J.K. Rowling's seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series will hit bookstores this month and there is no shortage of anticipation among Harry Potter fans. Kansas State University's Philip Nel and Karin Westman are no exceptions.
Nel, associate professor of English, is the author of "J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Novels: A Reader's Guide"; and Westman, an associate professor and head of the department of English, is completing her book, "J.K. Rowling's Library: Harry Potter in Context.
" Both teach a course on Harry Potter at K-State and have some predictions for Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," to be released July 21.Westman and Nel both have concerns about Harry's fate, as well as the fates of other key characters in the final book.
"I'm a little concerned about Harry. One of the features that is emphasized about Harry is his willingness to sacrifice himself for others," Westman said.
"We've seen a character sacrifice himself before when Dumbledore sacrificed himself in the sixth book, so I don't know who will be the character who puts their life on the line in this book.
"I'm also concerned about Ron. He has shown himself to be willing to sacrifice himself in a previous book and that may be a parallel that Rowling draws on in this book," she said.
"One reason I think you might see Ron be the character who sacrifices himself in the new book is because he is the best friend, and we all know that that is the role of the best friend -- to be the sacrifice," Nel said.
"I don't think Rowling is going to kill Harry. I think Harry will survive, but I definitely don't think it will be an easy or uncomplicated survival.
"I think there will be a lack of resolution on some of the questions that have come out of the novel. For instance, I don't think there will be an answer to the question over which side Snape is on," Nel said.
Westman said she is also interested in the role Ginny Weasley will play in the last book.
"She has become increasingly strong as a character and important to the group of friends; she is definitely a character to be reckoned with. Also, I think that we, as readers, would like to see Ginny and Harry together as a couple," Westman said.
"Clearly, Hermoine and Ron are part of Harry's adventure," Nel said. "Harry is always saying he wants to go on alone and they never let him, so they are certainly going to be a part of the alliance against Voldemort, but I think we can expect that Ginny will be a part of that group as well."
While Harry's story is ending with the final book, both Nel and Westman say fictional characters really live forever.
"Rowling has said quite clearly that Harry's story will end with this last volume," Westman said. "Even though his story will end, it is important to remember that Harry Potter will live on in the fan fiction that is a portion of the fan response to the series."
"Harry Potter will continue to live on for readers now and readers in generations to come," Nel said. "That's the nice thing about fictional characters. They never really die; they're always there and you can go back and spend time with them whenever you want simply by picking up a book and reading.
According to Nel and Westman, the success of the "Harry Potter' series is due to many factors.
"One thing that makes it successful is that it appeals to both children and adult readers," Westman said. "Young readers relate in terms of their experiences as schoolchildren. Adult readers can enjoy it, too, because Rowling writes about an adult world as well as a world that children inhabit."
"Rowling is someone who has read widely and successfully synthesized her many influences into something that seems new, that seems original," Nel said.
"From Jane Austen to C.S. Lewis to E. Nesbit to Dorothy Sayers, and even to the Greek and Roman myths Rowling read in college, she has been able to take elements from all of those influences and create something unique that is in itself a work of art."
"Another thing that makes the series successful is the mystery component of the book," Westman said. "For example, you keep reading in the first book to figure out whether Harry and his friends are going to figure out what the philosopher's or sorcerer's stone is, and you read later to try and figure out who Sirius Black is and whether he's going to be on Harry's side or on Voldemort's side."
"The great thing about the series is that it is both plot and character driven," Nel said. "If you're someone who needs a page-turner, you get that. If you're someone who enjoys getting to know characters and developing a relationship with them, you get that, too."