‘Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last… ‘
The world of Harry Potter captured the hearts of the nation and the world alike when the first book was published. Since then it has become one of the highest grossing series of books and has captivated millions of fans worldwide. As a huge fan of the world myself, whose friends are all Potter fans, the ‘Chamber of Secrets’ has always been a strange book. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I think it’s great, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone name it as their favourite. The combination of spiders and giant snakes that can kill you with a single look definitely marked the beginning of the darker twist the series was starting to take and to this day many of my friends insist on leaving the room when we’re watching the film and the scene with Aragog comes on.
For me, however, this film is a perfect example of Rowling pushing the series forward to the ultimate end game. The importance of this book with regards to the diary, Harry being a parselmouth and the Malfoy family’s involvement in Voldemort’s schemes cannot be underestimated. This book is where Rowling really begins to reveal what her overarching vision of the series is and that can be very exciting. The development of Ginny’s character and her importance to the plot is also key and makes me feel that this book is a far more active member of the series that people think. Often I find that most people consider ‘The Goblet of Fire’ to be where the action really starts as it’s not until then that Voldemort gets his own body and truly becomes the villain that the series needs.
But the version of Voldemort that appears in ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ is interesting in himself, as the insight into his mind during his teenage years is an incredibly useful view that cannot be underestimated when it comes to later books. For example, does Voldemort know about the events of ‘The Chamber of Secrets’? Does he have a connection with his diary as strong as with Harry that allows him to see exactly what happened in the Chamber? Or is he completely oblivious of the exact events? I imagine he ordered Malfoy to give Ginny the diary with the endgame of coming back through it but does that mean that he had a more active part in the book than previously assumed?
The dip into Hagrid’s past is also an interesting event, as not only does it reinforce Hagrid’s carelessness but it also raises the question that now it has been established that it was Tom Riddle the first time and Hagrid was indeed innocent of causing Myrtle’s death, what happens next? Because as far as the rest of the series is concerned it seems like the ministry accepted Hagrid was innocent and thought releasing him from Azkaban was tantamount to reparations. Apart from letting Hagrid become a teacher the following year, did anything really change? Where is Hagrid’s justice? Does he get any compensation? Will they allow him to continue his studies if he wishes, or at the very least get another wand? Knowing Fudge, I expect he would be loathe to admit there was any wrongdoing on the part of the ministry and so there was never any mention of further action.
The truly great thing about this book, in my view, is the establishment of Harry and Dobby’s relationship. This book introduces the wonderful house elf, his loyalty to Harry and sets the scene for the rest of the series. Although I remember as a child reading through certain books and thinking to myself, “Why doesn’t Harry just ask Dobby for help?” which can be quite frustrating. For example, need to get some Gillyweed Harry? Why not ask Dobby? Need to contact Sirius to make sure he’s not dead in the Department of Mysteries somewhere? Ask Dobby. But I suppose its the Harry Potter equivalent of “Why didn’t the eagles just fly Frodo to Mount Doom?”
All in all, I loved rereading this book, it was like a nice trip down memory lane straight into my childhood.