Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 17-18

Hail, goodly friends and members of the H.P.B.C.! We spend this Halloween week wrapping up the (arguably) Halloween-est of a very Halloween-ish set of books.

I went looking for more wizard rock suitable to the final chapters of this novel, and... gosh, there are a lot of covers of "Save Ginny Weasley." But here's another The Moaning Myrtles tune, based on the end of chapter 16:

Before we move on: if you haven't, you should read Masha's "Basilisks and Other Delights" (her potions!! And her photography!!):
...myth is always semi-fluid, it's the deeper symbolism that ties it all together more than the externals. The real myths of the basilisk are so varied themselves that it seems more nit-picky than even I want to be to cry foul on this particular incarnation. Especially when, at heart, the book's version is a match. Rowling's basilisk is like myth itself - altered by time and place, decorated through her own imagination, and yet an obvious descendant of its namesake.
There's also a new post from Christie, on Harry and problems with authority:
Cornelius Fudge insists on taking Hagrid [to Azkaban] for safe-keeping, making the excuses that he's "got to be seen doing something" and that the "Ministry's got to act."  If that mentality is not perfect fodder for the growth of fascism, I don't know what is... This throws into juxtaposition Dumbledore's wise, benevolent, almost anarchist-by-comparison approach to leadership.  It's an interesting subject for scholarly study. Those in official positions of authority have their hands tied.  In crisis, they act in what can be argued is a logical way, as their duty is to act according to the good of the whole society. Then we have Dumbledore, who is also an authority figure, but who acts on preternatural instinct.
I have the smartest friends. ;)

On to Riddle and the basilisk! Harry, darling Harry, I don't blame you for "shaking from head to foot" as you walk between the serpents into the Chamber. I'm practically shaking just reading about it. Terrifying.

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, chapters 17-18

Shameless SPOILERS.
Meme by MSHatter15.
The difficulty is trying to write about the end of book two without spoiling book six....

Potential Discussion Points:

Kinda makes you afraid to keep a journal, eh?
Art by ryuuenx.
1. Ginny's diary—and opening up to the wrong person. When I was in fifth grade, I gave my diary a personality and wrote its sympathetic letters back to myself:
"Dear Jenna,
It is wonderful that you share such sweet secrets with me. You know I won't tell! Do you have another boyfriend? If so, tell me about him."
Sheesh. Never again. I wouldn't be able to help thinking about Tom Riddle:
"Ginny poured her soul out to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted.... I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets."
The case of Ginny's possession by a... SPOILER... erm, memory of old Voldy's is one of the creepier things in the series. It's all very well for Mr. Weasley to scold her—"Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain!"—but I'm not sure how that holds true; his own car seems to think for itself a few chapters earlier, in the Forbidden Forest. And Ginny grew up in the Burrow, where everything has a personality and even the mirror talks back to you. The poor girl didn't stand a chance against Lucius Malfoy's brutish trick, nor against Tom Riddle's shrewd sympathy.

2. Riddle vs. Hagrid: pretty is as pretty does, and the same holds true for intelligent and likable. We don't really meet Riddle till after he loses his nose and starts growing out of the back of people's heads, and we know Hagrid well as the kindly and innocent-natured Keeper of the Keys. But when the pair of them were boys, Riddle was a model student, an honor student, well liked and unassuming, and Hagrid was fascinated by monsters and was "in trouble every other week" for smuggling them into the school.

Fifty years later, he was still smuggling monsters into Hogwarts...
Art by JamusDu
Beneath the appearances, Hagrid was as good-hearted as he was clumsy, and sixteen-year-old Riddle had already committed murder. More on that in *ahem* book six...

3. Voldemort's arrogance. The snake-nosed antagonist is so inhuman that he mostly comes off as caricature, but in one point he comes off as shockingly human: he despises everyone whose intelligence is unequal to his. "Stupid little Ginny," he calls her, an eleven-year-old girl who didn't know not to trust the person who portrayed himself as her best friend. He refers dismissively to Hagrid as a "great oaf". He wants to talk to Harry before murdering him because he wants to find out how the greatest sorcerer in the world was beaten by a one-year-old with no obvious magical genius. And then:

4. "You're not... the greatest wizard in the world." That's Albus Dumbledore, says Harry. And it's true that Dumbledore is the only person in the world, wizard, witch, or Muggle, whom Voldemort actually respects. It's only the respect of an enemy who knows that this one person might be able to beat him, but it is what it is.

5. What Harry's loyalty to Dumbledore brings him:

Art by wynahiros

a. Resurrective love. As Dumbledore said, phoenixes make highly faithful pets, and Fawkes comes in singing—the spine-tingling, otherworldly song of powerful love and loyalty. As a musician, I've always been glad that the moviemakers didn't try to recreate phoenix song in Half-Blood Prince (whether they did in CoS, I can't recall.) I doubt it would have been successful. It's the sort of thing I think everyone will hear differently.

Fawkes comes in handy in battle, blinding the basilisk while singing and healing Harry's mortal wound with his own tears, and then he provides the escape route as well. Hey, Maia, you could learn a thing or two from that phoenix...

b. Identity: Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat gives half the answer to the question Harry's been asking the whole book. That question is: "Am I evil?"—or, perhaps more specifically, "Am I irredeemable?" Only a true Gryffindor could've pulled Godric's ruby-encrusted sword from the Hat, says Dumbledore.

Art by Jin-Tonix
6. Identity: Doppelgangers. "We even look something alike," says Riddle, after enumerating a lot of Harry's worst fears: the things they two have in common. We will be revisiting this in future books, so I'll just note it here.

7. Identity: Choices. "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

This is one of Dumbledore's most famous quotes, and deservedly so. It moves me still, after all these years of knowing it, after years of being an adult and theoretically in control of my own choices. I'm afraid that my own choices show that I'm a great time-waster and a narcissist. Maybe I just need that lesson over and over again.

Harry learns here that what makes him good or evil is not his inborn predisposition toward one or the other, but what he chooses to do with himself. Saving Ginny Weasley seems like a pretty dang good start. ;)

Art by Alkanet

Our Ginny, coming soon
Art by keepsake20/Amanda Dockery
8. Kindness. I find it powerfully moving that neither Harry nor Dumbledore once accuses Ginny of anything. Harry is quietly supportive and thoughtful toward her, exactly what he needs to be.

Dumbledore, who is older and in command, is more. If I liked nothing else about the Headmaster, I'd love him for his kindness to Ginny in the final chapter. He silences her rising guilt and any further protest from her parents, prescribes a hospital stay and some immediate physical comfort, and says the one thing that will jump-start her healing: "There has been no lasting harm done, Ginny."

A lot of who Ginny Weasley becomes in future—her bravery, her sheer chutzpah, her strength and sense of humor—probably grows out of her experience of Riddle's possession and Harry and Dumbledore's kindness. Punishment or shaming could have broken her for life, but she's now got what it takes to be great.

Art by LovelyHufflepuff
9. Lockhart. It's funny, but now that he's completely lost his memory and has therefore forgotten how awful he's capable of being, I'm rather fond of him. Innocence and childlike need are infinitely preferable to anything he was before.

Art by crystaltiger52
10. Dobby's redemption. I love everything about this. Dobby, the abused slave, goes on trying to subvert his evil master even though the magic forces him to hit himself in the head at every attempt. And then Rowling saves him with a burst of compassion and a dirty sock. I just... I love this.
"Least I could do, Dobby," said Harry, grinning. "Just promise never to try and save my life again."

Bonus point: Laura says Tolstoy's parties are the best parties "unless you wander into them as a bear". I think she might be right, but the one at the end of Chamber of Secrets sounds pretty darn fun to me.

Go forth and discuss! Coming soon: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Also, pumpkin juice.

"Oh, well... I'd just been thinking... if you had died, you'd have been welcome to share my toilet," said Myrtle, blushing silver.

Best. Offer. Ever.

* Oh. My. Gosh. I'm laughing so hard right now. Yes, that is a real example. It's obvious that, among other things, I had no idea what the word boyfriend meant. Humble little Ginny was sure that "famous, good, great Harry Potter would never like her", but nine-year-old Jenna apparently thought something more along the lines of "I'm totally awash in pheromonal ecstasy around this sixth grader, therefore I love him and we are so getting married." :P


  1. wow..

    so much here..
    I need to get my act together first..will that happen??
    Especially now with the diary all out in the open..Ginny is obviously not a 4..no 4 would ever just trust a diary that wrote back..Even very young me would have been suspicious: "This is supposed to be PRIVATE> creeper, get out of my journal!!!!"

    Because, I mean, apart from potential possessions..who knows what creepy demon friends the diary is sharing your deepest, darkest secrets with..demon friends who will laugh at your fears and hopes and dreams, or just sit there..knowing. Ugh. Shuddering at the thought. I was a child obsessed with my sacred privacy ;p

    1. You could analyze Ginny... which number is she? ;)

      And which number did you say I was again? I not only pretended my diary wrote back to me, I pretended that it was friends with lots of other diary people, and went to conventions of diary people, and had crushes on the diary boys of all the real boys I had crushes on. Once I even pretended she came to school with me. ;)

      Granted, if she had written back of her own free will, I not only would have burned the book, I would have never slept in the same room in which I had written again.

    2. I lean towards a 6 for you..which is sort of the loyal number. I think..Seth is a 6 too, so it's a lot more than just being reliable and trustworthy..They tend toward anxiety though. They rely more than others on support and guidance from others and care deeply about being able to give back that support to others..What do you think? :)

    3. I think you have me pegged, and I love you. :)

  2. Aw, Jenna, you and your diary are adorable! I'm sure it wasn't telling any of its demon friends about you and your boyfriends, whether or not they were "real" boyfriends.

    I do think Creepy Voldemort Diary is one of JKR's best moves.

    1. Haha, thanks. ;)

      Creepy Voldemort Diary is fantastic plotting, for sure!

  3. Here's a question: I don't get the UK version of a "diary." What they call a diary over there is more like what we call a planner of pocket calendar. And why would anyone go about writing private thoughts and daily happenings in a pocket planner?

    (I noticed this in the Bridget Jones's Diary movie, too. Have no interest in reading the book, but I can almost certainly assume that it's not just the diary of Bridget Jones because that would hardly have enough room in it for a novel-length year of entries.)

    1. Yeah, I don't get it, either. I would NEVER write private thoughts in a pocket planner. I'm paranoid about writing them anywhere; it's just that I can't quite help it.

      Even Harry's first response to the diary is to wonder why there aren't any calendar notes scratched in. Otherwise, I'd wonder if maybe the word was changed for the American editions.


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