Why “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” Is Historically Relevant Right Now
With all the panic and misinformation trending about the coronavirus, it’s easy to feel stressed. During this time and at all times, it’s important to focus on self-care. This can be particularly difficult for people like me who only focus on helping others. However, if we’re not taking care of ourselves, how can we find the strength to help others? One of my favorite ways to destress is by reading. The book that has been helping me lately is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This has never been my favorite book in the series, but now, my love of the book has been reignited. Chamber of Secrets is the Potter book that most accurately reflects my life right now.
During my college’s spring break, the quarantine was advised. I’ve been staying home for weeks, not wanting to risk exposure to the virus or risk being a carrier of it. While reading at home, I found several similarities to the current crisis and the events in Chamber of Secrets. The obvious connection is how Harry feels at home with the Dursleys. Harry hides in his room when company visits the house, and later, Vernon Dursley puts bars on Harry’s windows so that Harry can’t escape. This reminds me of how powerless people are feeling about the coronavirus. If you’re not used to spending so much time at home, this can be a shock to the system. As an introverted person, even I had to adjust to living this new way. Another important point is that young people who are sent home from school don’t always have a safe home to return to. Like Harry, I have many friends who come from abusive families, and school was their escape.
Another similarity from Chamber of Secrets is the mass panic that occurs when the basilisk begins attacking students; this reminds me of the mass panic going on in the world today. While the students at Hogwarts don’t hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer, they are confined to specific sections of the castle, and Hogwarts is threatened to close entirely. I’ve come to respect Chamber of Secrets for portraying the specific panic- and hysteria-ridden reactions of young people. Like myself, the Hogwarts students are young and don’t have as much life experience as their professors. It’s scarier for students because we look to adults to protect us. A great example of this is when Professor McGonagall cancels a Quidditch match and all Wood says is “you can’t cancel Quidditch!” Wood isn’t disrespecting the professor; he just can’t believe Quidditch really is canceled. Wood is in denial at this time, just like so many people are about the circumstances of the coronavirus.
Another important plot point in the book is when Harry’s classmates turn on him. Harry goes from being a popular, well-liked student to various circumstances of bullying. This reminds me of how people use the coronavirus as an excuse to be racist. Of course, it’s not the same thing, but both Harry and virus victims are bullied and mocked publicly. Even though there’s no proof to tie Harry to the basilisk attacks, students shun him. In order to “protect themselves,” no one wants to associate themselves with Harry. Almost all articles about the coronavirus show pictures of Asian individuals, which only perpetuates the theory that the Asian population is responsible for the virus, a ridiculous theory in fact. Blatant discrimination and hatred don’t make either situation better. I understand why Harry wanted to find out who was responsible for the student attacks; he wanted justice for the victims and for himself.
I’m sincerely hoping that by reading books that teach us empathy, such as Chamber of Secrets, more people will understand that panic, denial, and discrimination are not adequate methods to fight an epidemic. Educating and protecting each other is now more important than ever. Be like Hermione and Ron, who stood by Harry through the bullying and public hatred. Stand by your friends and family, and practice kindness. I see the basilisk as a metaphor for the virus. It’s deadly and scary but not undefeatable. If Harry could fight it, so can we.