[HPMOR] Harry - example or anti-example?

post by ndee · 2020-02-25T02:30:10.283Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · LW · GW · 12 comments

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12 comments

There is one thing that really striked me after reading HPMOR, it's a certain pattern of events that repeats many times.

1) Harry gets into grave trouble due to his self-assurance and indiscretion

2) The author saves Harry using deus ex machina

And this makes me wonder - was Harry intentionally shown as an anti-example of rationality, or it just happened this way?

Answers

answer by jbash · 2020-02-25T13:27:16.061Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapter 122, paragraph beginning with "And right now, Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres was still a walking catastrophe"... and the stuff immediately preceding and following it. Seems like a pretty direct answer to your question.

comment by ndee · 2020-02-25T16:53:26.313Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but wasn't he supposed to learn on his mistakes rather than rely on miracles to save him?

comment by Pattern · 2020-02-25T18:30:10.720Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's what the end of the book is about.

comment by ndee · 2020-02-25T18:55:20.648Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The end of the book looks like Harry's worst case of self-assurance and indiscretion to me.

answer by cousin_it · 2020-02-27T10:26:06.145Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Considering that 1) Harry is born special, a wizard 2) double special, a clone of a super smart guy 3) triple special, considered a savior of a country 4) quadruple special, guaranteed by prophecy to survive the events of the story - and this is all set up before the story even begins - his rationality doesn't matter, he could just get drunk every day and skip classes. It's the Paul Atreides situation all over again (outcome of super genetic program, unbeatable fighter, prophesied messiah of a planet-wide religion, also the lawful heir to that planet, all set up before the story begins). For all the nods to Tolkien, I wish HPMOR had taken more cues from LOTR, where Aragorn (supersoldier, prophesied heir to a kingdom, engaged to an immortal princess) ends up providing a distraction, while Sam (short guy, servant class, gets on critical missions by repeatedly cajoling people to include him) ends up the hero.

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comment by Pattern · 2020-02-25T04:32:33.562Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Both I imagine. It's useful in general to have examples of both ways to succeed, and ways to fail; progress and ways to progress further. Progress may be special in this regard - that success includes failure, and learning from it. Unlearning 'mistakes', and learning 'successes'.

comment by ndee · 2020-02-25T05:20:58.869Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In this case the goal wasn't achieved, because the ending of the book was Harry's worst failure.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2020-02-25T05:34:44.485Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hi, please use >! plus a space at the start of any comments that include substantial information about the plot of a work of fiction, especially one that many on LessWrong are likely to read.

comment by ndee · 2020-02-25T05:37:06.519Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok will know. However, isn't it better to mark it for possible spoilers in the post's title? Just due to the general matter of the discussion.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2020-02-25T06:06:47.982Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For now, each comment appears on the frontpage of the site. I think that something like that, an option for each post to be “sensitive” and have comments autospoilered on the frontpage, could make sense.

comment by player_03 · 2020-02-25T04:26:02.996Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's been a while since I read it, but off the top of my head I can't recall any blatant cases of Deus ex Machina. I'd ask for concrete examples, but I don't think it would be useful. I'm sure you can provide an example, and in turn I'll point out reasons why it doesn't count as Deus ex Machina. We'd argue about how well the solution was explained, and whether enough clues were presented far enough in advance to count as valid foreshadowing, and ultimately it'll come down to opinion.

Instead, I can go ahead and answer your question. Eliezer definitely meant to teach useful lessons [LW · GW]. Not everything Harry does is meant to be a good example (I mean, even Eliezer knows better than to write a completely perfect character), which is probably why he gets into all that trouble. But whenever a character goes into Lecture Mode while solving a problem, it's meant to be both useful and accurate.

Wait a minute, are you talking about Lecture Mode when you say "Deus ex Machina"? I can kind of see that: the situation seems hopeless and then someone (usually Harry) gives a long explanation and suddenly the problem is solved. Thing is, these lectures don't pull the solution out of nowhere. The relevant story details were established beforehand, and the lecture just puts them together. (Or at least, that was the author's intent. As I said, it comes down to opinion.)

comment by ndee · 2020-02-25T05:19:38.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm sure you can provide an example, and in turn I'll point out reasons why it doesn't count as Deus ex Machina.

For instance, when Draco Malfoy decided to torture Harry to death and the only thing that saved him was time machine and time paradox. Very literal deus ex machina.

Another one is the end of the book in all its entirety. Without a very helping hand of the demiurg, Harry should have died (and teach us one very important lesson).

I can probably find a few more, but these two already look good enough.

ultimately it'll come down to opinion.

I do believe that rational people can always find a way to understand each other.

Not everything Harry does is meant to be a good example (I mean, even Eliezer knows better than to write a completely perfect character), which is probably why he gets into all that trouble.

I personally prefer protagonists who don't get into the trouble mostly because of their own faults.

comment by player_03 · 2020-02-25T08:13:24.313Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't mind the occasional protagonist who makes their own trouble. I agree it would be annoying if all protagonists were like that (and I agree that Harry is annoying in general), there's room in the world for stories like this.

Now that you mention it, your first example does sound like a Deus Ex Machina. Except that

the story already established that the simplest possible time loop is preferred, and it's entirely possible that if Harry hadn't gotten out to pass a note, someone would have gone back in time to investigate his death, and inadvertently caused a paradox by unlocking the door.

This wouldn't have had to be a long explanation or full-blown lecture, just enough to confirm this interpretation. But since it wasn't confirmed and there are multiple valid interpretations of the mechanics, it does come across as a bit of an "I got out of jail free" moment.

I... don't understand your second example. I think that part of the story works just fine. Harry's solution was plausible, and even foreshadowed

in chapter 28 when he used transfiguration to apply force.

comment by ndee · 2020-02-25T18:45:10.573Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

it's entirely possible that if Harry hadn't gotten out to pass a note, someone would have gone back in time to investigate his death, and inadvertently caused a paradox by unlocking the door.

Sounds like too much of a stretch to me.

Doesn't this make Harry virtually immortal unless something so catastrophic happens that it destroys all the world at once?


in chapter 28 when he used transfiguration to apply force.

I don't remember that part, could point me to it?

comment by player_03 · 2020-02-25T22:13:15.347Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is a stretch, which is why it needed to be explained.

And yes, it would kind of make him immune to dying... in cases where he could be accidentally rescued. Cases like a first year student's spell locking a door, which an investigator could easily dispel when trying to investigate.

Oh, and I guess once it was established, the other time travel scenes would have had to be written differently. Or at least clarify that "while Draco's murder plot was flimsy enough that the simplest timeline was the timeline in which it failed, Quirrel's murder plot was bulletproof enough that the simplest outcome was for it to succeed." Because authors write the rules, they can get away with a lot of nonsense. But in this kind of story, they do need to acknowledge and (try to) explain any inconsistencies.

And here's the line I was referring to:

"The earlier experiment had measured whether Transfiguring a long diamond rod into a shorter diamond rod would allow it to lift a suspended heavy weight as it contracted, i.e., could you Transfigure against tension, which you in fact could." (Chapter 28, foreshadowing the nanotube, which may or may not have been what you were talking about)

comment by ndee · 2020-02-29T04:04:29.441Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And yes, it would kind of make him immune to dying... in cases where he could be accidentally rescued.


By a time traveler, who doesn't need to do much - only to appear and make the paradox possible. That makes the list of possible cases much more extensive than a first year student locking the door.


And here's the line I was referring to:


Correct me if I don't remember something, but that episode didn't imply that he would be able to create and manipulate tentacles like he did in the book's final.

And that partial transfiguration thingy is a DEM itself as it was used several times to get Harry out of hot water and serves no other purpose in the plot.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2020-02-25T02:40:23.558Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note: Wrapped the post content in spoiler tags