What’s Comin’ Will Come… Discussing Quotations in Literature

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Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives.

Throughout August, I will be talking about quotations in literature, focusing on why they are so important to us as readers, and what we can do to make the most of these small snippets of literature in our everyday lives. Today’s post will be focused on my favourite quote from a book series that the majority of the bookworm population have read, enjoyed and will cherish forever… Harry Potter!

Hang on, what did I talk about last week?

So last Sunday I talked about why quotes from literature are so important to us, and how they differ from generally inspiring quotes, as well as how quotes stand out to us when we’re reading, and how we keep track of our favourite quotes. This week, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite quotes from literature, and what it means to me, and explain how we can use our favourite quotes in everyday life.

Who doesn’t love a bit of Harry Potter?!

I thought it would be a good idea to apply what I discussed last week to one of my all time favourite quotes from the Harry Potter series, and explain why it is my favourite quote. This quote is…

What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.

– Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Who said it?

Hagrid is known in the Potter books for being slightly dopey, but a very lovable character, but when Dumbledore falls to his death, it’s almost like he feels a wave of responsibility for certain things. Of course, he is the keeper of keys for the castle, but he feels an overwhelming sense of protection, towards the trio in particular, but also an urge to guard the castle even more than before. This quote is more than reassurance for Harry, Ron and Hermione, but also for himself, to know that, even with Dumbledore gone, he is a strong and powerful faculty member of Hogwarts who will do whatever he can to protect the students.

The meaning behind the quote

It’s quite a self-explanatory quote- whatever happens in the future is going to happen. We can do as much as possible to change it, but most is inevitable, and we just have to deal with it when whatever ‘it’ is finally arrives.

I have seen quotes similar to this, worded slightly differently, before, and anyone can take inspiration and meaning from them, but what I love about being able to draw meaning from a book that means so much to me, is it’s context. General inspirational quotes you find on Pinterest are great (don’t get me wrong, I have a board or two with a collection of them), but what they lack is the context behind them. Literary quotes have several layers of context, such as who says the quote, and what is happening at the time. The context behind this quote is the fact that Dumbledore has just died, the only person Voldemort was ever scared of, which means Hogwarts is in an extremely vulnerable position, as are all students and staff within it. With Voldemort now returning to power, and the risk of battle right around the corner, this quote is perfectly placed towards the end of Half-Blood Prince, to provide the characters and us as readers, a sense of reassurance that, even though we know what’s coming, all we can do is prepare as best we can and tackle the problem with heads held high.

Why does this quote mean so much to me?

There are an abundance of quotes throughout the Harry Potter series that speak to people in different ways; it is well renowned for quotes that readers live by. The story itself is full of important life lessons and morals, but it’s this quote in particular that really speaks to me for many reasons. I often (by often, I mean constantly) worry about the future. I want to have the ability to see what’s coming, so I can change it by acting accordingly in the present. I use this quote as a mantra, telling myself that I can only do so much to change the future, and what cannot be changed is going to happen, whether I like it not. I use the second part of the quote to prepare myself, and to make sure I’m ready to ‘meet it when it does’ eventually come my way.

Similar literary quotes

While this quote is my favourite from Harry Potter, I have found other quotes that speak to me in very similar ways. One of those is from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (which is kind of coincidental…), when Newt Scamander says…

My philosophy is worrying means you suffer twice.

– Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

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and another one from The Fault In Our Stars…

Nothing to be gained by worrying between now and then. And yet I still worried.

– Hazel Grace, The Fault In Our Stars

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The reason I wanted to talk about Hagrid’s quote instead of these two though, is because you have to read a bit deeper into it to find the meaning. Newt’s and Hazel’s quotes both state worry in the text, whereas Hagrid’s doesn’t, and you have to search around to find the worry within the text, because it is so well contained. This, again, is down to the context. Hagrid doesn’t want to come across worried to the students, therefore he contains his worry in a more positive way. This is what I really like about this quote; while it embodies a feeling of worry, it is displayed in a slightly happier light.

So that’s my favourite quote from the entire Harry Potter series, I hope you enjoyed reading about my (extensive) reasoning why I like this particular quote, and if you read this far without getting a bit bored (I’m sorry, I rambled!), I would love to know what your favourite Harry Potter quote is and why you chose it!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

The Importance of Quotations in Literature

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Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. As you may have discovered a pattern in my discussion posts, I like to have a discussion ‘theme’ for a month, because I feel it allows me to go into more depth about a specific topic without boring you all by putting it in one massively long post you probably won’t read.

Throughout August, I will be talking about quotations in literature, focusing on why they are so important to us as readers, and what we can do to make the most of these small snippets of literature in our everyday lives. Today’s post will be focused on what quotations mean to us as readers and why they are such an important part of the reader community…

What makes quotations from literature so important?

I find it difficult to express how much literary quotes mean to me. If you are familiar with the theory of horcruxes, it’s almost like taking a piece of a book and keeping it somewhere safe in your mind, so the book can continue to live, even when you’re not reading it.
This question could also be ‘why are quotes from literature different from inspiring quotes in general?’. Most quotes in our ‘collections’ are from the books that we’ve read and enjoyed, and they become a record of those books, so we are able to remember and cherish the stories through a snippet of literature. These quotes come from people who know how to do wondrous things with words, which means they quotes can also be read metaphorically and have more than one meaning, which adds depth to them that generalised quotes don’t tend to have. When we read a book, we are subconsciously on the look out for sentences or groups of words that come to life and bring meaning, whether it’s a well known quote we’ve heard before, or just a section that really resonates with us personally. These quotes then become a great comfort to us in times when we aren’t feeling our best, or need encouragement or motivation. If they come from our most treasured books, they become even more special. Those quotes that may not have been picked up by others, or are less popular among other readers, can be a lot more personal, and can seem like we have something special and unique. These literary quotes give us hope, they share morals and give insight into a world beyond what we know. Not only do these quotes have metaphorical depth, but they hold imagination that only readers can see, and allow us access to unknown places. They are fictional, but can be so much more!

How can you spot a quote when you’re reading?

If you’re reading a popular book, or something you have read before, you may be familiar with the quotes, and therefore spot them straight away when reading. However, if you’re reading a book that you aren’t familiar with, you may have to search around a bit more. I tend to find it sends a strange vibe through me, like I’ve struck a piece of gold in a mine full of words. It gives me the urge to sit back and think about what I’ve just read and think, or write it down immediately to make sure I don’t forget it, and so I can look back on it later. These are usually sentences or groups of sentences that resonate with you, because of something you have or are experiencing in life, which you draw wisdom from, or just words that are so well written they are just too beautiful not to savour.

Why and how do we collect our favourite quotes?

We collect the quotes we find in books to look back on them and remember the stories, and what the quotes meant at the time of reading. Maybe they mean something different now. So how do we go about making sure we have a record of these quotes, because let’s be honest, we are not all superhuman and cannot store hundreds of quotations in our brain! Personally, I use Goodreads to a keep a rough record of the quotes I find, but not all quotes are on Goodreads, and it isn’t easy to find them even when you have liked them. For the month of August, I am setting myself a task, or challenge of sorts. I am going to be keeping a ‘Note the Quote’ diary, writing down anything I read that I want to keep hold of for any reason. I will be aiming for at least 5 quotes per book, and at the end of the month, I will share all the quotes I found, and why I chose to write them down.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and if you have anything to add about why you feel literary quotations are important, please feel free to share in the comments!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Stories: How to Study a Story and Why We Do It

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. Today is the final installment in the Stories collection, which aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. This week I wanted to discuss how we study stories and why it is important for us to practice it whilst reading, along with a few of my experiences…

How to Study a Story

Reading a novel is one thing. Studying a novel is completely different. You can take in the story and understand what is happening, but to study a story is to find learn how literature techniques have been used and how to they contribute to the overall meaning. When reading a story to study it, you need to read carefully, and be attentive to the smaller details in the writing, taking notes on what is happening, what has been spotted, so they can be referred back to a linked to other parts of the story. The question is what notes should be made? Character appearances and personalities are important for the understanding of relationships, recurring themes help us to understand what the book is telling us about the underlying meaning of the story, and author’s writing style helps to identify key features throughout the book. Also note key details and quotes in the story, which will help when recalling the chronology later on, or write chapter summaries. Note down any links found between events, characters or plot as they are found, and what is important about them.

This is just the surface of what notes need to be taken. When studying a story, we also need to think about close reading. This includes four stages in the process of understanding what the story is trying to tell us. These four stages are: Linguistic, Semantic, Structural and Cultural. Linguistic is making notes about aspects of the vocabulary and syntax, and how the dialogue in the book is written. Semantic is thinking about what the words actually mean, and finding connotations within them. Structural is the relationships between the words and other words used in the same context, or in relation to characters or plot points. Cultural is thinking outside the text itself, and how it relates to other writing by the same author, or within the same genre, or points in history.

My Experience

When completing this project, I wanted to try and record my feelings towards certain parts of the books, as well as researching them in a more academic sense. This was a lot more difficult to do, as I find myself really getting into why the author has written in a certain way. I started with reading The Fault in Our Stars, and the amount of notes I took in the first chapter was extraordinary! I found myself picking apart every sentence and trying to figure out why John Green had structured his sentences in certain ways, and why he had chosen that particular vocabulary. Once I had narrowed down my field of research to character relationships and symbols, it was so much easier to pick bits out and find relevant information that I could use. I continued to do this selective method of research, while still paying to attention to the overall story for context, and it made a massive difference, as I was able to easily look back over my notes and find what I was looking for, without having to read through tons of irrelevant findings.

Why is it important to study literature?

My biggest regret in life is not continuing English Lit after GCSE level, because literature is such a passion of mine now, and looking back, I know my reasonings were pathetic. However, I still practice the study of literature through reading my own books, when I review them, and when I discuss them with other people. There is a surface level you can read a book on, and that is understanding the plot and the characters. For me, this just isn’t enough to satisfy my bookworm cravings. I think it’s so important to look for symbolism, character relationships, atmosphere and dialogue (to name a few!) because as soon as you do, the story comes to life even more than it did before. I have read The Fault in Our Stars a total of 5 times, and I am still amazed at what I learn when I try and think a little bit deeper about what is happening on a particular page. Going back to literature that we’ve already read, and just reading a little bit closer, can really open up a brand new perspective. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was another book I read for about the 5th time, and I was shocked that there were some pieces of dialogue that had never caught my attention, but supplied crucial foreshadowing to the final few books.
To wrap this post, and the Stories post collection up, I wanted to send a message to all of you who read for pleasure, and devour your books in one sitting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, I often enjoy partaking myself, but next time you really want to have a reread of your favourite novel, just sit and cherish the words and what the author is trying to say to you. Think about recurring symbolism, the relationships between characters, and what they mean, because you may just uncover something new!

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Stories: To Kill a Mockingbird

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. Today is the last essay installment in the Stories collection, which aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. I will have a final post to wrap the collection up next week, but for now, here is the final essay in the Stories series…

To Kill a Mockingbird

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In which we explore Scout and Boo’s relationship with regards to The Radley House

Scout and Boo’s relationship differs slightly from others in this collection, because Boo doesn’t make a physical appearance until the end of the book. However, there are ways we can see their relationship developing without being fully introduced to Boo. Scout Finch is our narrator throughout the story. She lives with her brother, Jem, her father, Atticus, and their nurse and cook, Calpurnia. She is a young girl, the story beginning aged 6, and ending aged 9, and she is very independent in how she thinks and feels about certain things, such as racism and gender tradition. Boo Radley is a neighbour of the Finches and is known for never leaving his house, and is often described as a hermit. He is assumed to be mentally unstable, and goes out only at nights to hunt and eat squirrels and cats. Most blame him for unexplainable happenings in the county of Maycomb, where the novel is set. Boo and Scout are neighbours. Scout develops, to some extent, an obsession with Boo Radley, and her and Jem often try and get him to leave his house. The Radley House is an important symbol in this relationship. It symbolises fear and mystery, particularly through the depth of description, paired with character assumptions of Boo. The house has a tree on it’s threshold, which comes into play later in the novel.
Boo and Scout don’t actually meet until the end of the book, but their relationship is prominent from the very beginning. Despite not ever meeting, Scout is infatuated with the man who never leaves his house, and with the rumours floating around about him. Deep down, she wants to know if he is truly as others say he is. They describe him as an ‘unknown entity’ and a ‘malevolent phantom’, but they do not know his honest character. The Radley House is introduced in the first chapter, being described as ‘jutted’, ‘darkened’ and ‘drunkenly guarded’. This gives it a very gothic vibe, not unlike a haunted house. The idea of Boo being a ghostly figure supports this. This shows that Boo’s personality is supposedly reflected through the house’s appearance. Scout trusting other’s opinions about Boo and his house also brings in the theme of innocence, and how Scout has not matured enough to fully form her own opinions at the beginning of the book. The children are scared of the Radley House, because they believe terrible things happen to people who cross the threshold, which is why Boo Radley is the way he is. The main connection between Scout and Boo here is the house, as it is the only physical representation of Boo as a character. This is the only thing that Scout has to judge Boo on, and because of the way the house is described, the judgement is not a good one, but neither is it fair. The idea of prejudice shines through here, which becomes a main theme through the later trial of Tom Robinson, but it is clear that Scout is judging Boo solely on appearance. However, instead of this being a case of black and white, it is the appearance of a physical object, rather than a person.

Boo begins to leave presents in a hole in the tree of the Radley House threshold. These gifts include chewing gum, coins and medals. Through this, the Radley House continues to be a part of Scout’s life, but instead of just through her figurative imaginings of Boo inside the house, there is now a physical connection. The gifts are one of the main things that connect Boo and Scout in the book. It brings Boo to life, rather than just being a ‘phantom’ in a house, by representing himself in the objects. Miss Maudie, another neighbour of the Finches, tells the story of Boo’s childhood, and how he was under the strict supervision of his father, which led people to believe Boo became crazy being honed up inside. Again, this brings Boo’s character to life more, and the house becomes a device for why people think of Boo as crazy. Scout is excluded from the fun when Jem and a friend, Dill, plan to try and touch the Radley House. She isn’t involved because she is seen as too young. This turns the house into a symbol of maturity, and how it shows the difference in the innocence of Scout, and the slightly more mature nature of Jem and Dill. This idea is extended later in the novel. After the thrill that comes from touching the Radley House, Scout and Jem find carved soap figures in the tree as a final gift. This shows the house continuing to be bought to life through the personalised soap figures, as they are carved into the shape of the two children, and again makes Boo seem more human and connected to the world, and Scout in particular.

After the gifts in the tree cease to appear, Boo is hardly mentioned, as the story turns it’s attention to the trial of Tom Robinson, the main plot point in the book. After the trial, Scout points out that her fear of the Radley Hosue has decreased, or ceased to exist entirely. This shows that Scout is growing up and becoming more mature, particularly after being exposed to a more adult world through the trial. This also goes back to a point made earlier about how the Radley House, or fear of the Radley House, can be an indicator of innocence developing into maturity, especially in Scout’s character. Her lack of interest in the house could also show that she as begun to respect Boo’s privacy, another way of showing she has matured through what she has experienced in the trial. In the final chapters of the book, Jem and Scout are attacked by Bob Ewell, who is the father of the young girl who Tom Robinson is accused of raping. Boo rescues the children from Mr Ewell, and takes them home. When in the Finch’s home, he is described as a fragile man with a ‘thin frame’, meaning it must have taken great strength for him to save the children. This shows he is a kind and courageous man, and nothing like anyone described him to be. With the appearance of Boo Radley, and Scout coming to a full understanding of who he is, her decreased fear of the Radley House is suddenly explainable. She is growing up, and has come to respect Boo a lot more. After everything settles down after the attack, Scout walks Boo home. She stands on the threshold of the house, but instead of looking towards it like she used to, she looks out from it, onto the street. She is finally found a moral connection with Boo, seeing things from his eyes. As her father once said, “you can never really understand person until you consider things from his point of view” (Lee, 31). Scout now understands why Boo liked to stay inside, because she has experienced the prejudice in the town, and understands why he wouldn’t want to be a part of that.

To conclude, Boo and the Radley House help the reader to realise the growth in Scout’s maturity throughout the novel. Scout’s relationship is always there in the background of the story, and is occasionally mentioned, the majority of the time in relation to her growing up. Despite not being fully introduced to Boo’s character, we see a major development, from what he was assumed to be at the beginning, to what he ends up actually being in the end. This is the perfect way to show prejudice, and how people assume to be something because of the way they live. This is how Scout sees Boo, and as she matures, and is faced with the problem of prejudice, so does her opinion of Boo. The Radley House, and Scout’s relationship with Boo, develops from being a symbol of fear, to a way of measuring Scout’s maturity levels.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Seeing as this is the final installment in this (very exciting) collection of essays, here is a small conclusion to round up everything I’ve spoken about over the past four weeks.

Conclusion

This essay collection was comprised to explore character relationships, and how they can be developed over the course of the novel, as well as looking closer at narrative theories and symbolism. They successfully communicate how each of the separate character connections are formed, developed and closed, through the use of one main physical symbol.

If each of these essays can prove that physical symbols play an important part in character relationships, then we can track this across a wider range of literature. This is just a small selection of books, part of a much larger collection. Each of the stories referenced in these essays are from a different genre; modern classic, children’s fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult fiction. Even in this wide group of genres, the formula can still be applied. How characters come together can be tracked back to something physical in their lives, that plays a big part in the overall narrative. But what does this tell us about other books? Surely if this is proof, we can start to see the formula in action in every book we read. For example, Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester’s relationship can be symbolised by the chestnut tree, or how Gatsby and Daisy’ relationship can be symbolised by the green light across the water.

Each of these separate essays tell a story; the story of a relationship developing. The importance is how they come together to communicate a broader narrative. Collaboratively, they show how readers can begin to find links in the books that are part of their own reading journey, and teaches about the importance of using symbolism in literature.

Next week I will be discussing how I went about studying the stories I read for this project, what I have learnt from my experience, and how I want to apply it to my reading in the future.

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Stories: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the next installment in the Stories series…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

In which we explore Harry and Voldemort’s relationship with regards to Harry’s Scar

Harry and Voldemort’s relationship is probably the most complex relationship in this collection, as it has the chance to fully develop over a series of 7 books. However, how their relationship first comes to existence is crucial to the story of the first book, and can be explored in it’s own way. Harry is an orphan, who grows up in the Muggle (non-wizarding) world, until, on his 11th birthday, he is informed by half-giant Hagrid that he is a wizard. He has been accepted to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he meets fellow wizard Ron, and witch Hermione, who stay with him and form a strong bond together over the 7 books. Voldemort is known as one of the darkest wizards of all time. He was the one responsible for the death of both James and Lily Potter; Harry’s parents. Voldemort attempted to kill Harry, but failed when the killing curse rebounded and he supposedly died. We find out later that he is just without his body, and his soul has to latch on to another live being to continue surviving. Of course, Harry and Voldemort are arch enemies. We find out later in the series that there was a prophecy spoken about them, which explains that neither can live while the other survives. The main challenge that each face throughout the series is trying to kill the other. However, in the first book, Harry is only just beginning his journey to find out everything about this new world, and is presented with his nemesis that he must eventually defeat. There are several things that connect these two enemies across the series, but the main symbol we are introduced to in Philosopher’s Stone is Harry’s scar. It remains throughout the 7 books as a representation of Harry’s fame, and how he is recognisable as the only known wizard to survive a killing curse, making him somewhat of a celebrity. However, there are deeper meanings and problems behind the scar that are further explored as the story progresses.

At the beginning of the novel, we learn about the murder of Harry’s parents, committed by Voldemort. When he then tries to kill Harry, Voldemort unintentionally marks Harry with a lightning bolt shaped scar, not truly understand why the curse didn’t kill Harry, and what happened when it rebounded. The scar here is believed to create a connection between the two characters, which is unknown to either of them until a lot later in the series. Voldemort doesn’t make a full appearance until further into the novel, because of what happened to him on the night his curse failed, and some believe him to be dead. Before starting at Hogwarts, Harry journeys to Diagon Alley to get his wand, where he finds that the wand that has chosen him has a core similar with only one other wand, which belonged to Voldemort. This was the wand that gave Harry his scar, which helps us as the reader to start to see the connection between them forming. Harry doesn’t encounter any problems with his scar until he starts at Hogwarts. On the night of the start of term feast, Harry gets a burning sensation in his scar when Professor Quirrell has his back to him. We learn later that Voldemort is living in Quirrell, and Quirrell’s turban is hiding Voldemort’s face on the back of his head. This is the first time Harry feels pain in his scar, showing how Harry will come to experience pain whenever Voldemort is close or particularly powerful at the time, the fact of which is fully uncovered later in the series. Knowing this, it foreshadows the end of the first book when we find out about Voldemort’s soul latched on to Quirrell. That night, Harry has a dream about Quirrell’s turban, which foreshadows what it is hiding underneath. This could also suggest development later in the series when Harry starts having dreams connected to what Voldemort is doing, and find his dreams being somewhat controlled. This begins to show their connection through using the idea in the first book, and also points to why the scar provides the connection it does, which is the Horcrux that Voldemort accidentally left in Harry when he cast the killing curse.

As the novel continues, there are only subtle mentions of Voldemort, but the story mainly focuses on Harry and his first year adventures. However, when Harry, Hermione, Draco and Neville are taken into the Forbidden Forest on detention, a discovery is made. Voldemort is using Quirrell and going into the forest to kill unicorns and drink their blood, which offers you eternal life, albeit a cursed one. Harry experiences intense pain in his scar when they encounter Voldemort hovering over a dead unicorn, showing the connection between them whenever Voldemort is close to Harry. It also shows that Voldemort is getting stronger through drinking the unicorn blood, and therefore become more powerful. The pain in Harry’s scar continues even when Quirrell isn’t around, such as when Harry is sitting his exams, which further supports how Voldemort has gotten stronger through Quirrell and drinking the unicorn blood. Harry states that he thinks “it’s a warning… it means dangers coming” (Rowling, 192), showing Harry beginning to understand the severity of the situation he and his fellow wizards and witches face if Voldemort were to return. This takes us to the final chapter of the first book, when Harry faces Voldemort for the second time in his life.

Harry meets Quirrell when he is attempting to steal the Philosopher’s Stone for Voldemort, which would provide him with eternal life that is not cursed from unicorn blood. Quirrell asks Harry where the stone is, and after using the Mirror of Erised, a magical mirror provided by Dumbledore as a barrier to the stone, it appears in Harry’s pocket. When Harry is questioned, he insists he doesn’t know where the stone is, but Voldemort can tell he is lying. This could be through the connection they have through the scar. When Voldemort instructs Quirrell to attack Harry, and they come into contact, it causes Harry extreme pain, which solidifies that the connection was definitely between him and Voldemort, and the pain is caused when he is close, and is increased in severity the closer or more powerful he gets. However, Voldemort is unable to have Harry touch him, because of a protection Harry has from his mother, something that Voldemort will never understand. Love. This becomes an extremely important protective shield through the first half of the series.

In summary, the first novel in the Harry Potter series builds a strong foundation for Harry and Voldemort’s relationship to continue growth and development. The introduction of the scar is imperative in understanding how the two characters have a more magical connection, and how Harry will learn how to develop that connection over the rest of the series. The most important part of this first book is establishing the relationship between these two long term enemies and learning how they are connected, as well as showing how Harry’s scar will become a key symbol throughout the following 6 books, particularly with it’s clear link to one of the darkest wizards of all time.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Stories: The Book Thief

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This new collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the next installment in the Stories series…

The Book Thief

In which we explore Liesel and Hans’ relationship with regards to the Accordion

 Liesel and Hans have an important relationship, although it is one that takes a while to come into full fruition. Liesel is a young girl, who loses her parents and is taken away with her brother to live with her new foster family, the Hubermanns. Her brother, however, does not survive the journey. Liesel continues to grow up in Germany during the time of Hitler’s dictatorship. Hans is a Hubermann, and end up being Liesel’s adoptive father. He is very much against the Nazi Party and everything Hitler stands for. Hans paints houses for a living, and plays the accordion. The accordion is symbolic throughout the novel for many reasons, and is part of many character relationships. For the benefit of Liesel’s relationship with Hans, it symbolises comfort, and is a form of distraction in tough times. As the book progresses, the relationship between Liesel and Hans develops, as does the symbolism of the accordion. Not only does it represent comfort, but it also becomes a representation of Hans himself, particularly in the later parts of the book when Liesel is older, and Hans goes off to war. Whatever the accordion symbolises, it plays a crucial part in the development of Liesel and Han’ relationship.

Hans is first introduced when Liesel refuses to get out the car when she arrives on Himmel Street. He is the only one who seems to get through to Liesel, and manages to persuade her to join them, establishing an immediate trust between the two characters. Shortly after arriving, Liesel has nightmares about her brother who dies on the journey to Himmel Street, and Hans comes to her side to comfort her with his accordion, which is when this instrument is first introduced into their relationship. Hans learns of a book she acquired at her brother’s funeral, The Gravedigger’s Handbook, but finds she cannot read. Hans himself isn’t the best reader, so they begin to learn together. As their relationship develops in it’s earlier stages, Hans continues to play the accordion for Liesel in particularly distressing moments, such as when she realises her mother is not going to answer the letters she writes. 
We learn how Hans came about owning the accordion, through a friend during World War I. Hans brings Max- his friend’s son, and a Jew- to Himmel Street, and him and Liesel form a very strong bond. Due to Hans’ possession of the accordion, Liesel gains a loving friend in Max and, in a way, Hans gave Liesel someone who would always be there for her as long as he remained hidden.

The accordion, in these first steps of Hans and Liesel’s relationship, is when it keeps it’s surface symbolism of comfort established in the introductory paragraph. 

Over the course of the novel, Hans and Liesel’s relationship grows ever stronger. Hans is called to paint windows to create blackouts for residents when the air raids come to Himmel Street. Liesel goes to work with him, and he takes his accordion to have easy access to a form of entertainment, especially during these darker times. The music brings Liesel and Hans closer, giving them something to bond over. Liesel has developed a particular fondness for books by this point in the novel, and can understand what music means to Hans through her love of books, and how reading makes her feel. When the air raids begin in Himmel Street, they have to relocate to closest shelter on the street. Hans leaves his beloved accordion behind, possibly for Max to have some comfort when he is left behind, not being able to leave the house. It could also be because Hans has come to trust Liesel to create her own distractions though reading. Again, this shows how the two have managed to translate each others feelings through their own sources of comfort. Liesel has learnt how to appreciate having her own source of serenity through Hans and his accordion.

Hans is eventually called off to war, leaving Liesel and Rosa, Liesel’s adopt mother, behind. He leaves his accordion, to provide them both with a memory of him. The accordion begins to act as a symbol of him, as well as a symbol of comfort. Hans asks Liesel to take care of his accordion, as a way of telling her to stay positive and strong. Liesel “lifted the accordion from it’s case and polished it…she placed her finger on one of the keys and softly pumped the bellows…It only made the room feel emptier.” (Zusak, 444), showing Hans is there in spirit, but the instrument cannot fully resurrect his presence, and they cannot play it with the expertise that Hans does.

Hans returns from the war, which is closely followed by an unannounced air raid on Himmel Street, in which Hans and Rosa both die. Liesel is protected as she is down in the basement writing. Despite it being deemed too shallow to be a proper shelter, it seemed to be enough for her to survive. Hans’ death draws a close to Liesel and Han’s relationship. Hans leaves his accordion behind when he dies, almost like a reminder of him for Liesel. This continues to support the idea from when Hans went to war, and the instrument came to symbolise him directly. The accordion is described as “an unhappy-looking accordion, peering through it’s eaten case” (Zusak 502), which could translate to how Hans has died, therefore so has the accordion. The novel uses a flashback to take the reader through the events leading up to the deadly bombing on Himmel Street. Hans sits with Liesel and plays the accordion as she writes in her notebook. She describes the accordion as ‘breathing’, giving it a final lease of life before it is destroyed, just like Hans spending those last moments with her before he dies. The flashback also solidifies the idea of the accordion appearing as a symbol of Hans, when Liesel says “sometimes I think my papa is an accordion” (Zusak, 531). The ultimate destruction of the accordion symbolises not just the death of Hans, but also the comfort ceasing to exist in Liesel’s life as her foster parents are taken from her in death, and expressing the end of Liesel and Hans’ relationship.
In conclusion, the accordion is extremely important, particular it’s symbolic meaning through the later parts of the story. The accordion provides comfort for Liesel and Hans, especially in times of need, and this feeling is transferred later into Liesel’s love of books and reading. Later, it comes to be a symbol of Hans, and stands in his place as somewhat of a father figure for Liesel, not necessarily as a person, but what it represents in her life. When Hans dies, the accordion follows in his footsteps, stripping Liesel of all happiness and comfort in a cruel way. Being constantly personified throughout the novel, described as ‘breathing’ and ‘having teeth’, the instrument becomes like a third character in a relationship built on belief and trust.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Stories: The Fault in Our Stars

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It’s the first Sunday of July, which means it’s time for a new discussion series. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This new collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the first official installment to the Stories series…

The Fault in Our Stars

In which we explore Hazel and Augustus’ relationship with regards to An Imperial Affliction

Hazel and Augustus have what one might call a ‘love at first sight’ relationship, but it consists of so much more than their love for each other. Hazel is a teenage girl suffering from leukemia, and is our narrator throughout the novel. Augustus, or Gus, is a teenage boy who is introduced to us as being in remission after suffering with osteosarcoma. They meet at a cancer support group, and it is clear that they instantly have a connection. They begin dating, and become each other’s support during tough times throughout their lives, particularly Hazel’s terminal illness, and eventually Gus’ as well. Gus relapses and eventually dies after a lot of suffering and termination of chemotherapy. As for the ultimate binding of their relationship, that is all thanks to An Imperial Affliction, the metanovel in The Fault in Our Stars, that Hazel sees as her ‘personal bible’. It accurately translates her life- how she feels about her illness and how it will affect the people around her- into a relatable story. Soon after they meet, she shares this novel with Augustus, as a way of describing her ‘story’, not the story of her diagnosis, but her ‘real story’, what she really enjoys in life. Augustus is determined to read An Imperial Affliction, and after doing so, Hazel and Gus bond over the sincere messages and important themes throughout the book, and how they have come to work in both of their lives. They decide to contact, and eventually get the chance to meet, the author of the novel for answers about how the characters continue with their lives after the book. This becomes extremely important for how An Imperial Affliction works as a symbol that is in constant motion throughout Hazel and Gus’ relationship.

Hazel and Gus connect instantly when they meet at support group. After some smooth yet somehow awkward seduction on Gus’ part, they both go back to his house and end up swapping their favourite books, which means Hazel has to tell Gus about An Imperial Affliction. Through this, while Gus gets a taste of Hazel’s world, Hazel gets a taste of Gus’, through reading his favourite series ‘Counterinsurgence’. Once Gus has finished reading AIA, he completely understands how it reflects a life ridden with illness, and shows his affection for the novel by discussing it in great depth with Hazel. It is here that they realise they share the same, and some contrasting, beliefs about life philosophies. After the realisation that they both want answers to some things in the novel, Gus manages to email the assistant of Peter Van Houten, who is the author of AIA. This shows how much he cares not just for the book, but also for Hazel, because she previously mentions not being able to contact him in any way.

An Imperial Affliction begins, and in a way remains, as a form of comfort and support for Hazel. Putting it in this role not only means Hazel can draw real value from what is written in the book, but also means it becomes a guide to another source of support which we see in Augustus. In a way, having someone to share AIA with makes her beliefs in the content, and it’s value, stronger for her. Most people understand fiction as just a story, but we can see that AIA definitely has more value, through how Hazel uses it as some sort of ‘personal bible’ for living with her illness, but also showing how fiction can bring people together and bring joy to people’s lives. The value of the fiction becomes stronger in these circumstances because Hazel and Gus both have limited time with each other.

Hazel and Gus journey to Amsterdam to meet Peter Van Houten in hope of answers about what happens to the characters at the end of An Imperial Affliction, particularly to those who are left behind after the protagonist dies. Unfortunately for Hazel, who has been longing for these answers for years, Van Houten turns out to be very unhelpful and quite rude. The summary of his discussion with Hazel and Gus is that AIA is ultimately a work of fiction, and that the characters cease to exist when the novel ends. Gus agrees to write Hazel a sequel, which he declares will be better than anything Van Houten could write. He then later reveals to Hazel that his cancer has come back quite seriously, and will be undergoing chemotherapy when they return from Amsterdam.

An Imperial Affliction is what brings Hazel and Gus to Amsterdam, which makes up quite a large chunk of the middle part of the novel. Their discussion with Van Houten is, on the surface, a failure, as they do not receive the answers they seek. However, the philosophies he speaks of helps them appreciate their life as an infinity, and how “some infinities are bigger than other infinities” (Green, 189). They learn that their relationships and, further from that, their lives, are just one personal infinity within and among larger ones. The ultimate reason why An Imperial Affliction is so important during the development of their relationship is because they want to get answers not just about the characters in the story, but the people in their story, and what will happen to them when Hazel and Gus die. An Imperial Affliction brings them closer through their shared interest of this, and also their awareness of how one death will affect the other person.

Gus begins to undergo treatment for his cancer as soon as they return from Amsterdam. Hazel stays by his side the entire time, and is one of the only people in his life who can truly sympathise with what he is going through, having gone through it herself, and continues to do so. Towards the end of Gus’ life, he asks Hazel to write him a eulogy. He wants to be able to read it before he dies, to know he has made a difference in her life. Her eulogy talks about how their relationship and their lives were infinities, and references how Van Houten was influential to what she has written. Her eulogy is weighted heavily with what Van Houten was trying to communicate to them, in a way which Hazel understands. We understand that An Imperial Affliction is a work of fiction, but clearly the value of fiction is tested again, through how Hazel talks about Gus’ life, and their relationship. We know now that the book has led them to Van Houten who gave them the answers they didn’t realise they wanted. Eight days after Gus hears what Hazel wrote, he dies. From this, Hazel gets the answers she has always been looking for, but not in the way she expected. She comes to learn what happens to your loved ones when you die, through first hand experience.

To summarise, An Imperial Affliction plays a very crucial role in Hazel and Gus’ relationship, and ultimately drives their storyline. It takes them on a journey for answers, and brings them closer together in the process. It leads Hazel to Augustus, and continues to be her guide through their relationship. An Imperial Affliction gives Gus to Hazel as it’s way of saying ‘everything you want answers to, you will get through Augustus’. It begins as a guide to Hazel’s life specifically, and ends as something that has led her to a life where she will find out what will happen when she dies, which is Hazel’s main goal in the story. The novel brings Hazel and Gus together, and helps them to realise how important their lives are, despite having less time than most others. As Hazel says, Gus ‘gave me forever within numbered days’.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Until next time…

Jade 🙂