Book Review of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” — (11/52)

J.K. Rowling’s second book in the Harry Potter series starts turning Harry’s world darker.


If you missed my book review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone earlier, then please read it as well. Preferably, before starting this review.


The last glimpse of young Harry Potter in the Sorcerer’s Stone book had him being reacquainted with his muggle family, the treacherous Dursleys. Since Harry’s first academic year at Hogwarts had ended, he was forced to go back to the Dursleys’ home for the summer break.

Of course, as expected, things are quickly back to normal for Harry and the Dursleys. “Normal,” where the Dursleys are concerned, means Harry once again takes up his position as the family pest, the unwanted runt, and Dudley’s favorite punching bag. For Harry Potter, however, things are far from normal despite his tumultuous life at number four, Privet Drive.

The whole summer his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, haven’t reached out to him. In a sense, this makes Harry feel more isolated than even not being at Hogwarts for the summer. His two closest links in the wizarding world have mysteriously stopped all communique with him.

Then, as if life was becoming too stagnant for Harry, an elf named Dobby suddenly shows up in Harry’s bedroom. The elf brings news of terrible future events that will be occurring at the castle. Accordingly, Dobby the elf strongly advices Harry not to return to Hogwarts. When Harry refuses to heed the elf’s words of caution, Dobby begins causing havoc in the Dursley home.

Source: http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080626095944/harrypotter/images/0/0a/Dobby_the_house_elf.jpg

Dobby’s antics get Harry into massive trouble with his aunt and uncle and, as a result, Harry gets barricaded into his small bedroom for the rest of the summer. But, almost as if sensing Harry’s perilous life, his friend, Ron Weasley, suddenly shows up with his twin brothers, Fred and George, to rescue Harry from the terrible home of the Dursleys.

After spending the rest of his summer at the home of the Weasleys, Harry and his friends find themselves right back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As Dobby predicted during the summer, mysterious and terrible things do start happening around the castle. This prompts Harry, Ron, and Hermione to go on a series of risky adventures around the castle as they investigate the dark and dangerous events.

The Funny Moments

Admittedly, this book was much darker than the first one, so there weren’t too many funny moments. You can’t exactly expect the Weasley twins to start cracking jokes about petrified people, right?

But, on the same hand, through some of its darkness, the book was able to illicit some funny sequences. For example, the antics and stories of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart were too fantastical to be true (even for the wizarding world). During their first Defense Against the Dark Arts class, which Lockhart taught that year, the foolish teacher brought pixies to the class as a demo. Basically, things went haywire (especially for poor Neville)!

The Subtle Nuances

Life at Hogwarts was indeed were different for Harry and his friends in their second year than their first year due to the mysterious “deaths” occurring around the castle. For this second book, I felt Rowling had to increase her writing acumen and sense of planning in order to tie up all the loose ends within the 340 pages of the book.

One of the things that made me think twice was when Harry and Ron decided to take their parents’ flying car to Hogwarts. Of course, Harry and Ron are serial risk-takers and so their barometer of what qualifies as “risk” is much higher than others their own age in the wizarding world. However, wouldn’t it have been easier to just wait for Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to return? Why go through all that trouble just to make it to Hogwarts when they live in a magical world where transportation is the least of their worries usually?

Given the events of the second book, perhaps, Rowling had Harry and Ron take the flying car so that subsequent events in the book (when Harry and Ron meet Aragog and his gang of spiders) are able to be carried out. But, that is the subtle genius of fiction writing I suppose — us readers always criticize the finer points of the work when we don’t have the full perspective that the writer has since they know the vision from the start.

The Insightful Ideas

I had to wait quite some time before any bursts of wisdom sprang forward from Rowling’s words. Yet, my reading efforts were rewarded towards the end when Albus Dumbledore, after Harry begins to question him as to why the Sorting Hat didn’t place Harry in Slytherin when it clearly wanted to, states the most profound piece from his all-encompassing wisdom:

“It [the Sorting Hat] only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked not to go in Slytherin….”
Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle [Voldemort]. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — Page 333

If I look back at my own young life, that statement rings true for all of the good and bad things that have happened to me. Our life is so frazzeled and most of it is out of our own control. Just think about it: Do you really control much of what happens to you? I’d venture to say that around 95% of what happens to us in life is completely outside of our control. The remaining 5% is all we can influence at the end of the day. Therefore, the choices we make throughout our lives have all the more importance since we only have that 5% to really make our impact in whatever we do.

When at a crossroads during the Sorting Hat ceremony during his first year at Hogwarts, Harry wisely chose to become a member of the courageous Gryffindor house. As the Sorting Hat told him that night, Harry could have very well realized his full potential and more with the twisted Slytherin house too, but Harry chose to follow his instincts. His instincts told him Gryffindor was the way to go.

And, that choice was the 5% that made all the difference for Harry Potter.

Sources

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 1999. Print.

Notes

This is the ELEVENTH post (out of 52 in total eventually) that is a part of my 2015 Book Reading Challenge.


If you liked this post, then please hit the green “Recommend” button below — thanks in advance!

TwitterPersonal Website