Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Published in 1998, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling is the second book of the Harry Potter series. This 251 paged fantasy fiction novel shows Harry Potter continuing his adventures at Hogwarts after he returns for his second year at the Wizarding School. However, after returning despite the warnings from a peculiar new friend, Harry is faced with a new set of challenges as an old evil returns and Hogwarts is forced to repeat the past.
Warning: Potential spoilers ahead…
As in the previous book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, the writing style allows the reader to journey through the story and watch events unfold from a 3rd person perspective, following Harry’s character. The beginning of the story takes us back to number four Privet Drive, the home of Harry’s remaining family the Dursleys. Here Harry is experiencing the worst birthday ever, as he is left alone and seemingly abandoned by his friends. So much so, that it is even stated that
He’d almost be glad of a sight of his arch-enemy, Draco Malfoy, just to be sure it hadn’t all been a dream …
– Chapter One, Page 12.
With the Dursleys ignoring his birthday completely and even him, his school belongings locked away and even his owl, Hedwig, locked inside her cage, Harry is completely isolated much like he lived his life before he learned of his heritage. The chapter ends with Harry retreating to his room as the Dursleys are visited by guests whom they wish to entertain for business purposes and discovering that he has a visitor. The end to this first chapter presents the first cliffhanger of the book and immediately hooked me back into the story, spiking my curiosity and anticipation for what was to come…
From this point on, the story only gets better and J.K Rowling once again impresses readers with the detail which she puts into her writing. As well as the development which the characters we are already familiar with from the first novel undergo, Rowling also introduces a collection of new characters including new magical creatures, teachers and potential allies and enemies alike for Harry. Examples of these include Dobby the House-Elf, Arthur Weasley, Lucius Malfoy, Gilderoy Lockhart, Moaning Myrtle, Aragog and Tom Riddle – all of whom contribute towards the plot of the story, leaving no newly introduced character there for what seems to be just the sake of it. As well as new characters, Rowling also introduces new locations to us as readers, thus expanding the Wizarding World and Harry’s – and our – knowledge of it. Personally, one of my favourite location which is introduced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the Weasley family home. Harry, after being rescued from the Dursleys by his best-friend Ron Weasley and his two older brothers, is taken to The Burrow. The habitat of the most lovable family within the Potter universe is quick to become a ‘second home’ to Harry and is most definitely a more suitable one for him. The comparison between how he is treated in Privet Drive by the Dursley’s and how he is accepted and treated just like one of the family at the Weasley residence is somewhat saddening but immensely heartwarming.
The overall plot of the story is one which I enjoyed a lot, definitely more than what I thought I would. One of the more interesting outcomes of the plot was the time which Harry and Ron spent without Hermione. Whilst Hermione was able to assist them by providing a vital piece of information for the time of which she was unable to we were provided an insight into how Harry and Ron work together as a team without them depending on Hermione to know the correct spell or answer or path to take. This highlighted how capable they were on their own and gave the moments in the book in which Hermione was absent a Philosopher’s Stone feel (prior to when the two boys befriended her). Furthermore, what was also interesting to read was anything concerning the character of Tom Riddle. His introduction to the series and the reveal concerning his character opened up whole new frontier and left me with a great number of questions. Another thing which was particularly interesting to read of was the way in which Harry’s popularity decreased when the other students began to suspect that he was the Heir of Slytherin and responsible for the mishaps and attacks occurring throughout the school. Again, the readers are reminded of how innately heroic and compassionate Harry is when it comes to the end of the book as he puts his own life at risk in order to save Ron’s younger sister, Ginny Weasley, and also frees Dobby from his lifetime service to the Malfoy family. Overall, the plot worked extremely well in advancing the story and introducing a lot more of the dangerous side to the magical world in which Harry was previously thrown into. Additionally, in finishing the story, similar feelings arose from finishing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as did Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The familiarity which Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets brings makes it easy to slip back into the Wizarding world which Rowling has created.
And now onto the criticisms of the novel… Whilst I don’t believe there to be very many, a few do stand out to me no matter how many times I read the book. One major flaw which I found whilst reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was the employment of this years Defense Against the Dark Art’s teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. I just have one question when it comes to that man and it is why would Dumbledore, wise Albus Dumbledore, hire such a fraud as a teacher?! Of course there may be reasons such as wanting to keep an eye on but I can’t see why that would be needed either. If anyone has any possible answers as to why Gilderoy was employed at all then feel free to leave your opinions in the comments. Another criticism that I have about the book is the fact that whilst Harry endures all these events which happen to him throughout the novel, not once does Dumbledore of all people take him aside and explain what is happening to him. I understand, in hindsight and having read the entire series, that this would have spoiled many things if he had went into much detail about why Harry was capable of speaking Parseltongue etc. but even so, there was surely something that he could say as to reassure Harry that he was not to blame for what was going on at Hogwarts.
Despite the few criticisms which I mentioned previous, I truly enjoyed reading this book and it is one of my top favourite Harry Potter books. Whilst I know of a few readers and Harry Potter fans who disliked this book, I really do believe that it is manages to continue the story in an effective way with Rowling’s writing style and ability as a writer in general successfully developing the world and its characters without making it too overwhelming!
Here’s a few of my favourite parts:
Favourite Chapter: Chapter 17 – The Heir of Slytherin.
Favourite Character: Tom Riddle.
Favourite Quote: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore: Chapter 18, Page 245.