Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 4-5

Hello, H.P.B.C. friends! We're moving forward today, though Christie has not yet had a chance to post—she's planning on combining her next couple, as she catches her breath after vacation and an otherwise busy few weeks. Before we do, however, Masha posted about Dobby and the problem with the house-elf race in general:
Brownies are tame, and decidedly English in their Faerie ways, but they have dignity.... a dignity Rowling denies Dobby and his race, and the idea that a being exists not merely to serve, but to be enslaved is horrific. Then to use such a being comically..it leaves a sour taste in me that all Harry’s kindness to Dobby can’t wash out. I know Rowling does try to work her way through this problem as the series continues, but at her best she seems to manage a sort of Gone with the Wind attitude: happy slaves, well-meaning but ignorant abolitionists, loving masters, and no concept that a soul could be designed for more.
She has had quite the intense (but generally friendly) discussion going on in her combox, in which I have cheerfully participated more than once, so check it out and get involved if you like! And definitely check out Seth's beautiful drawing of Dobby, included in the post.

And now, this week's reading!

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This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, chapters 4-5

I once saw "What is This Feeling" from Wicked re-written and performed as a Harry-Malfoy hate song. The two performers—music students from WWU's Harry Potter Club; it was one of the years I played for their Yule Ball—really got into the piece, and it was hilarious and memorable. Unfortunately, I cannot find that it was recorded. This was as close as I could get. It is pretty dang awesome.

Potential Discussion Points:

1. Number Four, Privet Drive versus The Burrow, or The Dursleys versus The Weasleys... or, we might say, neatness and order (with hatred) versus strangeness and the unexpected (with love). The only problem I have with the equation is that popular American culture is so conditioned to assume that neatness and order automatically come with hatred, and to romanticize the strange and unexpected. Strangeness and the unexpected frequently make life harder, and life is already difficult for the happiest of people. Neatness and order are often the results of efforts made by someone hardworking and generous and fond of beauty.

That said, love is the crucial factor, and its presence or absence colors the whole picture. It's no wonder Harry thinks the Burrow is the best house he's ever been in. And really, it's such a fun house—the talking mirror, the explosions from Fred and George's bedroom, the magic at every turn. Most of us would—at least temporarily—take the unexpected if it were that cheerfully removed from mundane mirrors that make us look blotchy or fat or old (though the magic mirror could turn out to be sadistic, I guess), mundane attics that give us the fear of ghosts and the certainty of spiders rather than the knowledge of a bored old ghoul.

Art by kra
2. Ginny. She's mostly new to the story, but right about here I started really pulling for her—probably because I am still the kind of girl liable to put my elbow into the butter dish around a cute boy. (How I ever manage to have a normal dinner with Lou is beyond me. But then, I dropped and consequently smashed a bowl full of yogurt today with no one in the room but me, so it could just be that I'm clumsy.) At any rate, little blushing Ginny got my sympathy straightaway, and Harry is so kind to her here—for a twelve-year-old boy, at least—that I sort of began hoping Rowling meant to have him fall in love with her eventually. Was that hope ever justified? We will find out who he likes in later books, but we can't say anything about that yet without big, heart-shaped SPOILERS.

I love this cosplaying Ginny image. By Ayakuchan.

3. Along those lines, all the leading ladies are in obsess-over-cute-boy mode in these chapters, including Mrs. Weasley. Which is kind of annoying, even for me and my limited feminism. But it's not exactly unrealistic, nor is it wholly inexcusable of Rowling, especially since the focal point of everyone's crushing but Ginny's is a Big Bad Plot Device. I would rather live the whole of my life with the surname Longbottom than develop even a mini-crush on a grinning fame fiend like Gilderoy Lockhart. But I suppose it's not difficult to see why the girls are mostly gaga:

Pretty is as pretty does. But it's still pretty.
Which really just makes it all worse. Source.

4. Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry's repulsion is understandable from the beginning. We haven't got the whole of his character yet, but we do seem to have most of it: a shallow creature who is little more than a heavily-marketed brand name, with no apparent real desire other than more publicity. I also find Fred and George's reaction to the whole thing kind of honest and heartwarming.

Art by yukipon
5. The loathing between Harry and Draco apparently extends to the Weasley family and the rest of the Malfoys, too. After watching Draco and Lucius in Borgin & Burkes, it's hard not to cheer Arthur Weasley for brawling with the latter in Flourish & Blotts. It's one of the stupider things Mr. Weasley ever does, though. (And responding with concern for Gilderoy Lockhart's opinion is one of the stupider things to ever come out of Mrs. Weasley's mouth, not but what we've all done that at some point.)

I've never quite been comfortable with Hagrid's response, however. "Rotten to the core," he says, "the whole family, everyone knows that—no Malfoy's worth listening ter—bad blood, that's what it is—" It's not better than what the Malfoys believe about the poor and Muggle-born.

I always felt bad for the Grangers in this scene. The brawl is basically physical, but they probably thought someone was going to blow up the place, and here they're letting their daughter go into this world where hot tempers are backed up by supernatural powers. Terrifying.

6. Young boys and their love for big, showy rulebreaking and adventure. I just don't get why flying a car to school and crashing it into a punching tree is cool. But I am in the minority, particularly if I happen to be around a lot of very young boys. It's one of a handful of things about Harry that I don't sympathize with much, but Rowling wrote it well enough that I have to smile even as I shake my head.

7. Floo powder. It would scare me, too. I think I'd prefer Apparating, once I learned how to avoid splinching. But flying cars seem like a good idea, unless you're trying to preserve the Statute of Secrecy. Bother the Statute of Secrecy. It causes so much trouble.

Discuss away!


  1. I must say Kenneth Branagh really nails the character of Lockhart in the movie. He's a delight whenever he's onscreen.

    Speaking as someone who's a complete slob, I must say that neatness is of the devil. ;)

    Although one does the get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that someone who is neat & orderly must somehow be OCD.

    Ah, Ginny. Spoiler, spoiler, spoiler.

    And it's perhaps not only young boys who think flying a flying car & escaping from a killer tree by the skin of your teeth is adventurous & cool. :)

    1. Ha, well. My experience is that most men turn into young boys again around flying cars and punching trees and... well, at least around things like potato guns and Nerf darts and the like. ;)

  2. Personally, I always picture "What is this Feeling" as being sung between Ron and Hermione in their pre-friendship phase (can't you just picture Ron doing the "your voice" line?).

    Ginny SPOILER SPOILER, but I do like her. And I love her nervousness and Harry's kindness to her in this book.
    On that point, note that after Lockhart gives him all the free books, Harry very kindly gives them all to her; presumeably considering the fact that the Weasleys will have enough trouble buying all those (explicitly expensive) books, and that it's this act of kindness that gives Ginny the courage to finally speak in front of him. Oh, so sweet! And really, things like that are the reason we like Harry, despite his occassional jerkishness.

    Regarding Hagrid's 'bad blood' comment, I have to disagree. I think, in context, it only means "the whole lot of them are evil and not worth worrying about" rather than "their genetic strain is inferior." Though the phrases are similar, the meaning is miles away from Malfoy's racial-philosophy; less "anyone related to them isn't worth knowing" and more "anyone who's in that circle and subscribes to their beliefs isn't worth knowing." (quite apart from the context, the Weaselys are related to the Malfoys, so they would be included in the 'bad blood' comment under the former interpretation). And yeah; go Mr. Weasley! I also like his indignant response to Mrs. Weasleys remonstrances: "Do you think I'm not a match for Lucius Malfoy?" Really, when it comes to anyone other than his wife, he's a bit of a badass (which is one of the reasons I don't take their bickering too seriously).

    I wish we could see more of the Grangers, in part because I think one of the great flaws in the series is a lack of any prominent, positively-portrayed Muggles. I really wish we could have seen Mr. Weasley buying them a drink.

    1. HA. I can totally hear Ron doing the "your voice" line.

      Arthur is a bit of an adventurous soul. But... I'm afraid I'm seeing some of Masha's points, in that Molly really has short-circuited that attribute (something she couldn't do to Fred and George; a wife has different powers than a mother). He still has the impulse, but can't often do much about it except on the sly, and being a good man, he's a little ashamed about his on-the-sly.

      I wish we could see more of the Grangers, too!

      As for the bad blood comment, I think I'm going to have to disagree back, although I do see your point about the difference between bad blood and bad ideas. The Malfoys are a mess, but they're not all unredeemable, and Draco is still very young. Hagrid doesn't have a mean bone in his body, so I'm not as horrified by his comment as I would be if someone else said it--but I do think it's an offensive thing to say and a wrong thing to think.

  3. I wish we had more Grangers, too! I'm going to assume they're awesome, because Hermione is awesome.

    I don't know what Hagrid means in his heart by "bad blood," but I'm not sure it matters; it's still a pretty infelicitous phrase to throw around as metaphor for "not very nice," especially given the W. World's long and ugly history of blood-related infighting. And Hagrid, of all people, should [SPOILER].

    What I don't like about Lockhart: ALL of his admirers are female. Why? It seems fairly clumsy and sitcom-ish, and maybe a little mean. (Rowling does a similar thing later with a certain SPOILERful magical race, and it's just as annoying there). It's not like having a Y chromosome makes you immune to the sort of boasty-grinny-self-aggrandizement Lockhart trades in. I don't mind that Hermione is a fan, even though it's out of character for her not to notice how incompetent he is, because it's hard to stay in character when you're twelve. I can sympathize. But it seems much more unlikely for Lockhart to have the kind of career he's supposed to have and not to have a Colin Creevey or a Justin Finch-Fletchly in his booster club.

    1. I bet the Grangers ARE awesome. :)

      I was going to argue by means of Justin Bieber or Rob Pattinson, but admittedly those boys were appealing to the twelve-year-old crowd. And Orlando Bloom wasn't much better. Hmm. And now I don't follow pop culture enough to know who would be someone of Lockhart's general status so I can compare notes on their fan base. So I totally can't argue... I suppose it is a little sitcom-ish... and yet, the presence or absence of a Y chromosome does seem to throw advantage toward the power of certain members of the opposite sex to fascinate, to the general bafflement of members of the fascinator's sex. There's always the girl that nearly every boy seems to want, always the guy who seems to attract ninety percent of women. I'm speaking generally, not universally, of course, so I may be making no impact on your point whatsoever. :P

  4. BTanaka..you've never seen badass if you think Arthur Weasley is one..his son on the other hand, OWNS it like nobody's business (he must get in from some random uncle - or two ;) ) 'cause, you know, Everyone Knows Arthur's no match for anyone really..not even his wife.

    And I think saying "the whole lot of them are evil" is a pretty awful thing to say about a family - especially one with an As Yet Unformed Youth, who, like all people has that potential for good.

    Kenneth Branagh looks nothing like the Lockhart I imagine..mainly 'cause he's ugly, and Lockhart is supposed to be handsome - in a weak-jawed, overdone sort of way..but maybe, Laura..he's done a "Overwhelmingly Attractive to Witches ONLY" spell, because he had too many Colin Creeveys and Justin Finch-Fletchlys around him and he'd much rather be surrounded by the middle-aged housewife type..hmmmm??? If I were a witch, I'd do a spell making creepy guys repelled by me, so I wouldn't have to deal with them..

    1. Oh, now, that's not fair to say when you know I can't argue back since most of Mr. Weasley's best moments would be spoilers at this point!

    2. Kenneth Branagh looks nothing like the Lockhart I imagine..mainly 'cause he's ugly

      HAHAHA. Well, that wasn't my thought. But I admit that he doesn't look like I expected Lockhart to look, although as George pointed out, he nailed the role character-wise as I recall.

      Now I'm all sad about Arthur... it seems he had a real spirit in him that a less furious woman might have encouraged instead of quashing... well, at least he did the right thing and stayed married. And you have to admit that even if he was weak, he was never a coward outside of his own home. ;) And I am still grateful for Molly's good points despite her one very loud fault....

      I like the idea of the spell to repel creepy guys. Except I'd probably overdo it and repel EVERY guy. Wait. Maybe that's what happened in my late teens.... :P

    3. I have some concerns about the creep screen, which I will probably devote a blog post to at some point in the near future.

      Basically, it SOUNDS like a great idea, but since some -- maybe even most -- of the very worst creeps aren't primarily motivated by attraction, it might not help as much as you'd hope. It would take some careful magical calibration, in any case, to get the results you want.

      Jenna, I'd be worried about an overly sensitive screen, too! Especially if it's based on sensing attraction and making the wearer less attractive; you could lose out on a lot of potentially good friendships. Of course, you might think of it as a shallowness filter, but. . . personally I wouldn't want to exclude potential friends just because they would have screwed up the courage to talk to someone they were attracted to, but didn't bother for someone they weren't. Your mileage may vary. :)

      I did actually have a (much too sensitive) (non-magical) Creep Screen on for most of my teens, in the form of "greeting all attempts at flirtation with withering sarcasm just in case the flirtee is secretly making fun of me." Not the Weasley twins' best work, I'm afraid :(.

  5. 1. The Weasleys are flawed, but I think it's so much the norm in our culture that it's camoflauged, perhaps even for Rowling. I think they're meant to be stock Good Guy characters at this point--maybe that will change as the novels grow more complex. But anyway, there's the deep dark pit of arguing authorial intention, how much it matters, and if it should matter . . . which I don't have the answers to.

    2. I'm liking her more now that she's stood up for Harry. It may just be that I'm finally getting to see her in action as a character.

    3. It's totally cliche--and, I think, totally appropriate. But I'm of the opinion that the glaringly obvious cliche adds to the charm of the novel. Like it's poking fun at itself, or something.

    1. Excellent points. I particularly like #1; I think they ARE stock characters right now, and most everyone is, and that doesn't start to change much until book 4.

      And yeah, #3--like the characters, these plot points are cliche to the point of caricature. The first three books are full of that, and are all the more charming for it, though the last four books have strengths of their own.

  6. Phew, after a rather absent summer, I am finally getting back to the blogosphere! I still have to go through all the Chamber posts and am looking forward to it, but I am wondering if any of you ladies (and anyone else!) have read the article "The Elfin Mystique" by Kathryn N. McDaniel (from the book "Past Watchful Dragons"). In it, she argues that the race of House Elves are analogous to housewives and that we can look at the house elves through the lens of gender, not exactly race, to understand what Rowling is trying to do with them.
    Can't say much more right now, but will definitely be commenting on all the chapters I've missed!

    1. Hey, Kelly, I can't recall if I have read "The Elfin Mystique", but I know I heard about it. I remember that argument getting brought up somewhere, probably at The Hog's Head.

      It'll be great to have you back in the book club!! :)


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