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Written by Timothy Sexton
One of the most powerful themes that this entry in the Harry Potter saga in particular tackles is the complexity associated with issues related to deception, duplicity and dishonesty. The very title of the book is taken from the mysterious persona identified only as the Half-Blood Prince. Once in Harry’s hand, the Half-Blood Prince’s notebook reveals a perhaps surprising depth to Potter’s willingness to embrace duplicity. Even more astonishing is the revelation of Snape’s true character and his part in the larger Machiavellian plans for dealing with the return of Voldemort scripted by Dumbledore. Even Draco Malfoy is exhibited to have greater depths of Machiavellian potential than his previously impulsive acts of envious hatred would suggest. And, of course, Voldemort confirms his status as the Dark Prince of power grabbing.
Sacrificing the One for the Many
By the end of this book Harry Potter is beginning to understand realize that in order to save his friends and the world from dark magic of Voldemort, there is a very strong likelihood that he is going to die. Long before reaching that point of illumination, Harry has not just intuited but embraced the concept of sacrificing for the greater good. In the face of a dawning evidence that a showdown with Voldemort almost certainly implies that neither will be left standing, it would be not just easy, but prudent to run away from his heavy load. Not only does Harry not cut and run, he commits himself to yet another full load at Hogwart’s even as it becomes increasingly less certain that Hogwarts itself will be left standing. By the final turn of the last page, the theme of sacrificing the one for the many has been manifested in startling plot twists involving Snape and Dumbledore as well.
The Power of Identity
The nature of identity exerts a powerful thematic force over the entire book. The most obvious case, of course, is the wealth of background information on how Voldemort became Voldemort in the first place. The passages showing the evolution of Tom Riddle are arguably the best in the entire series. Equally obvious and ultimately every bit as important as Tom Riddle discovering the nature of his identity is the mystery of the Half-Blood Prince which is intensified with the genuinely shocking disclosure of the true nature of Snape. Punctuating the novel’s obsession with secret nature of identity is Dumbledore’s instructions to Harry about the power that lies in fearing the name that lends someone their identity.
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