I still can’t get over how exciting it is to be back in the world of Harry Potter! As I mentioned in my Harry Potter Tag post, the Chamber of Secrets isn’t my favorite of the Harry Potter books, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the trip back to Hogwarts.
I’m still so obsessed with these gorgeous editions. The colors of them all are just so vibrant and I love the foil detailing and the material of the covers. I also think these editions have my favorite illustrations of all the Harry Potter books. They’re seriously works of art!
As for the story itself, I’ve said before that I really hate how isolated and alone Harry feels at the beginning of the Chamber of Secrets because he doesn’t think his friends are writing to him, and that opinion hasn’t changed with this reread. The beginning is rough, especially when the Dursleys literally turned Harry’s room into a prison. The child abuse in these books is horrific! I understand that Dobby was trying to protect Harry, but he seriously went about it in one of the worst ways possible.
I have to give Rowling credit for injecting a fair amount of humor into some of these scenes and preventing them from being too depressing to read. I loved it when Dudley asked for the frying pan and Harry told him he’d forgotten the magic word.
The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.
“I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean —”
“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU,” thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, “ABOUT SAYING THE M WORD IN OUR HOUSE?”
Of course, the deplorable state of Harry’s life made it that much more amazing when the Weasleys showed up in their flying car and broke Harry out! I was so glad to see them again, and so far I still maintain that Fred and George are the best. And I forgot that you get to see the Burrow! It’s so fun to see what a real magical home looks like, plus I really appreciate the contrast between the Weasleys’ loving home and the Dursleys’ cold and abusive one.
I think another reason I’m not the biggest fan of the Chamber of Secrets is because, as awesome as it is that Harry and Ron flew the Ford Anglia to Hogwarts, I missed the experience of taking the train to Hogwarts. And I hate that you don’t get to hear the Sorting Hat’s song or watch Ginny get sorted into Gryffindor.
Has anyone else forgotten how perfectly awful Lockhart is? I was always impressed by how unlikeable Rowling made Umbridge, but I think Lockhart might be right up there. Which I think makes it all the more disappointing that Hermione seemed to succumb to his charms even though we know she’s better than that. There were so many Lockhart moments that had me laughing out loud. I flagged a ton of them, but I’d like to highlight this one after Harry and Ron crashed into the Whomping Willow:
“Harry, Harry, Harry,” said Lockhart, reaching out and grasping his shoulder. “I understand. Natural to want a bit more once you’ve had that first taste — and I blame myself for giving you that, because it was bound to go to your head — but see here, young man, you can’t start flying cars to try and get yourself noticed. Just calm down, all right? Plenty of time for all that when you’re older. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. ‘It’s all right for him, he’s an internationally famous wizard already!’ But when I was twelve, I was just as much of a nobody as you are now. In fact, I’d say I was even more of a nobody! I mean, a few people have heard of you, haven’t they? All that business with He Who Must Not Be Named!” He glanced at the lightning scar on Harry’s forehead. “I know, I know, it’s not quite as good as winning Witch Weekly’s Most-Charming-Smile Award five times in a row, as I have — but it’s a start, Harry, it’s a start.“
I mean, seriously, how dense can you get? I loved how Rowling used him to bring so much humor to an otherwise rather dark story.
As for the Chamber of Secrets itself, I still really dislike it because it creates so much fear and mistrust at Hogwarts. Harry already has enough to deal with at the Dursleys, so I hate seeing his time at Hogwarts impacted like this. Plus Hogwarts itself is almost its own character and I just want to protect it from everything! The Chamber plot line also doesn’t leave much room for the more traditional boarding school hijinks that I enjoyed so much in the first book.
That said, I think it was a really unique way to bring Voldemort back into the story without actually bringing Voldemort back. And while I hate that it exposes how deep the prejudices and bigotry run in the wizarding world, I think it’s a really important development in the series and an accurate reflection of today’s world. It’s Harry’s first real taste of the tension between wizarding families and Muggle borns, and we know now that it’s going to play a significant role in the series going forward.
I thought Dumbledore’s reinforcements for Harry in the Chamber were excellent and added a really interesting element to the story, especially since I know now that they’ll play an important role later in the series. But if Dumbledore knew Harry would need them, why didn’t he just deal with the basilisk himself?! Isn’t he supposed to be the greatest wizard of all time? I noticed a few times while reading the Chamber of Secrets that I was being super critical of some of the plot elements and world building (the economic aspect of the wizarding world and how exactly the Weasleys are poor comes to mind), but I tried not to let it pull me out of the story so I could just enjoy it.
Another one of my favorite scenes took place at the end when Harry and Ron went to Dumbledore after escaping the Chamber:
“I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules,” said Dumbledore.
Ron opened his mouth in horror.
“Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words,” Dumbledore went on, smiling. “You will both receive Special Awards for Services to the School and — let me see — yes, I think two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor.”
Ron went as brightly pink as Lockhart’s Valentine flowers and closed his mouth again.
Also, Dobby! I don’t think I love Dobby as much as a lot of people seem to, though that’s maybe not a fair statement to make at this point in the series since his character evolves so much more in later books. But it was really fun to see him again, and of course my heart melted when Harry tricked Lucius Malfoy into freeing him. (I was also very amused by this timely picture I saw on Twitter the other day).
While I’ve forgotten a lot of smaller details in the series, I feel like I’m two for two so far in remembering my general impressions of the individuals books, and those impressions have stayed more or less the same. I remember Prisoner of Azkaban being my favorite book in the whole series, so I’m very excited to finally pick it up!!
What did you think of the Chamber of Secrets? Do you agree with some of my impressions, or do you have a completely different view? Let me know in the comments!