Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Analysis

  • The Horcrux Locket

    Harry, Hermione, and Ron spend a ton of screentime preoccupied with locating the real version of the locket that Harry and Dumbledore found at the end of the last film. And this isn't just because the locket is pretty, or because stealing a prized possession of Dolores Umbridge's would make anyone smirk.

    The locket contains a teeny tiny bit of Voldemort's soul. And don't be fooled by size here; there's a lot of evil crammed into that little necklace, both literally and symbolically.

    First, let's start with the literal: the locket has some serious dark magic protecting it, and it contains a piece of Voldemort, so it has some pretty serious mood altering effects. Harry, Hermione, and Ron have to wear the locket to keep it safe, but they can't wear it for too long, because otherwise their moods get really dark—especially Ron's.

    The necklace draws out all his doubts about his friends and suspicions about their motivations, loyalty to each other, and secret Harry-Hermione sexual tension. The end result? The friends end up at odds with each other, and Ron ends up leaving.

    But there's more going on with its significance on the symbolic level. The locket represents and embodies the whole mysterious, hard-to-wrap-your-head-around Horcrux errand that they've been sent on…with basically zero information on how to achieve their goals or tools to complete it.

    When the movie begins, they just know that a guy named R.A.B. stole the real locket from Voldemort and was intent on destroying it.

    Just to recap, they don't know:

    • Who R.A.B. is/was
    • Whether R.A.B. is dead or alive
    • Whether R.A.B. has destroyed the Horcrux
    • Where the Horcrux is (if it's not destroyed)
    • How they'll destroy the Horcrux when they find it, without the sword of Gryffindor to help

    That's a long list of questions, right?

    The kids are feeling pretty anxious about the Horcrux hunt as a whole, and this first mission to find the locket brings out all their anxieties and even anger about being left with the task of destroying Voldemort without any guidance from Dumbledore.

    And again, this is particularly true with Ron. Ron feels like they are on a wild goose chase with this larger Horcrux hunt, and he comes to doubt that Harry is leading them effectively.

    So, when things with this first Horcrux drag on, Ron's frustrations about feeling obligated to follow Harry in the overall mission while basically zero progress is happening all come flooding out.

    RON: I just thought, after all this time, we would've actually achieved something. I thought you knew what you were doing. I thought Dumbledore would have told you something worthwhile. I thought you had a plan.

    HARRY: I told you everything Dumbledore told me! And in case you haven't noticed, we have found a Horcrux already.

    RON: Yeah, and we're about as close to getting rid of it as we are to finding the rest of them, aren't we?

    HERMIONE: Ron. Please take—please take the Horcrux off. You wouldn't be saying any of this if you hadn't been wearing it all day. 

    So, the locket Horcrux both literally causes and symbolically represents all the doubts, lapses in loyalty/trust, and other not-so-nice feelings that can come up when the going gets rough.

    Lucky for us, though, Harry and the gang are stronger than any stupid locket.

  • Mad-Eye's Eye

    In this film, Mad-Eye's magical eye becomes symbolic of just how bad things have gotten for the non-evil Wizarding world—and how much power Voldemort's crowd has gathered.

    Things are bleak enough that people are using eyeballs as office décor.

    But let's back up: you remember how Mad-Eye used his magical eye, right? It was basically like a security camera that lived in his skull, and he could use it to see enemies approaching from basically all around—like, even through the back of his head. It was a 360-degree kind of coverage.

    Well, that all changes when Mad-Eye, well, dies. We'll be honest: we were so upset about his death that we didn't really pause to think about what happened to that magical device, but it does end up reappearing—stuck in Dolores Umbridge's door at the Ministry of Magic.

    Yup, that's right: when the Death Eaters killed Mad-Eye, and then took over the Ministry, they apparently gave Mad-Eye's "mad eye" to Umbridge. Who then installed it in her door to use as a way of spying on her fellow wizards.

    So, you see, the purpose and meaning of the eye has totally changed when we see it in Umbridge's door. It used to be used for detecting evil and protection, but now it's part of the whole effort to increase evil and pain in the world (which is pretty much Umbridge's game).

    That little change in the fortunes of Mad-Eye's eye really does stand in for just how much has changed in the Ministry of Magic and, well, for the whole Wizarding community. Evil is definitely on the march…and the Death Eaters have security cameras plucked straight from the skulls of corpses.

  • The Sign of the Deathly Hallows

    There's this weird symbol with an eye that keeps popping up around Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Is it the Illuminati? Will Harry, Hermione, and Ron get trapped in a tangled web of conspiracy theories and start saying, "Wake up, sheeple"?

    Nope, sorry.

    It takes basically the whole movie for them (and us) to find out that this little drawing represents those hallow-thingies mentioned in the title. Hey, better late than never, right?

    The symbol basically consists of an eye, a triangle, and a line, and it symbolizes three objects that, when held together, could (according to legend) make the owner the "master of Death."

    Those three objects? A resurrection stone, an invisibility cloak, and a very, very powerful wand.

    Now, wizards like Ron had already heard the story of the Deathly Hallows in the form of a children's tale about the three brothers who were the original owners of the three objects—but it was told as just that, a tale. However, when Xenophilius Lovegood tells it to the ids, he seems to be dead serious about the existence and magical powers of these "Hallows."

    When the movie ends, the kids don't seem sold on the existence of the Hallows, but they do know that Voldemort is after a super powerful wand. So maybe there's something to the tale?

    And anyway, this whole notion of a foolproof way to master/cheat death is a little too appealing to ignore when they're trying to defeat the most dangerous dark wizard of all time.

    So we're sure they'll still be mulling the existence of the Hallows—and their likely location—going into the next film.

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    Ordinary World

    Is there such a thing as an "ordinary world" in the Potterverse? Not really.

    But we suppose you could make the argument that things are pretty status quo (considering) when the film begins: the summer is about to end, and most Hogwarts students are thinking about returning to school.

    Well, er, Harry's not, but he does have to leave his aunt and uncle's house for good.

    Call To Adventure

    Harry has to get out of the Dursleys' house before his 17th birthday. The Order of the Phoenix has put out false information about when he's going to be moved to avoid Death Eater interference, but Snape has gotten the real scoop—and he tells Voldemort.

    So, when Harry and a whole slew of traveling buddies/decoys take off from the Dursleys' casa, Voldemort and friends are waiting for them. Mad-Eye and Hedwig die in the process, and those who survive have a rough time of it. George (Ron's brother) even loses his ear.

    However, the survivors all eventually make it to Harry's destination/new safe spot (the Burrow a.k.a. Ron's house).

    Refusal Of The Call

    As you might imagine, Harry's pretty traumatized after that whole ordeal and has some trouble sleeping. So, he gets up in the middle of the night and seems to be ready to walk right out of the Burrow (and off on his own).

    Ron catches him, though, and puts a stop to all that. And rightfully so—after all that trouble to get him there safely, he's just going to leave?

    Harry says he doesn't want any more people dying for him, and Ron has to remind him that this whole battle against Voldemort is definitely bigger than Harry Potter. Everyone knew this was going to be tough and dangerous.

    Meeting The Mentor

    Sadly, Harry's mentor Dumbledore is long gone, and he didn't really leave Harry with much insight or any instructions about how to find and destroy all the Horcruxes that Voldemort has made.

    So Harry spends a lot of the movie trying to guess what Dumbledore would have wanted. Good fun for him and his friends, right? Yeah, not so much.

    Harry and his friends think they're going to get some clues into Dumbledore's plans when Scrimgeour (the Minister of Magic) shows up with Dumbledore's will. However, the kids just end up baffled by the stuff Dumbledore has left them: a magic lighter that turns lights off and on for Ron, a book of children's tales for Hermione, and the sword of Gryffindor for Harry.

    That last one is the only item that makes sense to any of them—since it destroys Horcruxes—but it's of no use because it's missing.

    So, the mentor isn't much help, at least early on.

    Crossing The Threshold

    The kids do manage to make some progress on the Horcrux front, even without Dumbledore's help. When the kids have to flee the Burrow to the Order of the Phoenix headquarters after the Ministry falls to the Death Eaters, they figure out the identity of RAB, the man who stole Voldemort's Horcrux and replaced it with a fake (remember that from the last film?).

    And then they find out that their old friend Dolores Umbridge has the real one.

    Tests, Allies, Enemies

    So, Harry, Hermione, and Ron concoct a disguise and manage to break into the Ministry of Magic, get close to Umbridge, and steal the locket back. It's pretty stressful, but they get it done.

    Bad news, though: Thanks to a snafu during their escape from the Ministry of Magic, they can't return to the Order headquarters. So now they have to travel around constantly to avoid detection/capture.

    Approach To The Inmost Cave

    Once they've got the Horcrux, Harry and the gang think they are finally close to making some progress in the whole "Defeating Voldemort" thing. They just need to start destroying these things, right?

    Ordeal

    Well, yes…but that's easier said than done.

    You need something pretty special to defeat the nasty magic that Voldemort has packed into that locket—you know, something like the sword of Gryffindor. But as we already mentioned, that's missing, and the kids have no idea what else could be used to do the deed.

    Unfortunately, having the locket around is horrible. Wearing the locket (which they feel like they have to do in order to protect it) makes them all super grouchy and sad, and has a bad, bad effect on their friendships. Ron gets so gloomy about it all that he leaves the group for a little while, which is pretty awful for everyone.

    Oh, and then Harry and Hermione go to Godric's Hollow to try to meet an old friend of Dumbledore's named Bathilda Bagshot, but then "Bathilda" turns out to be Voldemort's snake wearing Bathilda's body. Harry and Hermione barely escape, and Harry's wand breaks in the process.

    Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    Luckily, though, things take a more positive turn one night while Harry is keeping watch outside the kids' tent. He sees a silver doe in the distance—a Patronus-type vision—and decides to follow it.

    Now, we know—that seems like a really risky thing to do. Following Patronuses without knowing who cast them? Following anything out of the range of the charms/enchantments that have been protecting you? We have to admit, we think Harry's a little crazy at first.

    His risk-taking pays off, though: It turns out that the doe came from a friend (even if we don't yet know who), and it leads him right to the sword of Gryffindor sitting beneath the surface of an icy pond.

    Harry has some difficulty getting the sword up from the pond (the Horcrux tries to strangle him as he dives into the pond), but luckily Ron reappears at exactly the right moment to save Harry and get the sword.

    Then, Ron destroys it and returns back to camp with Harry. One more Horcrux down (that makes three total so far, if you haven't been keeping score).

    The Road Back

    Hermione may finally have gotten something interesting out of the book Dumbledore left her: a symbol. It's a weird triangle with an eye that keeps showing up in their adventures.

    First, Xenophilius Lovegood (that's Luna's dad) was wearing it at Bill and Fleur's wedding early in the film, and then Hermione and Harry saw it on a grave in Godric's Hollow. And now, Hermione's seen it in her book.

    The kids decide the best course of action is to go see Xenophilius and find out more about it.

    Resurrection

    Lovegood is acting super weird when they arrive, but he gives them the scoop about the symbol. It seems it stands for three items known as the Deathly Hallows, and they consist of a powerful wand, an invisibility cloak, and a "resurrection" stone. Apparently, if you have all three, you can become the master of death.

    The kids aren't sure about how much to believe of what is essentially a children's tale, but before they have time to give it much thought, they realize that Lovegood has called the Death Eaters on them.

    You see, Team Voldemort had taken Luna some weeks back, and Lovegood was hoping that if he gave them Harry Potter, they might return the favor by releasing Luna.

    Harry and the gang manage to escape, but they end up running into snatchers that, long story short, take them directly to Voldemort's folks at Malfoy Manor.

    Return With The Elixir

    Things are looking bleak for Harry and his friends at first, but Harry manages to ask for help through this magic shard of mirror he's been carrying around, and suddenly Dobby appears in the Malfoy Manor cellar. Dobby manages to Disapparate out with Luna and Ollivander (who have both been imprisoned there), and then he eventually gets Harry, Hermione, and Ron out, too.

    The downside? Dobby catches a flying knife from Bellatrix as they disapparate out of the Manor, and so he dies. Harry and the kids give him a proper burial on the beach where they have landed.

  • Setting

    The Burrow, the Forest of Dean, and Everything in Between (but not Hogwarts)

    That's right—for the first time in the whole series, Harry is not back at Hogwarts when the school year begins. It's gotten too dangerous for Harry and his friends to be seen out and about (and they have a secret mission), so they decide to go under the radar.

    To avoid capture, the kids move around from place to place quite a bit. At first, they hang out in 12 Grimmauld Place (the Order's headquarters), since it's got all kinds of magical protections.

    However, when that sanctuary gets breached, they have to start camping at various locations…none of which are as warm and cozy as the Burrow (Ron's house) or Hogwarts. The tent they use is probably nicer than your average camping gear (and larger), but it's certainly not homey—it's no wonder Ron (and then Harry and Hermione) gets grumpy.

    Of course, Harry has bigger problems than an undecorated, slightly depressing tent—but nonetheless, we kind of hope that he finds his way to better digs soon. Maybe he can make that priority #2 after the whole "Defeating all the evil in the world" mission.

  • Point of View

    It's Harry's/Voldemort's World, And We're All Just Living in It

    As we mentioned in "Mode of Production," we pretty much only get to see and know what Harry knows, which makes for a pretty straightforward storyline. That being said, there are some exceptions.

    For example, one of the first scene features Snape dishing to Voldemort about Harry's intended departure date from the Dursleys' home. The result? We know that Harry and the gang are likely going to fly straight into Voldemort's trap, which seriously amps up our collective stress levels.

    Other than that, though, we usually don't know too much more than Harry himself... which is frustrating, for sure, but it also brings us closer to the "Boy Who Lived" and helps us empathize with him. So, win? As we just mentioned, it's stressful when we know more than Harry, anyway.

    One cool thing we should mention about the storytelling, though: Yates has to make sure the audience hears "The Tale of the Three Brothers" since it tells us what the Deathly Hallows are, but having us read it wholesale (as we do when we are gobbling up the novel) wouldn't really work well in a movie.

    His solution? Hermione reads the story aloud over a cool animation of the story's events. We think that's a pretty nifty way of making sure we absorb that little narrative—which we need to do, since it's super important to what follows.

  • Genre

    Action/Adventure/Fantasy

    Let's see, we've got wizards, broom chases, a caper involving masquerading as Ministry employees and breaking into the Ministry of Magic, a snake that shapeshifts, wizardly telepathy…you probably get the gist: We're definitely dealing with an action-packed and fantastical plot.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Well, since we think you're clear on who Harry Potter is—if you're not, we're not sure how you got to this page—we'll focus on that Deathly Hallows part of the title.

    As we find out when Hermione reads out "The Tale of the Three Brothers," the Hallows are three objects that, as the legend holds, were gifts from death (distributed originally to three brothers) that can make someone immortal if possessed at the same time. The objects are a wand that can beat all other wands, an invisibility cape, and a "resurrection stone" that brings people back from the dead.

    Harry and his pals aren't sure if the Hallows exist (or have the powers detailed in the story), but they know one thing for sure when the movie ends: Voldemort believes in the existence of a super powerful wand, and he's after it.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    The movie ends with some good old-fashioned grave robbing, with Voldemort visiting Dumbledore's corpse to retrieve what he believes is the Elder Wand—you know, the wand from "The Tale of the Three Brothers" that supposedly can beat any other—from Dumbledore's cold dead hands.

    Given the problems he's had killing Harry with other wands, we're pretty sure we know why he's been so desperate for this particular one. And really sure we don't want him to have it.

    We'll have to wait for the next film to find out if this really is the wand that can defeat Harry, though

  • Shock Rating

    PG-13

    Things have always been pretty dangerous and scary in Harry Potter's world, but there's actually quite a lot of death in this particular film (e.g., Mad-Eye) and gore (e.g., George losing an ear, Nagini hiding herself in Bathilda's corpse).

    So, it's really no wonder they saw that PG and raised it a 13, right?