8.26.2013

Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 6-7

The "hot, dangerous" Weasley.
Art by The Starhorse.
Hello, magical friends! We have posts! Masha, in protest against the Sorting of entire families and just-about-nearly every other Good Guy character into Gryffindor, re-Sorted the Weasleys according to temperament:
Bill is sort of a wild card, I can see him anywhere, but I'm leaning toward Ravenclaw (he's the smart Weasley) or Slytherin, because anyone working everyday with Goblins has to have some serious cunning. And, he's the hot Weasley: hot = dangerous, and dangerous = Slytherin, right!
Charlie is pure Gryffindor. Brave, daring, not a lot of sense.. adrenaline junkie..
Percy is an easy Slytherin, didn't you see what he was reading at the bookstore?
And the rest of the family, likewise, along with other commentary.

Christie gave us two posts. The first discussed the Weasleys and put some focus onto Dobby's situation:
  • "Has no one ever before asked Dobby if he or she could help him?
  • "What kind of society is the wizarding world, that this has never occurred?
  • "Do they accept (actively or passively) this kind of cruelty toward a living thing, or are we to assume undisclosed back-story?"
And the second covered a lot of angles, including the issue of morality in Harry's story:
At this point it can be called a recurring circumstance: the absence of any real negative consequence for the protagonists' actions.... What kind of message is communicated to young people, if their heroes are never given more than a slap on the wrist for seriously poor choices?  For putting the lives of themselves and others in danger?  But I'm not sure if I'm comfortable including that as a literary failing since I don't believe stories ought to be didactic. Of course, we're still early in the series, so we have yet to see if Harry and co. incur any significant consequences for misdeeds, intended or no.
More on that in a moment. Now, onto this week's reading!

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry


Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 6-7

These two chapters are a beautiful, awkward mix of uncomfortable and hilarious. I laughed so hard through Herbology. And during the scene at Hagrid's... for instance, his dragging the slug-belching Ron away from the magically-grown pumpkins... yeah, I totally get the impulse there.

I went looking for some wizard rock for the week, but instead I found a Gilderoy Lockhart montage set to Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy." Here you go.




Potential Discussion Points:


Fred and George getting a Howler, outside canon.
I can totally picture them doing this, though.
Art by Faithie Chan.
1. Consequences. Christie's right that Harry and friends do get away with a lot of misdeeds... but though our last sight of Harry was of him grinning with the Gryffindors over flying the car into the Whomping Willow, he and Ron get their just reward in this chapter. Harry is conscience-stricken when he realizes—through Mrs. Weasley's Howler—that he's gotten Arthur Weasley into trouble at work, even though the shouting letter targeted Ron alone. Gilderoy Lockhart's peculiarly inept scolding is almost as bad, if for entirely different reasons than the clueless professor realizes. What do you all think about the things Harry gets away with, and the things he doesn't? Keeping things spoiler-free, of course... even I would like to talk about BIG SPOILER SPELL in HBP, but yeah.

2. The combination of Gilderoy Lockhart and Colin Creevey is just about unbearable for Harry, which Malfoy naturally makes the most of. Fame may be all very enjoyable in its way, but there are few things more uncomfortable and horrible than being dragged into the spotlight and forcibly embarrassed. Of course, belching slugs might be one of them.

Make your own screaming mandrake.
You know you want to.
3. Herbology is a kick. I think I'd love it and be afraid of it all at once. It's been argued somewhere, I don't recall where, that the mandrakes are kind of an anti-human image, but honestly, I think they're hilarious. Wheel of Time fans, I have no idea whether al'Lan Mandragoran's name is meant to tie in somehow to the mandragora, unless it's that the plant's reputation is really kind of badass.

4. Believability issue: none of the teachers sees Ron's broken wand as a liability, really? It was blowing rotten-egg smoke around McGonagall's classroom, and it beaned Professor Flitwick in the face and left a boil. I know the Wizarding World is up for living dangerously, but for mercy's sake—I just wanted to say, "Someone take that thing away from him. Give him an old one that's lying around or something." 'Course, then a different plot point would've been necessary for SPOILERING SPOILER.

Draco Malfoy, everybody's favorite racist.
Art by Linnpuzzle.
5. "Mudblood." Props to Rowling for coming up with an offensive word that isn't actually offensive to parents of young readers (although, since she used witch...) Noting it semi-consciously on my first read, I had a hard time understanding why a word that didn't involve religious cursing or some kind of bodily function was offensive, except as a low-class insult, but then it became clear from Ron's explanation that it's a reference to one of the Wizarding World's primary forms of racism. Muggle blood, by Draco's claim, is filth.

Ron's gallantry is sweet here, even though it backfires (gallantry can do that, which is a lot of what makes it gallant.) His estimation of Neville is superficial, but he's only twelve, and he isn't the world's most sensitive thinker. His main point is correct, however; if anything, wizarding blood seems to be the stronger for a little dilution.

6. Lucius Malfoy buys Draco's way onto the Slytherin Quidditch team, proving that a wizarding dad can be as much an idiot as Vernon Dursley. Well, then.

7. One of lovable Hermione's faults is perhaps a tendency to have too much faith in books. In this chapter we get a few inklings that Lockhart the author might not be everything he claims to be, and it's Ron, who isn't quite so knowledge-focused and has a better (if admittedly sometimes crueler) sense of humor, who picks up on it first. Anything more is spoilers, so I'll stop.

8. This book is about to get dark. Very dark. The disembodied voice Harry hears in the wall is the harbinger. The humor in this chapter is good bolstering for the Gothic horrors just around the corner....

Discuss!



YOU GUYS. I just realized that if I had gone to Hogwarts, I would have been in the same year as Fred and George (their birthday, April 1, 1978, is just two months after mine). I think that counts as AWESOME. Butterbeers all 'round!

5 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness it's Wednesday already!!!

    I'll get a post up tomorrow!! I love Lockhart - actually, apart from Quirrel and SPOILER, I adore her Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, she has a real skill for the caricature, doesn't she!!

    And I kinda love Draco..maybe because everyone draws him the same and he's kind of baby-goth-boy..Maybe because I see a lot of my other favorite Spoiler in him..poor guy, he can't help being a racist, at that age and with such a family, you know, he's sort of looking for affirmation in all the wrong places..

    I think Harry and Co. do get away with a lot, but..the books are still in the kid's book category here, and it's more forgivable than it becomes later in the series..still, I'd like to see more discipline, but then, I've never lived at a boarding school..maybe they like to look the other way a lot, and .. if Harry does get expelled, the school would be in the awkward position of having dumped a half-trained wizard into the muggle world..it'd be different if he had a magical family to go to..and even then..I wonder if they avoid expelling more to avoid the hassle of what to do with undereducated wizards..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right about the undereducated wizards... they threaten expulsion all the time, but Hagrid's the only known example of a follow-through as I recall. I wish they threatened something else; half-trained wizards running around the world without respect for rules is a really awful thought.

      I have some love for Draco, too, although I think the usual web-based HP-fan passion for him is a little out of proportion. But then, it's usually Tom Felton worship, so whatever.

      Looking forward to your post, and any celebration of Lockhart you want to do! ;) Rowling's caricatures ARE splendid. My own favorite D.A. teacher is the next one...

      Delete
  2. heh heh heh, you said "forgivable"

    . . .

    heh heh

    . . .

    [SPOILERS].

    ReplyDelete
  3. Herbology totally rocks... there is almost nothing about Professor Sprout I don't like. I'm kinda bummed this aspect of a wizard's education doesn't merit more than sort of a nod; Rowling (see, I spelled it right this time) seems more concerned with the wand-waving, spell-casting, almost textbook brand magic. It's understandable with the breadth of the world she's creating that some things are going to have to be breezed over. In fact, this really makes it seem more real; it's not as if I pay super-close attention to everything in the actual world and some things live on the periphery of my mind; stock-markets and the like.

    But at the same time it's hard to see something that is integral to Rowling's world (magic) pigeon-holed into only one expression, albeit divided into good and bad. There just don't appear to be any wizards who might be great at growing magical plants and creating magical remedies with them but really aren't too keen on wand-work. I've found it takes me out of the story occasionally to have "normal" things being done (for example, transplanting mandrakes. Okay, not THAT normal, but still...) but not done with wands. I guess it boils down to: if wands are the be all, end all of the wizarding world, why is anything done manually?

    Maybe I'm just overly fond of the "herbalist witch living alone on the outskirts of civilization and providing effective if dubious solutions to common folks' problems" motif. I can see Professor Sprout doing that. I love her.

    -The Neglected Husband

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ooh..I found the Mandrake post! I have read - NO IDEA WHERE - that the use of Mandrakes in this book is some sort of secret pro-abortion image on Rowling's part - which I can't really see at all. And especially since Mandrakes are being used to restore life, and I'd assume Rowling's done at least basic research for her books and so she'd Know that Mandrakes are pretty much the ultimate in fertility magic..though obviously, like all magic, it has a counter/dark use, and Mandrakes can be used for abortions, but see Rowling using them more in the life-promoting, healing, restorative sense..and I don't see the stewing of the the mandrakes themselves as being in any way representative of abortion. Here's an especially crazy argument for the HP-mandrake-abortion link!

    ReplyDelete

Friendly comments are welcomed with fairy music, magic wishes, and possible unicorn sightings. Troll comments will be Transfigured into decent-looking rocks or Vanished. Spam comments will be shot down with blasters. You have been warned.

It is with much regret that I've set the monster Captcha guarding the gate. There just weren't enough blasters. I'm sorry. I hate it, too.