Fantasy
 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Author: J.K. Rowling

Published By: Scholastic Inc.


Reviewed by Melissa Minners

 

            After reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and discovering that the novel was as incredibly enjoyable as everyone had been telling me, I couldn’t wait to read the next novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  I had just watched the movie for the fourth or fifth time and I wondered just how well the makers of the movie kept to the J.K. Rowling book. 

            In this novel, Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is about to begin.  Unfortunately, Harry’s aunt and uncle are determined not to allow him to attend and, apparently, they are not the only ones.  Shortly before Harry is to begin school, a house elf by the name of Dobby warns him against returning to Hogwarts.  When Harry refuses to take heed, Dobby makes various attempts at keeping Harry in his aunt and uncle’s home, all to no avail.

            Harry is perplexed by the house elf’s warnings and wonders just what could be worse than living in a home where no one really wants him around.  He doesn’t have to wait long to find out.  Apparently, a monster who lives in a place called the Chamber of Secrets has been let loose at Hogwarts.  The monster has been attacking students who come from non-wizard families and can only be controlled by the Heir of Slytherin.  But who is the Heir of Slytherin and what does he have against less than pureblood wizards?

            When Harry’s friend Hermione becomes the school’s latest victim, he and Ron step up their efforts to find the Chamber of Secrets.  As they gather clues as to what the monster is and where it may be found, the two friends uncover several shocking bits of evidence that cause Harry to not only doubt himself, but also his place in Gryffindor House

            As I read this second novel in the Harry Potter series, I found the first part of the book moved very quickly.  Perhaps this was because, despite the fact that I had watched this film four or five times, I had never seen the movie in its entirety, always catching it in the middle or towards the end.  Thus, the beginning of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was all new territory for me.  As I started getting into parts that I actually had seen in the movie, it seemed the reading sort of slowed down a bit. 

            That doesn’t mean that I found the story any less enjoyable - only that I was probably trying to hard to compare the original material by J.K. Rowling to what I actually saw in the movie.  I found the creators of the film kept things pretty accurate with minor changes here and there due to time constraints.

            Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets looks at Harry in a new light.  In the first novel, we see a rather timid Harry Potter, a boy who believes that he is no one special, alone in the world and doomed to live out his days unloved and unwanted.  His confidence soars as he discovers a whole new world in which he is seen as a very important individual.  His newfound abilities and ease at making friends at Hogwarts shows Harry that he has self-worth and offers him a glimpse at a happier life. 

            This second novel finds Harry doubting his newfound confidence and abilities.  Could it be that his first year at Hogwarts was all a fluke?  Is it possible that he was placed in the wrong house?  Have his friends abandoned him?  Although Harry does show some confidence as he searches for the location of the Chamber of Secrets, he must constantly be reminded by his friends, Ron and Hermione, that he is cared for and important to people at Hogwarts.  This lack of self-confidence is something that every child can relate to as friends are fickle at that age and buddies like Ron and Hermione are often hard to come by.

            Another underlying theme in this novel is loyalty - Ron and Hermione’s loyalty to Harry, the three students’ loyalty to Hagrid, the gameskeeper and Harry’s loyalty to Hogwarts Headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore.  In the end, it is loyalty that saves the day - friend’s loyalties toward each other and a young student’s loyalty to his mentor.  But not all evidence of loyalty in this novel comes attached to a positive outcome.  One poor student’s misplaced loyalty and trust earns her a near death experience at the hands of a deceptively devious wizard of the Dark Arts.

            There is yet another theme in this novel, one that I believe is very important for both the younger generation and adults - staying true to one’s self.  This theme is expressed through the new Dark Arts teacher, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, a braggart and blowhard with a narcissistic air.  When the professor’s bravery and talents against the Dark Arts are called into action, Lockhart blanches - the gig is up and it is discovered that he had been taking credit for deeds performed by other wizards and witches.  Harry also learns how important it is to stay true to himself, especially when he begins to doubt his position in Gryffindor House and in the face of the nasty rumors about his involvement in the recent attacks at Hogwarts.

            Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is more than just a book about a young boy learning to become a wizard.  It is designed to teach the reader a lesson or two about growing up.  It also provides the reader with plenty of mystery, action and suspense, keeping them fully absorbed in the story while teaching them extremely important lessons about life.  I thoroughly enjoyed Chamber of Secrets and will happily move on to the next novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

 

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