGonagall’s amounts of agency, as that’s not a gripe I have with the story. I think if anything, their difference in freedom of action is simply that McGonagall has more ethics than Snape, and so is cut off from a number of courses of action of a type Snape could easily choose, because for her it would be sinking too low, while for Snape it wouldn’t. That seems entirely in keeping with both the canonical and fan fictional depictions of Snape and McGonagall, and with ethical and unethical people in general.

      But as far as Hermione’s death being a fridging… It is perhaps not an absolute classic-form fridging – the character being there only to be an object of emotions felt by the male lead, affection while she lives and then distress leading to personal development when she’s dead. But I’d say the defence that her death also serves as a character-developing distress source for a female character is at most a very narrow defence on technical grounds.

      While she lives, she doesn’t play a very significant role in the actual plot actions / power dynamics of the school, other than by influencing Harry’s decision making, specifically because of the affection he holds for her. When she dies, there really is no “Oh crap, we never would have achieves W and X without Hermione, now how are we ever going to manage Y and Z?” It’s not a setback, just a trauma.

      Her death seems so far to influence things only through other people’s emotional development in response to it, not because her presence in the overall arc of the story would have been materially different from her absence. Regardless of the genders of the people who grow or change through their grief, that’s fridge-y enough for me.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        That was probably a bit overstated – her role as Sunshine General and S.P.H.E.W. instigator ain’t nothing, but as Jaybird observes, Susan Bones or Daphne Greengrass could have been generals as well, and S.P.H.E.W. doesn’t seem to have done a whole huge amount to shape the world around it.

        And she was definitely a real character in her own right – it was only her death in chapter 89 that I’d call a fridging, not by any means her whole presence in the story.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K says:

      For what it’s worth, my criticism is *NOT* that EY is “anti-feminist” (not that I’m the best person to give that defense to him, of course). He’s written Hermione as a strong female character (heck, you can use all caps, if you want) and McGonagall too. Heck, he’s given us a lot of time with characters that I don’t really remember from the books… Daphne, Susan, Padma… I’m sure I’m missing some.

      But that doesn’t mean that Hermione wasn’t fridged.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had in the area of women in HPMOR and Hermione specifically, but I’m going to wait till the whole thing is finished to get into itReport

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Jaybird says:

        This. I wouldn’t call the fanfic anti-feminist, but I did stop reading after ch 89 (okay, I skimmed a bit further, but the fridging vibe only got worse). The Girl In The Fridge is one of my least favorite tropes in fiction or fanfic and this was such an over the top blatant example, it completely turned me off.

        Worse, so many plot holes to get there. What happened to the wards Dumbledore set to know if Hermoine was in trouble? Also absolutely everybody had to be stupid. Hermoine use the broomstick or cloak she had in her bag. Harry maybe was too upset to think straight until it was too late, literally no one student, even the older ones, including a general praised for sense, thought of using a patronus to send a message to McGonagell? etc. etc.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to bookdragon says:

          All of Hermione’s items had been rendered non-functional. And the Hogwarts wards identified the troll as the Defense Professor, which would have prevented them from issuing the same warnings that they would for a stray creature. Also, I don’t believe the message-delivery abilities of the Patronus charm are widely known.

          As for Harry panicking in the moment, that is all too plausible to me. This is the first really time-sensitive crisis he has ever faced, and thinking at speed is different from systematically evaluating your options.Report

          • Avatar bookdragon in reply to James K says:

            Since McGonagell used her cat Patronus to find and give a message to Hermoine in earlier chapters, and Harry was showing others in the army that they could be used to deliver messages, I feel like it was more generally known. And even if it wasn’t, why not talk to a portrait – tell it to pass the word?

            Harry panicking is plausible (though I note he thought pretty clearly in the middle of Azkaban). No one else thinking of the obvious isn’t.

            Also the wards Dumbeldore put on Hermoine were made ineffective as well? Without him noticing?Report

            • Avatar James K in reply to bookdragon says:

              Whoever did this was powerful, intelligent and methodical – they got a troll into Hogwarts, confused the Hogwarts wards, stole Fred and George’s map (obliviating them in the process) and shut down all of Hermione’s defences. It is entirely possible that they were able to silence Dumbledore’s wards – the only ward they couldn’t silence was the one marking a student’s death because it is part of Hogwarts itself.

              A lot of people made mistakes during that whole sorry episode, but plausible ones.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to James K says:

                I think a lot of the, shall we say, strain on the plot, arises from the understandable desire to adapt the troll-on-the-loose scene from the Philosopher’s Stone, into this new story.

                If the goal was mostly just to assassinate Hermione, without reimagining the troll scene, transfiguring a quarter pound of potassium cyanide into Hermione’s hot cocoa, with a spell timed to wear off when everyone was asleep so it would be too late by the time the poisoning was detected, would have done fine.

                I can accept that Hermione, having decided that heading for sunlight was her best bet at a beating the troll, was just barely keeping her fighting retreat from turning into a rout, and so didn’t get an opportunity to talk to a portrait. (I kind of recall a thing where Harry uses his patronus to send a message to someone, specifically so his allies Draco and Hermione would know that – but maybe he only revealed that to Draco?)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to bookdragon says:

          Well, I had this conversation with Maribou as to whether she should read it. I pointed out that I was a guy reading it and I encountered a bunch of stuff that rolled off my back but, when I imagined what’d be going through her head when she read it, that it’d be a lot more irritating for her than it was for me.

          That said: There are good things that happen in the fanfic and while I can completely understand you being upset with the story to the point where you want to stop, I think that there are enough good things that happen in the rest of the story to make you say “okay, going through to the end was worth it.”

          I can completely understand if you don’t want to take my word for it (as I said, I’m not the best person to give that defense) but know that I am willing to say that there are still good things that happen including things that will make you less irritated. They won’t make you *UN*irritated… but in the same way that I hope that I communicated severe frustration with multiple parts of the story, I found gems hiding amongst the sand that I hate that is rough and gets everywhere.

          If you can’t do it anyway, I am sorry that I made you read that much only to whap you in the face with the fridging of a character.

          That wasn’t what I wanted when I asked everybody to read along with us. I’m sorry.Report

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