More Harry! More theology!

Having established in the last Harry post the existence of a Christian framework, I now want to make two complaints of a theological kind. The first is that Draco Malfoy should have joined the good guys. The second is that Percy Weasley shouldn’t have.

Draco’s case is straightforward. Many sacrifices are made for the boy. The salvation of Draco is, indeed, the immediate (if not the ultimate) reason for the savior’s death. Now I say that when the savior dies to redeem somebody, that somebody ought to be well and truly redeemed. And the curt nod in the epilogue is not enough. Draco has become… un-evil. But JK had the stage set for something more in the scene in the Malfoy mansion, when he refused to offer positive identification of the heroes. He was poised for the big leap, but he fell back into a whiney badness that evaporated, in the epilogue, into a namby-pamby not-too-badness.

Percy’s case is more interesting. I don’t want to make any blanket statements, since the long history of Christian theology includes many different psychological conceptions. But generalizations are possible, and, in general, for Christians, the grand sinner can become the saint, while the small sinner—the one whose sins are those of a cowardice arising from self-importance–is damned for ever. The whore-monger, the tax collector, the lush, the murderer: these might repent, fight on the side of the right, and go to heaven. The paper-pushing, officious little prat: never. In the Narnia series the loose equivalent to Draco is Edmund, the despicable traitor for whom the God dies, and who subsequently becomes a hero, later moving on to heaven. The loose equivalent to Percy is Susan, who abandons her childhood faith in favor of adult interests, at the same time turning in her ticket to paradise.

The issue of what happens to the world’s Percy Weaselys was of especial interest to Lewis, and is explored not just in the figure of Susan (who, after all, is not very like Percy) but in various characters appearing in The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. In the latter text, particularly we see what’s wrong with them. While the grand sinner is striving for something large, and thus might jump when shown The Largest Thing Of All, the small sinner is used to rejecting the big picture in any form. He chooses to live in hell, and that’s where he is. (Or where he ends up, depending on how you want to play your metaphors).

Percy can’t come around because, as Dumbledore tells us in HP VI, his anger at his parents isn’t grounded in believing them wrong (that’d be simple ignorance), but in his knowing, deep down, that they’re right. He rejects them exactly for that reason, because they’re better than him–he hates them for knowing he’s wrong, and hates them for his very being wrong—his anger is quintessential resentment (and resentment is quintessential pettiness), a twisted form of self-loathing that has shaped his allegiances and actions for too long to be given up.

My mother points out that, in That Hideous Strength, Lewis offers us a picture of this kind of sinner given a final chance as he dies. Here it is.

“Not till then did his controllers allow him to suspect [the truth]. Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered to him. He became able to know (and simultaneously refused the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning… He half saw: he wholly hated… With one supreme effort, he threw himself back into his illusion. In that attitude eternity overtook him as sunrise in the old tales overtakes trolls and turns them into unchangeable stone.”

That’s more like it. At least, if you happen to be a Christian.

So is JK deliberately proposing a revisionist theology? That’d be interesting, wouldn’t it? I may explore this in a further post. Right now I’m thinking that she just couldn’t fit a heroic Malfoy into the final scene, and wanted to make Mrs. Weasely a happy woman.

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