Sunday, August 20, 2006

CHAMBER OF SECRETS: Chapters 10 and 11 comments

Chapter Ten: The Rogue Bludger
House elves seem to do all the tedious work around a house, but do they do the laundry? Can they touch clothes without being freed? I’m not sure—Hermione spends time leaving hats all over for the elves to find, and Dobby picks them up so none of the other elves will be unintentionally set free. The laundry question is an interesting one--I can't imagine Narcissa doing the laundry. And the students aren't ever mentioned having to take care of their own clothing--but then we don't spend time hearing that they've taken time to take a bath or a shower or go brush their teeth, either.

The opening of the chapter is particularly interesting, with Lockhart forcing Harry to re-enact bits of his books, and the example is the werewolf one. One more clue that we are at some point going to meet a werewolf in the books, I think.

Lockhart also mentions that he was a seeker, but he doesn't specifically say that he had ever been a Hogwarts student. At least not that I could find. It makes me wonder if that is part of the reason for his rather cold reception from the other teachers, aside from the fact that they all quickly figure out that he is a fraud. Perhaps Lockhart's education was not up to Hogwarts standards.

The peacock quill is just one more visual indication of Lockhart's flamboyant nature, in case we hadn't already figured it out. Lockhart is constantly touting his own exploits in an effort to prove his wizarding excellence.

I would love to know who the person was that Rowling knew that inspired the Lockhart character. When asked if any of the characters were based on real people, she said that only Lockhart was, but that the real person would not realize it himself, and would instead claim that he came up with the whole idea of the books in the first place. So....acquaintance? former teacher? another author perhaps, with all the references to Lockhart writing books?

Oh, and then there is Madam Pince. I don't quite buy the tie in with her being related to Snape. Can't be his mother but she could, I suppose, be an aunt or grandmother. It's the Irma Pince--move the "r" to the last name, and you have the anagram--"Im a Prince". The only reason it fits in at all is that she is just as disagreeable as Severus and doesn't seem to like the students much. She seems like the worst stereotype of a librarian, and I'm glad to say that most of the ones I've ever dealt with, while some are rather "bookish", are very helpful and nice. Madam Pince is never nice, not even to Hermione who loves books and studying. One would think that she would at least be nice to Hermione.

After HBP came out, some of us were discussing who else might be evil at Hogwarts, and I noticed that every description of Madam Pince points to her as a possible evil character--especially the references to her vulture likeness. Could be, or it could be, since she and Filch end up as a couple of sorts, that she is also a squib. Imagine having to work at a school with all those students who were magical if you couldn't manage any of it yourself. And to make matters worse, there she would be in the library, constantly surrounded by books telling about magic, but without any capability of doing any of it herself.

I was quite happy to hear that we'd had the last quidditch game, personally. I think JKR has used it to make the school something more recognizable to many of the readers who like sports. And it's been a nice way to have various things happen to Harry. Ending up in the hospital wing because of a quidditch accident (with the funny side example of Gilderoy's ineptitude at healing) was a convenient way for Harry to have that conversation with Dobby, where he finds out that it was Dobby who controlled the bludger and who blocked the barrier at the station, and that the Chamber of Secrets is real and is open again--and I think that was the whole point of that particular quidditch game. Harry also got the important piece of information about how a house elf can be freed--without that, Harry wouldn't have known to give Dobby a sock at the end. This also put Harry in the hospital wing, in a perfect place to overhear the conversation between Dumbledore and McGonagall when Colin was brought in, petrified. The last thing that Dumbledore says should also alert us that he knows more about what is going on than the other teachers do:

"It means," said Dumbledore, "that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again."

Madam Pomfrey clapped a hand to her mouth. Professor McGonagall stared at Dumbledore.

"But, Albus. . . surely. . .who?"

"The question is not who," said Dumbledore, his eyes on Colin. "The question is, how. . ."

And from what Harry could see of Professor McGonagall's shadowy face, she didn't understand this any better than he did. [COS-p. 180-181]

Dumbledore's response is our clue that he already knows it has something to do with someone who is related to Slytherin, and may suspect Lord Voldemort's involvement, but like the rest, doesn't know how it has been managed.

Chapter Eleven: The Dueling Club
(Included at the end of this entry are the discussion questions and my responses from the group at the Leaky Lounge in July.)

We get plenty of narrative misdirection in this chapter, starting with Ron telling us that it's clear that Lucius was the one who opened the Chamber before and has now passed on the rite to son, Draco. With Draco's comment about it, we are easily led to believe that Ron is right about this one.

When they decide that they need to get moving on the potion now and that they'll have to break into Snape's stores to get the missing ingredients, I love Harry's reaction, as it's an indirect tie to the Hogwarts motto that is in the front of the UK version of Philosopher's Stone,

"I think I'd better do the actual stealing," Hermione continued in a matter of fact tone. "You two will be expelled if you get into any more trouble, and I've got a clean record. So all you need to do is cause enough mayhem to keep Snape busy for five minutes or so."

Harry smiled feebly. Deliberately causing mayhem in Snape's Potions class was about as safe as poking a sleeping dragon in the eye. [COS-p. 186]

The nice thing about Hermione doing the stealing is that later, when Snape does seem to be certain that it was Harry who stole from his stores, he cannot see any evidence of it in Harry's memories. Of course, he might see that Harry remembers that it was Hermione who was the culprit.

And I love Ron's comment when Hermione tells them about something she has read about Chameleon Ghouls -- "You read too much, Hermione," said Ron...[COS-p. 184]

It once again calls our attention to the nature of these two characters--Hermione who is the student and relies on books for information, and Ron who just can't be bothered and sees that as a waste of his time.

I love the interaction between Lockhart and Snape at the Dueling Club. Lockhart tries to be his usual impressive self, and succeeds with the female population, while Snape glares at him in a way that makes Harry wonder why Lockhart doesn't run from him. Clearly, Snape sees right through all Lockhart's bragging and sees him for what he is. The question is, why did Snape agree to help? Was that his own idea to keep the students safe from some stupid blunder by Lockhart, or was Snape sent there by Dumbledore for the same purpose?

This is also the place where Harry learns yet another valuable lesson from Snape--Expelliarmus--which, like many of Snape's lessons, saves Harry more than once. Too bad he never thinks to credit Snape with any of that.

It's no surprise that Snape splits up Harry and Ron, and Harry and Hermione. He's well aware that they are friends. Though in a dueling club, I can't see why it would matter if people practiced with a friend. But it does give Snape the opportunity to put Harry and Snape's favorite, Draco, together. What a good chance to see which one of them is more talented. Putting Hermione with Millicent Bulstrode also give Hermione the chance to collect that hair that she will need. And we see one more instance of wizards resorting to muggle style fighting when the two girls end up brawling, wands forgotten.

One of the things that is the most disturbing in this chapter to me, though, is the cruel remark Snape makes towards Neville about Neville causing "devastation with the simplest spells." It's Ron's wand that is the problem causing one, with all its backfires. But this points us once again to noticing that Neville is not very good at magic. We like Snape still assume that it's his ability and not his wand that is the cause of it.

Once the snake appears, Lockhart again shows how inadequate he is, enraging the snake rather than vanishing it. Snape vanishes the snake, and from his reaction I think that he really did not expect Harry to be a Parselmouth. I think the whole snake part of it was to show that Harry is not so brave; Snape expected Harry to have the same sort of reaction that Justin had, which is a very normal reaction to a snake coming towards you. Snape had a "shrewd and calculating look", which seems more to say that he is just now realizing that the student he dismissed as ordinary and inept in the first year, is not exhibiting a talent that is rare and has made Snape wonder just what he's missed with his appraisal of Harry.

Talking Points (posted by Mokey at the Corner Cafe, The Leaky Lounge discussion):

-What do you think about Ginny’s behavior? Is it a sufficient clue? Did you overlook it the first time?

Up to this point, we only have Ron's word that Ginny is any different than we have seen her. She is quiet and shy around Harry, so seeing Ginny distraught doesn't seem unusual at all. And yes, I totally missed this one. But that was also before I began to notice how many things are in the details in Rowling's books. I just saw Ginny as an example of how afraid all the students were.

- What’s up with the Serpensortia? Is Snape trying to expose Harry as a Parselmouth? He gives Harry a calculated look after Harry speaks to the snake. Did he plan it? Has he been practicing Legilimency on Harry?

I not only think that Snape has used Legilimency on Harry by this point, I also think that Dumbledore has. Remember back to the scene where Snape is grilling them about the flying car and Dumbledore gives Harry a searching look. They both look pretty closely at Harry when the message is found on the wall next to Mrs. Norris. The Serpensortia is a rather odd thing for Snape to tell Draco to use. As I said above, Snape might have been trying to expose Harry but I really think that it might just have been a way to make Harry look cowardly. If Snape didn't suspect Harry of being a Parselmouth, which I don't think he did, he probably just thought that Harry would be scared and that was a way Snape could further humiliate him in front of most of the school.

-So we see Harry wrestling with himself over whether or not he’s a true Gryffindor. What do you think about this? Why is it important? Is it also important that Hermione says that there is no way to prove he’s not related to Salazar Slytherin?

It's just one more way of pointing out to us through Harry that he might have the traits for more than one house. It's a perfect set-up for Harry eventually being the one to unite the four houses, and I don't think we've had the pay-off for that one yet.

-Harry becomes a bit of a pariah in this chapter. How do you feel about that? Do you think the Hufflepuffs are right to suspect him? Would you?

I don't think they are right to suspect Harry. It's more an example of how public opinion can be so easily swayed. Fear takes over and people are ready to believe anything because they want an answer to what is going wrong. They think that by pinning the blame on Harry, the threat will stop, just as in the real world, people want a crime solved quickly so they can feel safe again. It does all look suspicious, but I hope that I would not follow the mass hysteria crowd.

-What do you think about Dumbledore’s candy passwords? I find this rather foolish. All a person need do (as we see in later books) is recited Honeyduke’s inventory and a few muggle sweets to the gargoyles in order to gain entrance. Why do you think Dumbledore, being as wise as he is, names his passwords after sweets?

I hadn't really thought of it as foolish, but you have a point. However, one of the things we see is that Dumbledore likes muggle sweets as well, and maybe that's clue that he is half-muggle himself. Of course, the Slytherin password isn't too much of a stretch to figure out either--"pureblood". It's only the Gryffindor ones that someone would actually have to know, as they don't usually relate to anything in particular, until we get to "Abstinence" when the Fat Lady has done too much celebrating.

Perhaps Dumbledore doesn't really feel the need to have utlra-high security passwords anyway. He uses a password because all the doors seem to have them, but maybe he wants to allow teachers and students some access to him.

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