“The Chamber of Secrets has been opened”

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Chapters 7-9

The Chamber of Secrets

About halfway through the book, we get our first mention of the Chamber of Secrets. As usual, the trio happens upon something when they are somewhere they shouldn’t be and find that someone has written on a hallway wall “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware”. They also find that Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris, has been petrified.

Even Hermione doesn’t know what the Chamber is so she asks Professor Binns to explain it to them during class. The legend goes that the original founders of the school fought with Salazar Slyterhin about what students should be admitted to Hogwarts. In keeping with the theme of Slytherin being evil, he didn’t want any muggle borns being taught at Hogwarts. His disagreement with the other founders caused him to leave the school. However, according to legend, he left behind a chamber that houses a monster that only his heir would be able to control. Most believe this to be myth as no one has ever found this chamber.

If only Slytherin’s heir could open the chamber and attack Mrs. Norris, then who could it be? Several students already suspect Harry since he is always at the center of everything. Even Harry is a little nervous when he remembers that the sorting hat told him he would be a good fit for Slytherin. Of course, he and Ron immediately jump to Malfoy being the heir since he comes from a long line of evil people. And he seemed to know what enemies the message referred to when he said “you’ll be next mudbloods”.

Mudbloods and Squibs

The Chamber of Secrets introduces one of the central conflicts of the series, wizard “purity”. It is the wizarding world’s version of racism. The idea that your lineage determines your worth. It is unknown why certain people born of muggle parents would be able to use magic but many wizards come from non-magic families. And plenty of magical people marry muggles. As Ron points out, the wizard population probably would have died out by now if they only stuck to their kind. But people like the Malfoys, and most Slytherins, believe that only wizards born of other wizards truly deserve to be trained in magic and live in their world. And their racist word for muggle borns is mudbloods, or “dirty blood”.

In these chapters we also learn that the reverse can be true too. Sometimes someone is born into a wizard family but doesn’t possess any magic themselves, and they are called squibs. This is much rarer than being muggle born, but it does happen. It turns out Filch is one and might be the reason that he is so bitter towards the students.

There are a lot of elements of the outsider looking in in these chapters. Through Filch being a squib but working at a magical school. Muggle borns are somewhat outsiders in the wizarding world since they don’t grow up in it. There is also an entire side story about Nearly Headless Nick wanting to join the Headless Hunt but he keeps getting denied because he is not completely headless. He invites Harry to his birthday party in hopes that having an association with someone famous will somehow convince the leader of the hunt to let him join.

Evaluation

These chapters introduce some really important elements to the book and the series. We are learn about the legend of the Chamber of Secrets and that it has supposedly been opened. This will end up being a much better mystery than The Sorcerer’s Stone with little clues planted throughout. The wizard racism conflict is a very important part of the series and will later be used to fuel a war within the wizarding world.

On the other hand they also had some fluff that I didn’t care too much about. The conflict between the Slytherin and Gryffindor quidditch teams for one and then all of Nearly Headless Nick’s death day party seemed like a waste. In the first couple of books, Rowling tried to make the ghosts more important characters but ultimately they pretty much get dropped later in the series outside of just being mentioned in passing.

Miscellaneous

  • There are several easter eggs and clues planted in these chapters for later in the book/series:
    • Ron throws up slugs on a trophy for a “special award for services to the school”
    • The vanishing cabinet is mentioned again (this time by name).
    • We meet Moaning Myrtle for the first time.
    • Harry is hearing dark voices that no one else can hear.
  • After Harry got injured while fighting Voldemort in the last book, he couldn’t play in the final quidditch game of the season so they just played it without a seeker? How does that even work? Why don’t they have a second string?
  • Ron tells Ginny that this kind of thing (Mrs. Norris getting petrified and the message on the wall) doesn’t happen much at Hogwarts… expect when Harry goes there…
  • Professor Binns doesn’t know any of his students names.

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