Prologues and Harry Potter: Clever or Clunky, Part 2

*Check out Part 1 for an introduction and the discussion of Book 1’s prologue.3056076295_21122bdda0

*Some minor spoilers ahead.

A prologue does not appear again in the Harry Potter books until Book 4, The Goblet of Fire. And yet, is this a prologue or isn’t it? Let’s examine.

At first glance, it looks like a prologue. It happens to a whole different set of characters, far away from Harry, the point of view character. Frank, who we follow in the prologue, doesn’t (indeed, can’t) again appear as a POV character. But, technically, as is revealed in Chapter Two, Chapter One is Harry’s dream, meaning that he experienced the scene. (Thus, Rowling breaks another “rule,” “Don’t open with a dream.”) All in all, there are two deciding factors that determine Chapter One’s function.

Whose Point of View?

The reader follows Frank as he sneaks through the dark house and spies on Voldemort. The reader knows Frank’s thoughts and feelings. But Harry’s “presence” complicates things. Could that “presence” disqualify this chapter from prologue status?

I argue no, though you may disagree. (And I encourage you to debate in the comments). Harry followed along in his dream, but he wasn’t Frank. The two points of view never converged, not even in the way that we as readers have our personal points of view converge with that of the point of view character. Harry watched the scene like a movie. He didn’t “read” the scene like a book, as evidenced by his own interior dialogue “And who had the old man been? For there had definitely been an old man; Harry had watched him fall to the ground” (p. 17).

What is a Prologue Anyway?

The last post wondered whether prologues could be effective tools. Today, I ask what you define as a prologue. The analysis above demonstrates that there isn’t necessarily an easy answer. What if Harry had witnessed the scene from Frank’s point of view? Would it be a prologue then? What about a book with many shifting points of view? When does a unique point of view qualify a first chapter as a prologue?  I’d love to hear your theories in the comments.

(You might also jump on a tangent as well with the issue of opening with dreams. Always bad? Sometimes okay? Does it count as a dream if a character has psychic powers?)

Until next time and Part 3.

Photo Credit: barb_ar, Creative Commons

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