MuggleNet Rereads “Chamber of Secrets”
Welcome back to the “MuggleNet Rereads Harry Potter“ series! Last time, we enjoyed the many delights of rereading Sorcerer’s Stone; for an in-depth discussion of all the books, check out Alohomora!, our podcast dedicated to rereading the whole Potter series. This time, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts about Harry’s second adventure, so brush up on your Parseltongue, and let’s open up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!
I started this reread by comparing my copy of Chamber of Secrets to Tom Riddle’s diary. Considering how much of this book takes place in a bathroom, I thought it was fitting to use a copy that had survived a few bouts of bathtime reading. Both are old books with a lot of water damage, but my book is much younger, has never been thrown into a toilet, and is definitely not a Horcrux.
When I first started reading the books, I hated the Dursleys so much I almost didn’t continue reading after the first chapter. Vernon Dursley is still my least favorite character, but I’ve gained a slight soft spot for Petunia since Deathly Hallows was released. In Chamber of Secrets, when Petunia punished Harry for threatening to set the hedges on fire, I couldn’t help but remember the moment in “The Prince’s Tale” where Snape makes a branch fall on Petunia’s head. Her earliest encounters with magic brought her pain and fear, and later incidents like Lily’s death and Dudley’s pig tail weren’t exactly the happiest moments of her life. The Dursleys’ treatment of Harry was inexcusable, but in that moment where Petunia punished Harry for scaring Dudley with magic, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.
I love searching for the clues J.K. Rowling has left throughout the books, and one of the most rewarding chapters in my clue hunt was “At Flourish and Blotts.” Harry’s detour to Knockturn Alley revealed some of the Dark objects Draco would use in his attempts to assassinate Dumbledore during Half-Blood Prince, and Harry’s first encounter with Gilderoy Lockhart had some amusing foreshadowing for his first Quidditch match of the year.
When [Lockhart] finally let go of Harry’s hand, Harry could hardly feel his fingers” (60).
Since ghosts were largely excluded from the movies, we missed out on seeing the deathday party, and McGonagall was given the task of explaining the Chamber of Secrets to the golden trio and their classmates. Hearing Professor Binns tell the legend was fascinating, and rereading Salazar Slytherin’s reason for wanting to exclude Muggle-borns changed my perspective of him.
Slytherin wished to be more selective about the students admitted to Hogwarts…He disliked taking students of Muggle parentage, believing them to be untrustworthy” (150).
“Untrustworthy” stuck out to me as an odd word to choose; I would have thought Slytherin would call them “incompetent” or “inferior,” but then I couldn’t stop thinking about the anti-magic sentiments we’re going to see during Fantastic Beasts. Witch-hunts have been going on since antiquity, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched to believe Slytherin’s distrust of Muggle-borns could stem from personal encounters with Muggles who hate wizards. The possibility of burning at the stake is frightening enough that, even though I disagree, I understand where his hesitance came from; however, I think building a secret chamber with a horrible monster to purge Hogwarts of Muggle-borns may have been a bit of an overreaction.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione weren’t supposed to be brewing the Polyjuice Potion, so how did Hermione explain her cat-like appearance to Madame Pomfrey? I guess if Ron was able to get away with calling his wound from Norberta a dog bite in Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione was probably capable of coming up with a convincing lie about her furry face and whiskers.
Harry’s chats with Dumbledore at the end of the books always get my wheels turning, and this reread was no exception. When I was younger, I missed some of the nuances of Dumbledore’s conversation with Lucius Malfoy, but this reread showed me that Malfoy’s anti-Muggle politics created the primary conflict for Harry’s second year at Hogwarts.
A clever plan…Because if Harry here…and his friend Ron hadn’t discovered this book, why – Ginny Weasley might have taken all the blame…Imagine the effect on Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act, if his own daughter was discovered attacking and killing Muggle-borns…” (335-6).
Lucius Malfoy willingly risked the lives of everyone at Hogwarts to stop Arthur Weasley’s Muggle Protection Act and got rid of an incriminating Dark object along the way. It doesn’t surprise me that someone so cold and calculating became a servant of Lord Voldemort.
Did you learn anything new during your reread of Chamber of Secrets? How did your opinions of the characters change? Make sure to check out Rachael’s thoughts on Sorcerer’s Stone, and if you’re looking for an in-depth discussion of the series, check out MuggleNet’s very own reread podcast, Alohomora!