Harry Potter and the Chamber of SEcrets, Chapters 16-18
The culprit behind the Chamber of Secrets is finally revealed and its Ginny Weasley? Not really. It is of course Voldemort, but in his teenage, diary form. In my last post I mentioned that Harry had underestimated the powerful magic of this diary. The diary is able to siphon power off of Ginny the more she writes in it. Had Riddle succeeded, he would have been able to come back to life by taking Ginny’s.
Once again Voldemort tries to come back to life and is foiled again by Harry. Voldemort always underestimates light magic. Riddle has to know how Harry defeated him as a baby. When Harry says it is because of his mother’s protection charm, Riddle is satisfied that it is “luck” and not by any particular skill of Harry’s. When Fawkes arrives to aide Harry, Riddle scoffs at the idea that a bird could possibly help him. But he has forgotten the power of phoenix tears to heal. He also underestimates the value of intuition that Harry has. He is still a very young wizard, only twelve years old, but he is able to defeat Voldemort once again by using his instincts, which in a fight are generally pretty good.
Overall The Chamber of Secrets is a huge step up from Sorcerer’s Stone. However it still feels very much like a Scooby Doo mystery. Everything is neatly tied up at the end. No hanging threads. There were nice little clues throughout. A fun twist at the end. My favorite aspect of this book though is how it connects so much with things down the line. We can’t be certain how much Rowling truly had figured out by this point but certain things are too specific to be coincidence. For one, she had to know that the diary would be a horcrux at this point, and thus already have the horcruxes planned out. The fact that Harry is drawn to it, the way it dies, and the way it works all point to it being a horcrux. Being introduced to who Voldemort was as a, more human, teenager is also very interesting.
As is true for probably most Harry Potter fans, my two favorite books are Prisoner of Azkaban and Half Blood Prince. I love how much this book foreshadows Half Blood Prince, but I am even more excited to get into Prisoner of Azkaban next.
Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher Rankings
Lockhart is leaps and bounds better than Quirrell. I think it is pretty universally agreed that Quirrell was the worst defense teacher. He was very underwritten for being the big bad at the end. Or at least the host of the big bad. Lockhart is a terrible teacher but an absolute delight as a book character. He provides a lot of comic relief, which is not generally a trait of defense teachers. However, it was still very satisfying to see him get a taste of his own medicine at the end of the book when the memory charm backfires on him (Ron really needs to get a new wand) and he wipes his own memory. Defense teachers never last more than a year so I am sad to see Lockhart go, but since next up is Lupin I can hardly complain.
As is pretty obvious at this point, I liked Chamber of Secrets a hell of a lot more than Sorcerer’s Stone. There is a lot more depth to this story and so much of what is planted here will be important later on. Harry unwittingly just destroyed the first horcrux. In the Dumbledore-explains that-it-all chapter he tells Harry that he can speak Parseltounge because Voldemort can and Voldemort shared some of his powers with him the night that he tried to kill Harry. The smaller foreshadows are also fun such as the vanishing cabinet, Dobby, and the relationship the Malfoy’s have with Voldemort (Lucius must be pretty close to Voldemort to have that diary).
The central mystery of the chamber is much better plotted than the Sorcerer’s Stone. It doesn’t feel shoe horned in, the plot of the entire book revolves around it much more. Harry is also better integrated into it by being able to hear the basilisk throughout the book because he can talk to snakes. The stakes are also much higher as students are being petrified and Hogwarts is on the verge of being shut down. Chamber of Secrets may be a huge improvement but it still ranks in my bottom two books of the series. From here the books begin to mature and the story gets much more complex. It is a good book for the intended audience of twelve year olds but I think Prisoner of Azkaban elevates the series to something that can really be enjoyed by all ages. Harry Potter isn’t just popular as a children’s series. Its success is due to its ability to appeal to a wide audience. In my house growing up there was a rotation for reading the new Harry Potter book based on how fast of a reader you were. The kids having less to do always got to read it first, then the parents read it. Not many book series can have that sort of reach.
- When Percy tells Harry and Ron that Ginny walked in on him “doing something” it really sounds like he was masturbating. It turns out he was making out with Penelope Clearwater.
- Even petrified, Hermione gives them key information to solving the mystery.
- Harry and Ron get a lot of joy out of forcing Lockhart to go into the chamber with them.
- Myrtle is thirsty for Harry. She died at peak teenage hormones.
- Lockhart: “Hello, odd sort of place, this, isn’t it? Do you live here?”
- Mr. Weasley: “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain”
- Dumbledore: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than out abilities”
- Harry frees Dobby and Dobby is now even more obsessed with him.