So now that I’m finished reading the book, I have to say that I felt more disconsolate after watching Han Solo die in The Force Awakens than after following this practically “woe-poor-me” Harry version of the play. In a way, I expected that the grown-up Harry would not be the same as the Harry of the previous seven books. He couldn’t be. Why? Simply because he’s an adult now. And in the universe of children books, adults–even the well-intentioned ones—-are bound (intentionally or unintentionally) to fall short so that the kids become the heroes of the story.
In the universe of children books, kids have adventures. Adults have crises. And in The Cursed Child, Harry’s crisis is named Albus Severus Potter, his middle child. My first impression of Harry as an adult was that he’s been reduced to quite a bundle of nerves. Albus discombobulates him. He feels inadequate, insecure, at a loss as to how to relate to his son. Harry is irritable, quick to blame others for his perceived failures as a parent. Albus feels he has good reasons to shun his father. His fame and reputation are something he’ll never match. Merlin’s beard, he didn’t even make it into Gryffindor! But he and his only friend, Scorpius, Draco Malfoy’s son, will have their adventure, and they’ll face challenges that will change them into better people.
While kids have challenges in the universe of children books, adults have regrets. Harry has his regrets and grownup Harry may be a letdown, but the saddest portrayal of an adult in The Cursed Child is probably Dumbledore’s. He wanders from picture frame to picture frame like a zombie, weighed down by regret, and that’s regret with a capital “R”. Is it a wonder that Harry is so frustrated with him in the play? Dumbledore is a shadow of himself, weeping and feeling utterly miserable for his “mistakes.”
The Cursed Child seems to be a story where not only the child/teen heroes we loved in the 7-book series have been somewhat taken down, but also the villain. The thought that Lord Voldemort had a child somehow diminishes his towering presence of evil before my eyes. Voldermort was a man who put himself above everything, even above death. Love had no appeal to him. And if he had sexual needs, then I think he would have fathered children way before the Battle of Hogwarts, especially when his reign of terror was at its height.
There are calls out there for J.K. Rowling to stop tinkering with the Harry Potter story. Personally, I think it’s her creation so she has all the right to do whatever she wants with it. The Cursed Child is not the best of the crop, but it has appealing young characters (Albus and Scorpius), whom I would like to see again–just create a totally new adventure for them, unrelated to the Dark Lord or his child.
If “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” were to open at my local theater tomorrow, I would be among the first in line to buy the tickets. I think watching the play being enacted would be awesome. I would be there just to see how all the stage directions in the book would come to life in front of me.
Finally, just as authors have rights over their creations, as a reader I have mine too. When we read a story, we interact with it. We picture the characters in our minds. We try to feel the way they feel. We imagine their world. We each have a very particular experience with them. As readers, we have a right to preserve that unique experience if we wish to. And I do it by cherishing it in my memory and heart, regardless of authors’ later changes.
There’s a little place where Harry, in his student robes, will always be walking down a corridor at Hogwarts or he’ll be flying high and at full speed on his broomstick, trying to catch the Snitch. It is a special place in my mind where my fictional heroes remain as I experienced them when I first met them. My Harry is there and yeah, in that perfect world, Han Solo lives forever.