Returning to Hogwarts: The Chamber of Secrets

2 February 2015

Ok. I’ll admit. I was mildly dreading this book. It was not my favorite when I first read it. I was sort of afraid that I’d feel the same way again. But no skipping. No whining. Just reading.

Return to Hogwarts: Rereading the Harry Potter series

Book 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

First, let’s talk about “the sequel.” When doing a series, there’s an issue of trying to catch the reader up between publications of subsequent books. Some authors… well, the just haven’t mastered this. Make the first part of the book drag. Others barely address the first book and start off running. But Rowling? I feel like she handles this really well. She weaves the backstory of the first book into the first chapter’s moving action.

Secondly… let’s get to the pastel covered elephant in the room: Gilderoy Lockhart. Ugh. This character is sort of what killed the book for me the first time around. And let’s just say, Lockhart does not age well. I still dislike him. He’s smarmy and irritating. And let’s just be blunt: he’s a douche canoe. It sort of makes Harry’s distain for him so much more palpable.

And then there’s Dobby. I’ll admit, I haven’t always liked this mostly well-intentioned house elf. It’s one of those things when things are painful and awkward and you don’t want to watch but you can’t turn away — that’s how I feel about Dobby. There are sort of other factors coming ahead that play into this as well, but yeah. Sorry Dobby fans, I just don’t know how to handle this guy. I want to like him, and at times I do (hello Dobby vs. Lucius)… but holy wow is he a load of chaos at times.

Keeping along with just talking about new characters, we have Moaning Myrtle. This is one of those cases when the movie version really endeared me to this character. With the book, I was sort of indifferent. Shirley Henderson just did a great job with her. I felt like, with rereading the book, I could not escape from Henderson’s portrayal — which wasn’t a bad thing. You could kind of sympathize for her, but at the same time be like girl is awkward, and then go straight to can’t believe but totally love that she just said/did that.

There are other new people, or ones who get a little more face time, but those three are the ones I had the most opinions about in this book. Yeah, we all hate Lucius Malfoy, but I don’t really feel he’s worth talking about.

So let’s talk about some things I liked. I really enjoyed this continued shift with Hermione. You see her actually willing, and encouraging the boys to break the rules. And she’s not suggesting any of it because she wants to win favor with them. You can see that she’s starting to realize that sometimes you have to break the rules to get to the greater good. I’m not saying that’s a good moral to pass on in a children’s book, but we’re building character with Hermione — it’s part of her path to self discovery. These are the baby steps of Hermione becoming that badass amazing woman. And I love seeing it.

Ok, and the thing you sort of have to talk about with CoS is this whole pureblood, half-blood, muggle-born issue. It’s basically the wizarding equivalent to racism. As adults we know (or should know) that racism and any other sort of prejudices are bad. And really, for the most part, a lot of people in the wizarding world understand that these things are bad and it really doesn’t matter what the person’s lineage is, more so their abilities and that they’re a good person. But you get families like the Malfoys and others, of course all mainly Slytherin, who disagree and want the bloodlines pure… and you just end up smacking your head and wanting to shout at them. Like, didn’t you pay attention to the fall of Hitler’s would-be Aryan nation? THIS STUFF IS BAD. URGH. On top of all of this, Voldemort, the main leading champion of this pureblood cause, and the last heir of Slytherin, is a half-blood himself.

Anyway. On the opposite side of all that we see Mr. Weasley and his absolute fascination with muggles. It’s intended to be a little comical. Most wizards are so far removed from the regular world, so used to using magic for absolutely everything, that they cannot even fathom life without it. I mean, imagine suddenly realizing there’s all these people who can get around and do everything with just their left hands. No right hands. Everything is pretty much possible, but, well, just a little challenging — but after so many generations those people just get used to it and can actually get around pretty well. That’s sort of life without magic to these wizards. Mr. Weasley is very much full of good intentions, but he’s also so excitedly curious about this other society that, well, yeah. Comical.

I feel like I’ve already gone on forever and haven’t even discussed any of the actual main events in the book. But I think I want to end with talking about Tom Riddle in relation to Harry. We discover that Voldemort had left a part of himself in his old journal — his sixteen year old self, who was still mostly known by his birth name: Tom Riddle. As I’ve already mentioned, he’s a self-hating half-blood. Through his mother’s line he’s the last heir of Slytherin, but his dad’s a muggle. He also happens to be an orphan. More details on his life are still to come. But for the most part, he and Harry have similarities that he points out. All of this grinds on Harry who still carries the weight of knowing the Sorting Hat considered him for Slytherin. That thought sort of terrifies Harry — what does that say about his character, if he was actually better suited for Slytherin? But as Dumbledore so greatly points out, it is his choice that makes him who he is — he chose not to be in Slytherin. Harry is choosing the side of good. It’s a good lesson for kids, and adults a like. We might all have the capability in us to be bad/evil, but we all have the ability to choose to rise above it and to choose good/kindness/love.

And there, my friends, though there is definitely more we can talk about, is that warm feel-good moment I’ll leave you with.

Ok! Discuss! Thoughts on Book 2? How does it hold up to Book 1? What about the growth of our main characters? Remember, try to keep comments to just the first two books, we’ll discuss the others soon.

  • Am I the only person who kind of liked Lockhart? I mean, yeah, he is a douche canoe (and JK Rowling has said he’s based on someone she knows), but I find him entertaining.

    I’m kind of the opposite on Moaning Myrtle- I liked her in the book and wasn’t crazy about her in the movies.

    • I just find him too frustrating to be entertaining. I’ve run across a few people like him, and just.. ugh. It feels rewarding or just that he gets what he gets in the end.

  • I’ve been thinking of rereading these books, & I think this post convinced me… I justg miss them!

    • You totally should!! I’ve been having a blast with this reread… It’s interesting to see what I remember, what new surprises I find. It’s been really enjoyable. 🙂 And got talked into rereading another fantasy series after this.

  • Chamber of Secrets is my least favorite book because of new annoying characters– Moaning Myrtle, Lockhart, Dobby, Colin Creevy. It’s a children’s novel, so I understand the silly characters, and honestly I didn’t mind them when I was a kid; you’re right though– some of them don’t age well. Ugh! And I find this frustrating because I think Chamber of Secrets is one of the most important books in the series. It introduces us to so many things that play a crucial role later in the series– the cabinet in borgin and burkes, Tom Riddle’s Diary, pure bloods v. “mudbloods”.

    • I’m so glad you brought this up! I forgot to post anything about it, but yes this book definitely introduces things to us that we’re see throughout the series. Rowling is pretty good at weaving in these details that seem innocuous, but will come up again to play somewhat major or influential role.

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