Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Music in Literature

J K Rowling has had a lot of stick for the quality of the writing. As one who has read each of her books aloud, some more than once, I have often been tempted to send her a thesaurus, care of her publisher. But that would be churlish. She created a convincing world, spun a complex and riveting yarn and the quality of language improved greatly in the last few books.

Furthermore, anyone who uses their novel to draw attention to the importance of sound gets my vote.

For those unfamiliar with the Harry Potter series, Professor Dumbledore is a benign, immensely powerful yet endearingly humble, wizard and headmaster. He represents all that is good, in contrast to his nemesis, Voldemort, the personification of evil. In the first volume it is this prominent and high status character that Rowling uses to express the value of music.

In chapter seven, as the students of Hogwarts are drawing to the end of the school song, she writes:

Dumbledore conducted their last few lines with his wand, and when they had finished, he was one of those who clapped loudest.
"Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here!"


  1. I think JKR let her language style grow with the expected age of her audience as they read her books in succession. If you imagine the first book coming out when you are seven, and the last one when you are seventeen (my timing might not be exact) it makes sense.

    I hadn't spotted the comment about music, but she is of course, right.

  2. Fair point. I know the lack of synonyms wouldn't have bothered me as a child but from a parent's perspective I like them because they help feed growing vocabularies. I have occasionally inserted my own when reading the books to my kids but the last few chapters of Book 3, with all its twists and turns, moved too quickly for me to indulge in any snobbery of that kind.