Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
‘Life’ and ‘Death’ Upside Down in Harry Potter Series
The theme of death in the Harry Potter series provides researchers with a substantial amount of material to absorb, as this topic is of great importance for understanding J.K. Rowling’s message clearer. However, past critics concentrated predominantly on death as a form of sacrifice. This essay will look closely at terms of ‘life’ and ‘death’, because they are not presented in their literal meanings in the books. What is meant by this is that boundaries between life and death in Harry Potter series seem blurred; “‘dead’ and ‘alive’ are not mutually exclusive antonyms in Rowling’s books; there are fine nuances for determining whether someone is ‘genuinely’ dead.’’ The fact that a person dies does not necessarily imply that this person is gone forever. Sometimes characters are able to find life in death, and sometimes those who are theoretically alive can be considered as dead people. To support this thesis, two groups of characters will be examined: firstly –Voldemort (mostly) and his subordinates – Death Eaters; secondly – Harry Potter and his supporters. It is needed to be said that this essay will not be focused on one particular book; it includes the whole series at once as the theme of death is evolving from one book to another.
First and foremost, Voldemort’s image seems very significant concerning ‘life’ and ‘death’ in Harry Potter. Hasten to remark that he was already dead before, at least can be considered dead. In the first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone J.K. Rowling refers to Voldemort only as a ‘hooded figure', just figure, without mentioning any other body parts because apparently he did not even have one at that time – he was disembodied. His complete resurrection only became possible with the help of dark magic. His accomplices held a gruesome ritual to assist him in regaining his body and power. Again, such an act, by its own nature, seems abnormal. In fact, even in the Wizard’s world is it impossible to accomplish that, as those who are dead have to stay dead – the world of magic has to obey this rule. After the rebirth, Voldemort still does not look like human: ‘Whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose that was flat as a snakes with slits for nostrils…'. He started to resemble a snake rather than a man – that is what his evil deeds have done to him. Shira Wolosky, who concentrated on the Voldemort’s portrayal in the Harry Potter series writes that ‘Voldemort’s rebirths are in fact ghoulish, incessant dyings'; and it cannot be argued as an individual is not able to simply change the course of the human existence without any consequences. What adds more proof to the belief that Voldemort is ‘dead’ is his creation of Horcruxes. He willingly divided his soul into seven parts (and also the eighth Horcrux was made accidentally on the night of murdering Harry’s parents). Looking into mythology and religion one may come across Aristotle’s definition of soul – it the first actuality of a naturally organized body. He also argued its separate existence from the physical body. The same can be found in Christianity – by soul one implies a distinct and immortal form, but even despite that it is inextricably connected with the body. Thus, the soul accounts for life itself. On this view, the essential difference between living and non-living things is that living things have a soul and non-living things do not. In the light of all this, it can be said that Voldemort is a dead man regardless his ability to move, talk and commit murders.
The analysis of Harry Potter’s side, however, illustrates that life does not end with one’s passing, although there are no clear cases of reversible deaths. Harry’s world is the Wizard’s world, so it comes as no surprise to readers that ghosts actually exist . But, as can be noticed, only ‘positive heroes’ have this capability to return in a form of a ghost. Potters, Sirius and Lupin came to support Harry when he decided that he was ready to die in order to defeat Voldemort. They were ‘less substantial than living bodies, but much more than ghosts.' His most close relatives gave him what he needed most at that time – moral support, and they stayed with him ‘until the very end.' Although it became possible only with the help of the Resurrection stone, Sirius, Lupin, Lily and James looked very much real. Unlike the girl that Cadmus (the original owner of the Resurrection stone) brought back to life, they were not emotionless and insensitive. What is more, Harry’s parents are the ones that helped him not to die in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire during the final round of the Triwizard tournament. These ghostly figures appeared to Harry as much more solid than ordinary ghosts as they even had enough physical strength to give Harry some time to escape from Voldemort once their wands’ connection was broken. So, even though only for a second, but they supported him physically to resist their common enemy. In general, Lily and James Potter appear several times in Harry Potter series albeit they have been dead since the beginning of the narrative.
Not only do people return as ghosts but also in a form of ‘talking portraits’. These portraits have a capability to give advice and communicate, especially it can be said concerning Dumbledore’s portrait, which Harry constantly talks to. One of the critics in his work writes that the connection between the portrait and the person of whom it was painted seems ‘obscure’. He even compares it with moving photographs in newspapers, which has no soul. However, there is a different viewpoint that is more accurate. In one of the interviews, J.K.Rowling pointed out that traditionally a headmaster or a headmistress is painted while they are alive. After that, portraits are taken to a closed secret room and only the headmaster or the headmistress regularly visits it and teaches it to act like themselves, imparting all kinds of useful memories and pieces of knowledge. Hence, not everyone is able to fully return in a form of a portrait as they predominantly are painted only after one’s death. Such portraits, obviously, contain some main characteristics, but still only a powerful and distinguished person is granted with an opportunity to stay partly alive this way. It might explain, why the reader does not see any portraits of Voldemort or his followers.
What is important to note concerning the theme of death is that all positive heroes die with dignity as can be seen from their last words or actions. For instance, Harry’s father without even a wand in his hand was ready to protect his family at any cost. Realizing that Voldemort has entered the house, he shouted: ‘Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!' Both Harry’s parents’ deaths are heroic, because they protect their loved ones. The opposite of it are the deaths of ‘anti-heroes’. For instance, Bellatrix Lestrange’s end is presented like this: ‘Molly’s curse soared beneath Bellatrix’s constricted arm and hit her squarely in the chest, directly over her heart. Bellatrix’s gloating smile froze, her eyes seemed to bulge: For the tiniest space of time she knew what had happened, and then she toppled, and the watching crowd roared, and Voldemord screamed.' She did not fall – she toppled like a house of cards, like an object, not a person. Even the death of Severus Snape is presented in a different way, less violent, although at that moment readers do not know about him helping Dumbledore all this time. As the snake kills him, Snape’s face loses ‘the little color it had left' (note: it is depicted similarly to Sirius Black’s death), and then he ‘fell to the floor'. The important thing is that he did not very much resist Voldemort, so already in this episode J.K.Rowling is giving readers a hint of Severus Snape’s true nature. Therefore, contrasting deaths helps, firstly, to realize the cowardness of anti-heroes and, secondly, to distinguish good characters from bad ones.
In the death scenes Voldemort and Death Eaters reveal the fact that they are too afraid to die. After being resurrected in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Voldemort says that his goal is ‘to conquer death’ and live forever. He desires to possess the Deathly Hallows because of the same reason – they give their holder the ultimate power to be immortal. However, chasing immortality is pointless since Voldemort and Death Eaters forget about the true meaning of life. If one thinks about it, what would Voldemort do if he had eternal life? He has no friends (only followers who are by his side not out of love, but out of fear) and no family; even the list of people he wants to kill, eventually would have ended. Life lies in accepting one’s mortality like Harry does. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Harry is ready to die for a good course – for saving his loved ones. He tells Dumbledore’s brother: ‘I’m going to keep going until I succeed—or I die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.' Throughout the whole story he was aware that he might die at the end and because of that he was able to live his life to the fullest, enjoying every moment of it. That is what differs Harry from Voldemort and what, according to researchers, helpes him to survive. At the end, Dumbledore calls him ‘the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.' Therefore, the story about Harry Potter proves that without recognizing the reality of death, one cannot truly understand the reality of life and, therefore, cannot truly live.
It is most appropriate to finish the essay with the analysis of the final scene from the last book, which is set nineteen years later. This epilogue is of a great importance because the reader learns about characters’ children. Harry and Ginny named the two of them after Harry’s parents – Lily and James. And their second son’s name is Albus Severus Potter. There is a popular belief that when a person is naming his son or daughter after someone else, this child is gaining some characteristics and maybe even fate of that individual. So, in some way, it can be considered as the continuation of Harry’s parents and Hogwart’s headmasters’ lives. This also shows that all these people are still remembered even Professor Snape who was not always very gracious towards Harry. The reader sees that Harry forgave him, because he says to his son that he was ‘named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.' And it is commonly known that as long as someone is remembered – he or she will stay alive, because memory is an extremely powerful tool (especially in Harry Potter series as they have many features connected with memory, for instance, Pensieves). The same thing cannot be said in relation to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. There is no one to remember them after death. Searching through the text proves that there is no (or very little) mention of them as soon as they die. Referring to the last scene, none of the characters mentions Voldemort. Admittedly, they mention that ‘the scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years', but there is no direct reference to Voldemort. It might be just an intimation of the events, which had happened during their years of education in Hogwarts.
Reflecting on the theme of death in Harry Potter helps the reader to understand Rowling’s message clearer. It is that love transcends death. And if you do something because of love, friendship, selflessness, you are determined to an eternal life. And therefore you should not fear death. But the ones that disdain it and are certain of their immortality are doomed to fail.
1. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2007.
2. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2004.
3. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone. Accessed December 13, 2016. http://www2.sdfi.edu.cn/netclass/jiaoan/englit/download/Harry%20Potter%20and%20the%20Sorcerer’s%20Stone.pdf.
1. Klein, Shawn. ‘Harry Potter and Humanity: Choices, Love, and Death.’ Reason Papers Vol. 34, no. 1, 2014.
2. Rowling, J.K. ‘Hogwarts Portraits.’ Accessed December 13, 2016. https://www.pottermore.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/hogwarts-portraits
3. Sehon, Scott. ‘Dementors, Horcruxes, and Immortality: The Soul in Harry Potter.’ Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles, New Jersey: Wiley, 2010.
4. Stojilkov, Andrea. ‘Life and death in Harry Potter: The Immortality of Love and Soul.’ Mosaic 48/2, June 2015.
5. Wolosky, Shira. The Riddles of Harry Potter: Secret Passages and Interpretive Quests. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Mythical Norms in Kindred and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The mythical norm impacts female characters Dana from Kindred and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Since these characters are female they are both impacted differently by the mythical norms within their societies. While their stories are drastically different, they can be compared in the way that they both challenge this mythical norm and ideals of society through their accomplishments and characteristics. Both Dana and Hermione are smart, motivated, and brave which aids them in challenging the mythical norms of their societies through their intelligence.
Dana faces multiple challenges throughout Kindred and her intelligence is a lot of what gets her to survive the antebellum south. Dana challenges the norm that slaves should not read when she goes to pass on her knowledge of reading to Rufus and other slaves on the plantation. Once while giving one of the slaves a spelling test, Weylin walked into the room. Dana thought “I hoped Weylin couldn’t see. And I hoped Nigel had had the sense to get the pencil off the table. So far, I was the only one in trouble” (246). Dana knew that if she ever got caught doing this that she would get into trouble. She risks getting beaten just to pass on knowledge to Nigel. In this way, Dana and Hermione are alike because they both risk getting into trouble to do what they believe in. The mythical norm in the antebellum south is that white, male, slaveowners have all the power and that black females have the opposite. In discussions with Kevin, Dana uses these mythical norms to strategize. Dana tells Kevin “You understand? I’m a poor dumb scared nigger until I get my chance. They won’t even see the knife if I have my way. Not until it’s too late” (48). Since she is being held to the mythical norm that she is just a dumb black female, she will use this to her advantage if she ever decided she needed to kill one of the white people on the plantation if her life was in danger. In this way, she is able to use this mythical norm held against her for her own good. Not only is this a major act of bravery, but also an incredibly smart move on her part. Dana is using the mythical norm in order to prove that she is, in fact, breaking it. “You’re reading history, Rufe. Turn a few pages and you’ll ﬁnd a white man named J. D. B. DeBow claiming that slavery is good because, among other things, it gives poor whites someone to look down on. That’s history. It happened whether it offends you or not. Quite a bit of it offends me, but there’s nothing I can do about it” (140).
Despite the fact that she is stuck back in time with a racist white family, Dana does not hold back when it comes to teaching the ignorant minds on the plantation. Rufus talks down to Dana and tells her that her book is filled with “abolitionist trash” and yet she does not cease to explain to him what the book is about. She is brave and knowledgeable in this way because she knows her history and is brave enough to try to convey it to Rufus. Dana does not choose to fold under Rufus’ remarks but ruthlessly explains that “that’s history”. Dana explains to Rufus, without sugarcoating anything and well knowing that Rufus is white himself and is guilty of what she means when she says, “it gives poor whites someone to look down on”. Dana knows Rufus has the ability to do whatever he wants with her- whether it be raping her, killing her, or selling her off to somebody else, she still stands for what she knows is right and is not afraid to inform Rufus. Dana smartly adds that “there’s nothing [she] can do about it” when that is exactly what she is doing. Rufus may not even be aware of it, but Dana is enlightening him and several others on the plantation about what is right. The fact that she is doing this despite the harsh consequences she may face proves how brave Dana is.
Although she is not being tossed back and forth between two different time periods, Hermione’s smarts are utilized in many other ways within Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Between herself, Harry, and Ron, she is the smartest individual in the group. Hermione is impacted by mythical norms in the book in the way that people, specifically Malfoy, do not think she is as smart as she is because she is a mudblood female. Malfoy calls Hermione a mudblood and this hurts her, and she let it get to her. Hermione is much smarter than Malfoy and he is putting her down out of his own insecurities. His father even reprimands him for not being on the same level of intelligence as Hermione. Not many characters in the book are brave enough to talk back to Malfoy. However, when he was showing off the new broomstick his father got for the entire Slytherin team, Hermione barks “at least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in” (73). Hermione is brave enough to smartly call out Malfoy after he gloats about his team’s new broomsticks, and he rudely replies, “no one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood” (73). This evokes emotion from the entire group of people from Gryffindor since calling someone a “Mudblood” is quite possibly the worst insult one can give. Since Hermoine is not born from wizards, Malfoy uses this harsh insult to try to hurt her since he knows she is smarter than him and wants to prevent her from publicly calling him out again. Ron explains why she word “Mudblood” is so offensive when he says “Mudblood’s a really foul name for someone who is muggle-born—you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards—like Malfoy’s family—who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood” (75). Just as Dana points out to Rufus how white people enslaved African Americans because they need someone to look down on, Ron explains how Malfoy’s family needs someone to look down on as well. In this case, Malfoy uses Hermione to look down on since she knows her spells better than he does, and she is not born from magic parents.
Hermione strategizes with Ron and Harry just as Dana does throughout Kindred. When plotting how they were going to get Malfoy to confess that he was the one who was trying to frighten all of the Squibs and Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts, Hermione states “there might be a way…of course, it would be difficult. And dangerous, very dangerous. We’d be breaking about fifty school rules I expect” (104). Much like how Dana is willing to strategize and carry out plans that could get her killed, Hermione is willing to risk getting into trouble for the sake of all Squibs and Muggle-borns at Hogwarts. Hermione explains to Ron and Harry that they would have to “get inside the Slytherin common room and ask Malfoy a few questions without him realizing it was [them]” (104). Ron and Harry scoff at her and tell her that this would be impossible, and she smartly replies, “no it’s not…all we’d need would be some Polyjuice potion” (105). Hermione further explains that they will need a teacher to sign off on a paper that will allow them into the Restricted Section. She convinces Lockhart that she wanted a certain book from the Restricted Section just for background reading. She is able to get him to sign the paper by explaining to him that she is only trying to understand what he is saying “in Gadding with Ghouls about slow-acting venoms” (106). Lockhart agrees and states that he is sure no one will mind that he is helping put one of the best students at Hogwarts. Hermione’s reputation as an excellent, bright student along with her convincing and well thought out words get her what they need in order to attempt getting the truth out of Malfoy. However, when Hermione is reading the ingredients of the potion to Ron and Harry, they both begin to second-guess the quest. Ron did not want to drink Crabbe’s toenails and Harry is worried about the ingredients they will have to steal. They also seem to be quite nervous about having to turn into something else in order to get the truth out of Malfoy. After all of this talk, Hermione states: “’Well, if you two are going to chicken out, fine,’ she said. There were bright pink patches on her cheeks and her eyes were brighter than usual. ‘I don’t want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion. But if you don’t want to find out if its Malfoy, I’ll go straight to Madam Prince now and hand the book back in,’” (108). Devoted and ready, Hermione pursues the plan they made and explains why the quest is important. Readers can observe Hermione becoming increasingly braver in the book, specially when she comments on how Harry and Ron might “chicken out”. Hermione’s appearance is a dead giveaway that breaking the rules and risk getting in trouble in order to restore equality at Hogwarts is the only route she wants to take. Just like Dana, Hermione feels as if she has a job she needs to get done and will do whatever it takes in order to complete it. She takes a stance on how important the issue is to her when she states, “threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion”. Hermione is fully prepared to steal the ingredients and make a difficult potion to see if Malfoy is guilty.
Dana and Hermione’s situations are similar in the way that they are both held to the mythical norm that women are not able to solve the large-scale issues that they are faced with. Dana is often talked down to at the plantation simply because she is a black female. Everyone at the plantation knows that she is educated and knows how to read, but no one suspects that she will be brave enough to pass her knowledge on to other slaves at the plantation instead of just Rufus. This action alone could cause Dana to be whipped or worse. Hermione is also taking a risk by lying to get into the Restricted Section of the library, stealing ingredients, and transforming into someone else in order to get Malfoy to confess. Since she is a good student and usually breaks no rules, this type of behavior is not normal for Hermione. But since the issue is deeply important to her, she risks it all to get her answer. Hermione is well-aware of the trouble she could land herself into for lying about her reasoning for getting into the Restricted Section of the library, stealing ingredients for potions, and sneaking into the Slytherin common room to prove Malfoy is guilty. Both Dana and Hermione put many factors as risk, but they are brave in doing so because of their intelligent minds and determination. Mythical norms hold Dana and Hermione to expectations that are far below their standards. Both women are incredibly smart, brave, and determined which gets them through their difficult situations. The simple fact that others hold them to these beliefs that they are not as smart is what gives them an advantage in their situations. Since they are not expected to be as strategic or strong minded as they are, people do not realize when or how they are making their moves. In this way, Dana and Hermione use the mythical norm to their advantage instead of allowing it to deter them.
Segregation and Prejudice in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Although race discrimination exists as a major theme throughout the entirety of J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, it is in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that Harry, our protagonist for all seven books, becomes acutely aware of the discrimination of multiple groups in both Hogwarts and the Wizarding World in general. Harry is both introduced to and further familiarized with several oppressed groups in this novel, such as house elves, muggle-borns and squibs. His interactions with these groups often mirror the interactions of real children learning about and experiencing discrimination for the first time. These themes of segregation and prejudice serve to mark Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as a more mature and complex novel than its predecessor.
The first new character Harry is introduced to in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is Dobby the house-elf, who happens to be heavily discriminated against. House-elves, as portrayed in the series, are a race enslaved to wizarding kind. Each house elf is forced to obey his or her master at all times, a fact so heavily ingrained in their society that when Dobby tries to save Harry Potter from his master’s evil plot, Dobby constantly punishes himself for his own disobedience, banging his head on Harry’s window and shutting his ears in oven doors (Rowling 14). Neither Dobby nor any witches or wizards (besides Hermione in later books) seem to view the slavery of house-elves as a big issue, as evidenced by the matter-of-fact way George Weasley explains the concept of house-elves to Harry: “‘Yeah, Mum’s always wishing we had a house-elf to do the ironing,’ said George. ‘But all we’ve got is a lousy old ghoul in the attic and gnomes all over the garden. House-elves come with big old manors and castles and places like that…” (Rowling 29). There are some who have read the Harry Potter series and noticed similarities between house-elves and African Americans enslaved in the United States. “Harry and the Other: Answering the Race Question in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter” by Jackie C. Horne, states Rowling’s depiction of Dobby and his fellow elves contains uncomfortable echoes of many of the stereotypes held by whites of enslaved African Americans. Simple, loyal, and childlike, happy to serve their betters, Rowling’s house-elves speak in a patois closer to 1930s and 40s Hollywood misconceptions of “darky” dialect than to any actual African-American speech pattern. (Horne 80-81)Since Dobby is the first new character we meet in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dobby’s characterization of being a literal slave akin to slaves in America during the 18th and 19th centuries indicates to the reader that this novel focuses on darker and more mature topics in than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Another source of the maturing themes of discrimination in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets can be found in the main conflict of the novel. The titular Chamber of Secrets is a secret room located under Hogwarts, which houses an ancient creature intended to purge the school of Muggle-born students. Salazar Slytherin, the creator of the Chamber of secrets, disagreed with his fellow Hogwarts founders about blood purity (Rowling 150-151), which is another main source of prejudice in the wizarding world. Blood purists believe there are four unique categories of magical human, all of whom are displayed in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Pure-bloods, such as the Malfoys or the Weasleys, come from wizarding families with no muggles in their family tree. As Ron says in Chamber of Secrets, “There are some wizards – like Malfoy’s family – who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood.” (Rowling 115-116). And some, like Voldemort and his Death Eaters, even wish to eradicate those they see as lesser. There are also half-bloods, such as Harry, who have both muggle and wizard lineage. They are seen by blood-purists as less than pure-blooded wizards, but better than muggle-borns, who are classified as magical children with two muggle parents.
Throughout the novel there are attacks against muggle-born wizards at the school. In the midst of the chaos, Draco Malfoy, a prejudiced pure-blood, calls Hermione Granger, a muggle-born, a “filthy little mudblood” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets pg. 112). This highly offensive slur is meant to remind Hermione that her blood is seen as dirty and inferior by Draco and those like him. Real life ideas very similar to wizarding blood purity are discussed by Susan Peppers Bates and Joshua Rust in their 2012 article “House-Elves, Hogwarts, And Friendship: Casting Away The Institutions Which Made Voldemort’s Rise Possible”: The biologically false imagery of blood as possessing degrees of purity captures the imagination of prejudiced wizards as surely as similar imagery captivated Southerners who invented terms such as ‘octroon’ and ‘quadroon’ to rank the degree of black blood in racially mixed people. Surely, J.K. Rowling, a British citizen, meant to draw the reader’s mind to parallels with Hitler’s racialized obsession with Jewish blood as a pollutant that came in degrees. The Nazi regime shipped people off to concentration camps for even distant Jewish ancestry.” (Peppers-Bates and Rust 111). The introduction of such intense and realistic prejudice within the wizarding community serves as further evidence of J.K. Rowling steadily maturing the themes of these books.
Finally, the fourth type of magical human are squibs. Squibs are individuals who come from wizarding families but possess no wizarding abilities themselves. An example of such a person can be found in Argus Filch, the caretaker of Hogwarts. While Filch was introduced in the first book, it is not until Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that the audience discovers Filch is a squib. Filch is embarrassed by this fact and is desperately trying to teach himself magic, to seemingly no avail (Rowling 127-128). Squibs are treated almost as second-class citizens in the wizarding world, and are “often viewed in the same way as Muggles and Muggle-borns by those who are prejudiced towards the non-magical” (“Everything you need to know about Squibs”). With this final sub-group of wizard, one can discern just how complexly Rowling is beginning to craft this universe after she built the foundations in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
From differing levels of blood purity to deeply rooted wizard slaves, Harry Potter discovers new racial issues throughout nearly the entirety of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. However, just as Rowling’s series is maturing by introducing these new concepts in the novel, Harry is maturing by learning about them as well. Although it is clear to the audience from the moment Harry hears the word “mudblood” that Harry does not support the concept of blood purity, we see him take an official stand against Voldemort and his prejudiced way of thinking in their battle in the Chamber of Secrets when Harry says, “I know why you couldn’t kill me. Because my mother died to save me. My common Muggle-born mother” (Rowling 316). We also see Harry make a decision against house-elf slavery when he decides to trick Lucius Malfoy into freeing Dobby from his servitude. As Harry completes this final heroic act of the novel, Dobby exclaims “Harry Potter is greater by far than Dobby knew!” (Rowling 339). This is correct on Dobby’s part, because in learning about the racial discrimination in his community, Harry matures, and decides to make positive change against it.
Horne, Jackie C. “Harry and the Other: Answering the Race Question in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter”. The Lion and the Unicorn 34.1 (January 2010): 76-104. Project Muse. Web. 18 Sept. 2018.
Peppers-Bates, Susan, and Joshua Rust. “House-Elves, Hogwarts, And Friendship: Casting Away The Institutions Which Made Voldemort’s Rise Possible.” Reason Papers 34.1 (2012): 109-124. Humanities International Complete. Web. 18 Sept. 2018.
Rowling, J.K. “Everything You Need to Know about Squibs.” Pottermore, 2017, www.pottermore.com/features/everything-you-need-to-know-about-squibs.
Rowling, J.K Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998. Print
Harry Potter and the End of Perfect Tales: Building up to ‘Goblet of Fire’
The Harry Potter series and the world created by the stories is defined as being magical; in the literal sense of there being magical beings such as witches and wizards, but also in that all the stories show our main characters reveling in the beauty of wizardry, defeating the evil that they face and getting a generally happy ending. This fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is truly a turning point in the series because it brings an end to that pattern. The views of the main characters mature along with the themes presented in the series. This is one of the first times that they are forced to look past the beauty in wizardry and see the wizarding world as it actually is–flawed and vulnerable just as the muggle world.
One of the greatest traditions at Hogwarts are the feasts that take place; it’s one of Harry and Ron’s favorite parts. During Harry’s first year at school, when Harry enters the great hall for the first time and the feast takes place, he is absolutely swept away by the magic of it:Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place… Harry’s mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things we liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs… Harry piled his plate with a bit of everything except peppermints and began to eat. It was all delicious. (SS 116-123) Through all of this Harry is in such awe of the grandeur of the great hall and the feast, that he never once stops to wonder about where all the food came from.
From here on, there are scenes such as this where Harry and the other characters are simply enchanted by how magical and wonderful the feasts are and never do they dwell on thoughts of what makes these feasts possible. That is until Goblet of Fire where it’s revealed that house elves man the kitchen: “There are house elves here?” she said, staring, horror-struck, at Nearly Headless Nick. “Here at Hogwarts?” “Certainly,” said Nearly Headless Nick, looking surprised at her reaction. “the largest number in any dwelling in Britain, I believe. Over a hundred.” “I’ve never seen one!” said Hermione. “Well, they hardly ever leave the kitchen by day, do they?” said Nearly Headless Nick. …”Slave labor,” said Hermione, breathing hard through her nose. “That’s what made this dinner. Slave labor.” (GOF 118-119) Up until this point in the series, in the eyes of the main characters, the eyes of children who look at the world through a fairytale-like view, the food simply magically appeared in front of them, for them and that was that. It’s at this point in the series, where they have to look past the beauty of the feast, face that, that isn’t the case, and acknowledge that house elf labor is what provides the food for them. More than that, it’s the first time where they have to take a stance and form an opinion on an issue of this complexity; house elves were introduced in Chamber of Secrets, but this is the book where the reader learns the full complexity of their circumstances which is an example of how the themes have matured. The elves have masters, they don’t get paid for their labor, they receive punishments and yet it’s not simple because many of the elves want their lives to be like this. Dobby was the only house elf in Chamber of Secrets, and is depicted as terrified of his masters, constantly being punished and longing to be free. Goblet of Fire challenges that, with the depiction of house elves that love what they do and have respect for their masters. For the first time, characters such as the beloved Hermione couldn’t view the feast as simply a magical celebration because now it was more than that.
As mentioned in the block quote above, Hermione developed the view that to participate in the feast was to condone elf slave labor. In Prisoner of Azkaban, the characters mature through becoming more active politically in that they choose to assist Hagrid in developing a defense for Buckbeak’s case (219). Here in Goblet of Fire, the characters mature in that they become politically active by themselves–specifically Hermione via taking a stance on the issue of house elf labor. She does her research on house elf labor, publicly takes a stance on the issue and takes it a step further when she creates S.P.E.W. or The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (145-146). When Hermione chose to be involved in the Hippogriff trial, it was primarily because of Hagrid. Now she is choosing to get involved in Goblet of Fire because of her own stance and beliefs, which shows increased maturity in Hermione and in this particular theme in the series. Especially given that she isn’t receiving support for SPEW from her friends or peers. Goblet of Fire is also where the series takes the themes of death and loss to a whole new level of maturity. It is made clear that wizards generally view themselves as above muggles; even in the very first novel, Hagrid uses the word muggle as if it is a insult when he tells Harry, “An’ it’s your bad luck you grew up in a family o’ the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on,” (SS 53). However different than muggles wizards may seem, Goblet of Fire puts in perspective for both readers and characters alike, that wizards are just as vulnerable to death and loss as muggles are. While the death of Cedric Diggory is not the first death in the series, it is the first death that Harry witnesses first-hand and witnesses the direct aftermath of
Up until this point, death was more of an abstract concept in the series; it happened to characters whom the reader never really met and whose lives were before the story being told in the book. Up until Goblet of Fire, every good character ends up being okay in the end; Hermione survives the troll, Ginny survives the chamber, and Sirius escapes the dementor’s kiss. This is the first book in the series where the good guy did not get a good end.While the first actual death during the series is that of Quirrell, Harry passed out before Quirrell actually died in Sorcerer’s Stone( 295), so the reader and Harry are informed of Quirrell’s death after it has happened. Meanwhile, Cedric’s death is witnessed by Harry and described to the reader: Cedric was lying spread-eagled on the ground beside him. He was dead. For a second that contained an eternity, Harry stared into Cedric’s face, at his open gray eyes, blank and expressionless as the windows of a deserted house, at his half-opened mouth, which looked slightly surprised. And then, before Harry’s mind had accepted what he was seeing, before he could feel anything but numb disbelief, he felt himself being pulled to his feet. (GOF 412) Unlike with Quirrell, Harry and the reader witness the death of Cedric Diggory right in front of them.
Goblet of Fire is such a turning point in the series because everything gets a lot darker. It’s no longer the case where Hogwarts is magically perfect and good always prevails over evil–Goblet of Fire is the end of perfect tales. It establishes the wizarding world and subsequently Hogwarts as more complex than the trio previously believed through the introduction of issues such as house elf labor and political activism via Hermione. This, along with the tragedy of Cedric Diggory shows growth and a higher of maturity present in the themes established earlier in the series.
Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1998. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 1999. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.
Harry Potter and the Human Behind “Lord Voldemort”
It is no secret that Lord Voldemort is the “big bad” of the Harry Potter Series; this is a fact that is established from the very first time he is introduced in the series. In Sorcerer’s Stone Hagrid reveals to Harry that his parents were murdered by a “wizard who went…bad. As bad as you could go,” which is the first time Harry hears about Voldemort (54). For all of the novels prior to Half -Blood Prince, that’s really the most anyone knows about Voldemort. It is widely known that he’s killed and tortured many in his crusade for power a, holds a prejudice against those who aren’t pure blood and that he is one of darkest wizards to live, which makes it easier for characters and readers alike to see him as this cruel soulless being–something less than human even. Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince is really the point in the series where readers and Harry get a to see Voldemort as something more than a dark wizard. As readers and Harry are exposed to more about Tom Riddle before he became Voldemort, suddenly he is a person with a past, hopes and attachments rather than some unfathomable being. Suddenly he is human. This new depiction of Voldemort demonstrates how the series has matured as it takes it’s villain and adds more to his identity; making him more of three dimensional character, not just a villain.
Prior to Harry Potter and The Half-Prince, descriptions of Voldemort paint him out to appear so unreal and inhuman, so much so that Harry was left speechless upon interacting with him for the first at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone: Harry would have screamed, but he couldn’t make a sound. Where there should have been the back of Quirrell’s head, there was face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake. (293)He is little more than a monster, leaching off of someone. This is a notion that carries through to the next novel when the readers witness even the diary-bound memory of Voldemort committing monstrous acts including but not limited to trying to murder Ginny and Harry at the end of the novel (COS 307-319). Harry doesn’t encounter him again until the fourth novel, Goblet of Fire, during which he still bears little resemblance to a human being in comparison to a monstrous being. They are in a graveyard, with Voldemort on the verge of full resurrection when Harry encounters him. Harry is so taken aback by how inhuman appears that his first instinct is once again, to scream, though it’s muffled by cloth. Voldemort is essentially described as a creature, “hairless and scaly looking” and once more as having a “flat and snake like” face. Even post resurrection, he is still described as snake-like with skin “whiter than a skull” and hands resembling “pale spiders” (640-644). This further pushes the idea that he is very inhuman in his very nature and it’s continuously reinforced, as this description of appearing “snake-like” is also presented in the following novel, Order of The Phoenix, moments before the face-off between Voldemort and Dumbledore (OOTP 612). Early on in the series, while conversing with Harry, Tom Riddle states that the dark wizard Voldemort is his “past, present, and future” (COS 313).
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince in the point in the series where this is shown to be false, at least in part; while Voldemort may be a great and terrible wizard, he did not always exist, for Tom Riddle came before him and Tom Riddle is very evidently human. This is first shown through the very mundane circumstances surrounding his birth, as explained by Dumbledore. His father left his mother while she was pregnant with him because he didn’t love her (albeit he only thought so because of magic) and his mother died very shortly giving birth to him. While it would be fair for both readers and characters to assume Tom Riddle was born out of evil given his incredibly dark nature, the reality is that he was born to a woman who did not survive childbirth; this woman had nowhere to go and no one she could turn to, so she went to a nearby orphanage to given birth, there was nothing extraordinary about it–just tragic. Even the staff at the orphanage could see that she was to be pitied, with the caretaker Mrs.Cole admitting to Dumbledore that with Merope’s baby, they “named him just as she’d said, it seemed so important to the poor girl”(266).Half-Blood Prince furthers serves to humanizes Tom Riddle in that it parallels his deep desire, growing up, to know more about his parents, with that of Harry’s.
When Harry first meets Hagrid in Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling describes his voice as being “urgent” when he asks Hagrid what happened to his parents (54) and through the series, he continues to try to learn more about them. Tom Riddle is the same in that he also seeks information about his family the moment he is first introduced to the wizarding world. During his initial meeting with Dumbledore, he inquires about them, “…then, as though he could not suppress the question, as though it burst from him in spite of himself, he asked, “Was my father a wizard? He was called Tom Riddle too, they’ve told me” (75). Dumbledore reveals that through Hogwarts, Tom Riddle still continued to seek more information on his family: Those whom I could persuade to talk told me that Riddle was obsessed with his parentage. This is understandable, of course; he had grown up in an orphanage and naturally wished to know how he came to be there…he searched in vain for some trace of Tom Riddle senior on the shields in the trophy room…in the summer of his sixteenth year, he left the orphanage to which he returned annually and set off to find his Gaunt relatives. (HBP 362-6363) This shows how deep his desire was to understand where he comes from, which is, as Dumbledore states, very understandable given he grew up an orphan. It is in deep contrast with the cold and uncaring versions of Voldemort prevalent in past novels. It shows that despite his cold demeanor, not even Tom Riddle is immune to the very humane desire and instinct to seek family and answers about one’s past. This is shown as being especially true given that when he does find the Gaunt household, Rowling describes him as looking disappointed when he only finds his uncle, as he was clearly hoping for more and yet despite, he still takes the family ring when he leaves (HBP 634)
Through the Harry Potter Series, Voldemort is shown through his terrible actions, to be a seemingly one-dimensional villain. He typically appears more inhuman and monstrous, than human, but Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince humanizes him through the revelations about his past unrelated to his quest for power. The novel reveals his very mundane desire to seek out his family and their history and the very mundane circumstances of his birth and how he grew up prior to Hogwarts. It shows him growing up, as a person trying to figure out his past, rather than just the all-knowing evil wizard that he is known to be.
Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1998. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 1999. Print. Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.