Friday, June 3, 2011

Crying and Reading

There was a period of time in my early to mid teens when I cried over everything.  By everything, I mean books.  Every book.  Maybe I was reading particularly sad books at the time, maybe my crazy adolescent hormones were making me overly weepy, or maybe I just thought there was something cool about a book moving you to tears.  Whatever it was, it left me, and now it's incredibly rare for me to cry over a book.  The one exception to this is a chapter almost at the very end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.


The chapter I'm talking about is number 34, "The Forest Again."  I remember reading it before leaving for work (which was only five minutes away) and actually thinking I'd be late but not being able to stop.  I bawled throughout this entire chapter.  This wasn't attractive, "oh look how sweet it is that she's crying over a book" weeping.  This was swollen face, snot running down, ink-smearing sobbing.  I rarely cry like this even over real-life things, but Harry Potter managed to do it to me (and made waitressing awkward, what with tear-streaked cheeks [not the only time I waitressed with tear-streaked cheeks there, though usually the manager, not fictional wizards, was to blame]).

Since then, I've probably reread and listened to that chapter on audiobook about five times, and though I've never quite reached that pathetic state, those familiar words still have the ability to elicit a reaction more powerful than most books could hope for.  Today, listening to that chapter while driving from work to Target, I found myself tearing up yet again at one particular line.  The bit in question was just after Harry has conjured those he has loved and lost, while they accompany him on his death-march into the forest:
A chilly breeze that seemed to emanate from the heart of the forest lifted the hair at Harry's brow.  He knew that they would not tell him to go, that it would have to be his decision.
"You'll stay with me?"
"Until the very end," said James.
"They won't be able to see you?" asked Harry.
"We are part of you," said Sirius.  "Invisible to anyone else."
Harry looked at his mother.
"Stay close to me," he said quietly. (700)
Musing on this while I pushed my cart up and down the aisles, I realized that it's not the heart-wrenching sadness of Harry giving himself up to stop the war and save the others, or the presence of those whose loss has hit him the hardest that makes the scene so moving.  What really did it to me was the word "quietly."  No matter how tragic the moment is, how much inner strength it requires of Harry, he can't escape his own humanness.  He lowers his voice when he begs his mother to stay at his side so that, presumably, only she can hear, shielding this moment of weakness and desperation from the men accompanying him.  It is the fact that he needs his Mummy but even at the point of no return has trouble admitting it.  He is not just a hero here - he is a person as well, which makes his decision all the more real and all the more heart-breaking.

What about you?  Do you cry over books?  What sets you off?  Did you smear the pages of this chapter too?

PS. Is it weird that I hope that they will do this scene well enough in Part Two of the movie to elicit the same reaction?


  1. Oh man, I ugly cried over that chapter. Like more than once. I can't listen to it in public because I WILL start crying again. We're gonna be quite a sight once the movie comes out. It'll be an entire row of snotty, red faced weepers.

  2. Harry Potter is uniquely capable of making me weep. I can't remember too well the experience of reading VII for the first time (by now it's just a haze of sitting on my sofa all day, refusing to move until I finished the book) but...impossible to believe I DIDN'T cry when I read it. This post, and your look at that passage, make me want to reread it again...

    I stopped watching the movies a few years ago (I think I got up to 4?) but a couple days ago I finally watched the first part of the seventh film. And gotta be honest, I started crying towards the end. I'm so excited that I'm going to be back in the States when the final film comes out.

  3. I cried at this part in Harry Potter too.

    I am a crier, so I do tend to cry at books. I'm more likely to cry at films though, for some reason.

  4. HP elicits tears more for me than most books, and perhaps more with the excellent audios than when I'm reading, as I can't seem to keep myself from skimming when I'm reading the physical books.

    It didn't occur to me at the time but it occured to me now that that passage also parallels the one in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Aslan walks to his death with Lucy and Susan near--they affirm they'll stay with him, and he tells them to stay hidden, so it's not exact, but there was enough of an echo to make me think of it.

  5. Luckily I was reading this part before bed rather than when I was going to have to see people and explain that I'd just lost it over a book. I don't know if I could read the book again, knowing that was coming. I'd started re-reading the series at one point but stopped 1/2 way through the 5th one.

    I love your reading of that one word quietly. I never really thought of it that way, that he lowered his voice so only his mother could hear him but now that you've said it I have trouble figuring out what I did think of that scene.