Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 1-3
Back to Privet Drive
As with every Harry Potter book, we begin again at the Dursleys. Harry still has to spend his summers with them, however he always manages to find a way to cut it short. Harry uses the Dursleys’ willful ignorance of the wizarding world to his advantage. They don’t know he isn’t allowed to do magic outside of school so Harry keeps threatening to perform magic on Dudley who is still very scarred from the pig tail he got from Hagrid.
Now that Harry only has to spend a few weeks out of the year with the Dursleys he has much more confidence and stands up for himself a bit more. He can still be punished by them and they still hate him but he talks back a little more. He doesn’t have to be so afraid of what they will do to him. He is much sassier with Dudley too (“So you’ve finally learned the days of the week”).
He has been home for about a month and hasn’t heard a word from Ron or Hermione. This turns out to be because of Dobby’s interference (which I will get into below), but it shows how much Harry depends on the magical world for happiness. When he is cut off from it he gets angry and depressed. Harry may be more confident around the Dursleys but it is only because he can now treat them as a temporary annoyance. If he had to stay there forever things would be much darker.
The second chapter introduces us to Dobby the house-elf. The Harry Potter fandom is fairly split on Dobby. At times he is sweet and his devotion to Harry is very touching. But he can also be incredibly annoying. And in this book, his many attempts to protect Harry just end up making things worse. Dobby comes to warn Harry to not come back to Hogwarts because someone is plotting something dangerous. Where Sorcerer’s Stone took a while to build to its central plot, Chamber of Secrets tells you right away that something bad is going to happen this year. Of course being a house-elf Dobby can’t tell Harry anything specific. He is bound to serve his wizard family and he can’t tell their secrets. But he has been trying to stop Harry from returning by making him feel cut off from the world by stealing his letters from Ron and Hermione.
House-elves are another example of magical beings that are considered lesser than wizards. They have different magic than wizards but they cannot own wands and are literally enslaved by wizards. The issues with house-elves will become a big theme later in the series so I will wait to get into it more then.
Harry’s Real Family
Like any good friend, Ron knows that not hearing from Harry is a bad sign. So he, Fred, and George come to bust him out in the middle of the night. Even though Molly is furious that they snuck out and took their father’s enchanted car into muggle territory, she is happy to have Harry there. The Weasleys have basically already accepted Harry as part of the family. Molly even says she and Arthur were worried about him too and were prepared to come and get him themselves. From the moment Harry walks into their house he wants to be a part of that family. Ron is embarrassed because their house isn’t particularly nice but Harry is completely enamored. He has never been inside a wizard’s home before and is delighted to see all the magic around him.
Overall I think that Chamber of Secrets is a huge step up from Sorcerer’s Stone. It still has a bit of the Scooby Doo mystery feel to it but is more complex than just someone trying to steal an important object. We get minimal time with the Dursleys and the central plot is more prominent and important throughout the book. Every book opens up the world a little more and I like that in this one we get to know some of the other Weasleys more. We didn’t really meet Arthur and Molly in the first book and we will get more time with Percy, Ginny, Fred, and George. Now that we are past the introduction to the series we get to get into the heart and the characters a little more.
- Half of the first chapter was just recapping the first book and its so painful every time I read the series. Rowling continues these recap chapters for several books. Do people really just pick up books in the middle of the series?
- During this recap Harry refers to Quidditch as the most popular sport in the Wizarding world. I think he means only sport.
- “I’ll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there”
- The Dursleys continue to abuse Harry. After the cake incident they lock him in his room, only let him out twice a day to use the restroom and pass him food through a cat door.
- Arthur is obsessed with muggles and its adorable.
- “They [muggles] will go to any lengths to ignore magic, even if its staring them in the face”
- Ginny is so enamored with Harry she can’t be in the same room as him.