Neuromag July 2018 - Page 29

what Harry sees, feels and experienc- es, but nothing more. This creates a peculiar effect for the reader. While the reader only sees Harry’s point of view, he still feels like he has an ‘outside’ point of view and knows what is go- ing on due to the third-person narra- tive. Because of this, the reader starts to identify with Harry and the way he thinks without much questioning it, as it still feels like an unbiased decision of the reader caused by the seemingly objective view the narration offers. So, when Harry suspects that Snape is the mean guy because he tries to kill him and plans to steal the philosopher’s stone while threatening poor Profes- sor Quirrell, we agree with him. But then are shocked to learn at the end that Quirrell was the evil schemer and it was Snape who tried to prevent Quirrell’s plans. A major plot twist. Yet, one that has been carefully hinted at all along (Quirrell was always right there when something suspicious or dangerous happened, e.g. at the Quid- ditch match or when the troll was in the castle). The question now is, why is it that hardly anyone saw this coming? The answer is narrative misdirection. A writing technique, which is used to deliberately mislead the reader into a wrong conclusion from the given infor- mation, only to reveal the truth later, creating an, ideally, unsuspected plot twist. To achieve this, there are several options for the narration. One is that the narrator believes that he or she is telling the truth and is fooled along- side with the reader. This is somewhat the case in the Harry Potter novels. Here, the narrator tells us everything about what Harry knows and sees and because we identify with Harry, we believe it to be the truth- and it is true, because Harry knows and sees exactly what the narrator tells us, thus his conclusions seem reasonable at the time. However, it’s just not the truth, because Harry doesn’t always have all the information he needs to see the whole truth. The crucial point is that the reader believes that this is in fact the case, that we are presented with all the information because the story is told from a third-person narrator and not, in fact, from Harry himself. But we only know what Harry knows and nothing more. We never knew about Snape’s true intents because Harry didn’t. We never knew about Quirrell’s evil plans because Harry didn’t. Thus, at the end, when Harry discovers Quirrell true colours, we are as thunderstruck as Harry is. The fascinating thing about this is, that J.K. Rowling uses this technique in every single novel of the saga and we fall for it every single time. For exam- ple, in book two it’s Tom Riddle’s diary or in book four the Alastor Moody im- poster. But the best example is surely the true allegiance of Severus Snape, the ultimate narrative misdirection, where the reader is misled through every book until the very end. In sum- mary one could say that the plot twists get us every time because J.K. Rowling fools us every time by misleading us. So, coming back to the question on how J.K. Rowling manage to create a saga that fascinated its readership re- peatedly, even though the basic out- line was always the same, the answer remains a multifaceted one. Yet one answer could be: Because Rowling mastered the art of narrative misdi- rection. Image sources were open source or be- long to the author, unless otherwise noted. References: [1] Herman Melville, Moby Dick. UK: Mac- millan Collector’s Library Vol. 62, 2016, p. 31. 2. Booth Wayne, The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chi- cago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983. 3. Granger John, Unlocking Harry Potter. Wayne, Pennsylvania: Zossima Press, 2016. 4. Melville Herman, Moby Dick. UK: Macmil- lan Collector’s Library Vol. 62, 2016, p. 31. 5. Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter the Com- plete Collection,1-7 (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). Johannes Kunath is studying History, English and Philosophy on a teacher’s degree at the University of Tübingen, Germany. July 2018 | NEUROMAG | 29