Monday, October 23, 2006

GOBLET OF FIRE--Chapter One through Six

CHAPTER ONE: "The Riddle House"
The changes from the UK versions are the most annoying thing to me, but that's a different rant, and I've gone down that path before.

One of the things I noticed when I was reading along in my US book while listening to Stephen Fry, was the changes in the text. I found it very interesting that the US version consistently uses "murder", while the UK version uses "curse", and also refers to "removing one more obstacle", rather than using the word "death". I'm not sure why they would change that--it seems to me that it changes the tone of the conversation between LV and Wormtail. But in the UK version, it is still clear to Frank that Voldemort had committed murder and intended to commit more. I do find it interesting to compare the differences--I think it can help us in trying to clarify some of the story.

Someone in the Leaky Lounge Reading Group discussion asked about "milking" Nagini, making the point that snakes dont have milk. When they talk about milking a snake they are talking about getting the venom from the snake. No, they don't have milk, but that's the meaning. So here we have Voldemort who killed unicorns and drank their blood in Philosopher's Stone, and now he is surviving and regaining his strength from drinking snake venom. It's one more image that Jo gives us of just how evil Voldemort is--killing the innocent for his own survival, drinking the poison from a snake, and willing to murder anyone who gets in his way. It's a picture of a being who has no humanity, even though he will have human form once again. I find this first chapter chilling.

I also remember when my daughter and I picked up our copy of GOF at midnight back in 2000. She started reading the first chapter out loud as we drove home. And when we got home we both realized that we felt lost. Who was Tom Riddle? We had forgotten the name (hard to imagine now). But we ended up looking back through POA for a reference to TR, and then through COS, where we found it. Until we got there, though, we were feeling very lost in this first chapter. I think it was partly due to the change in the point of view. We had gotten so used to seeing things through Harry's eyes and mind, that to see things from the narrator's point of view felt really odd.

I've read it so many times now, that I tend to forget how jarring that first chapter was. Not only the POV, but the tone of the events. It was a clear shift in the story. Any deaths in the first three books were references to the past; here we see the cold calculating way that Voldemort kills Frank Bryce--no moral struggle on his part, it's actually done in a very casual way, with no more thought given to taking another person's life than most of us would give to turning on a light in a dark room.

GOF is not my favorite book, but it does have some fascinating things in it--and when I am reading it, I always seem to get completely caught up in it all over again.

I'd never given much thought to this chapter starting during the night and ending with Harry's room being filled with light. Jo makes it clear that this is a dream that Harry has while he is asleep, not a day dream, where he has just let his mind wander. It also shows Harry's isolation--he alone sees the events in the dream, yet he has no one with whom to share his visions. That's a stark contrast to most 14 year olds who could either wake someone else in the house or tell someone else about a scary dream in the morning. Harry doesn't have those options--and never really has had the option of sharing any of his thoughts with the Dursleys. Imagine how scary it must have been for Harry when he was little, sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs, if he had a nightmare with no comforting adult to turn to. So, it's no wonder now that he doesn't consider sharing this latest dream with the Dursleys. I think the only reason it's brought up, though, is that it's Jo's way of reminding (or telling, if someone is jumping into the HP books with this one) us that the Dursleys are not fulfilling the role of parental figures for Harry.

It is odd that there is a mention of no cats on the street--but that's one of those things that we don't really see as significant until book 5 when we learn that Mrs. Figg's cats help her watch out for Harry. So why aren't there any cats out when he looks out the window? Voldemort is miles away, and apparently no one perceives that there is any imminent threat to Harry--so the cats aren't needed on the street on that night.

I'm really surprised with all the times that Harry has dreams and can't remember the details at all, that he recalls as much of this one as he does. So, the fact that he can't remember Frank's name is not at all surprising. Harry seems to have one of the worst memories of dreams of anyone--something that I find hard to believe sometimes (as I remember many dreams in vivid detail), and also very annoying. It's likely that he remembers this one because it is such a clear vision of events, rather than the jumble that many of his dreams are. I think we see later that when it is a vision of what is really going on rather than just a random dream, Harry does recall most of it pretty clearly.

Mirrors in HP are always interesting, from the Mirror of Erised to the mirrors that talk at the Burrow and at the Leaky Cauldron, etc. But I think mirrors do something else--they serve as a way for us to see Harry in a different way. He looks at himself in his mirror and sees a skinny boy with unruly hair and his scar--it's a reflection of how he appears to the rest of the world. Usually, even though the story is not told in first person, we are seeing things as though we are sitting on Harry's shoulder and hearing his unspoken thoughts--third person limited omniscience. The point of the mirror here is to give us a more objective view of what Harry looks like. At the end of the chapter, he doesn't look in the mirror before going down to breakfast. He walks by the mirror without looking, more concerned about his inner thoughts that his outward appearance. Harry has more important things to deal with in his life than how the world sees him. That, in a way, might foreshadow much of what happens in this book--at first he is very concerned about what others think of him, but by the end of the book, he is no longer making decisions based on the opinions of those around him.

(These are some additional thoughts I had on the chapter during the discussion at the Leaky Lounge.)
Posted Oct. 25, 2006
It's possible that Harry does have some sort of regard for Aunt Petunia, but I think that really, Jo includes a lot of things to remind the reader of Harry's relationship with the Dursleys--she does that sort of thing a lot in the beginning of all the books. Since Chapter One didn't begin in the usual way, all of those past references were put in Chapter Two.

HealerOne, I completely agree that to understand Harry's relationship with the Dursleys, we have to realize that he is an abused child. It's amazing that he is able to reach out to anyone, after the treatment he has endured in the Dursley's home.

Posted Oct. 26, 2006
I found this definition on an English class site--looks like it's taught at Purdue:

In THIRD-PERSON LIMITED OMNISCIENCE, the narrator frequently limits the revelation of thoughts to those of one character, presenting the other characters only externally. As a result, the reader's experience is conditioned by the mental state, the qualities of perception, ignorance, or bias of the filtering or reflecting mind.

For a more complete comparison of this POV, here's a link.

Where this becomes important in all the Harry Potter books, is that we are constantly seeing just what Jo wants us to see, through Harry's eyes, or as some have said, through the Harry filter. We get that in this particular chapter. We saw what happened at the Riddle House with Frank Bryce in Chapter One, but in Chapter Two, we only see Harry's memory of what he saw in the dream, his interpretation of it, and Harry's thoughts of who will react in what way if he tells them about the dream and his scar hurting. When Harry is ready to move on, then we must go with him. Harry has opinions that are sometimes right and sometimes not, but we keep accepting his POV as fact, when it is sometimes not a complete or accurate picture.

Posted Oct. 27, 2006:
(Someone brought up the issue of Christmas and Easter and christenings, and how that realtes to Sirius being Harry's godfather. As religion in general, is not to be discussed, I posted this, while trying to be politically correct--something I don't necessarily do well.)
Ok, I'll try tiptoeing around this one. I think that by having Harry christened and his having a godfather, it is more of an indication of tradition than anything else. No matter what Jo's religious beliefs are or aren't (and she's stated that in quite a few interviews), it is a tradtional thing to do.

No, I'm not British, but I'm basing this on what I've read and heard from people who are. In one of the sessions at Lumos that was about religion, there was a lady in the audience who was British. She addressed the whole religion issue, and explained that while Americans see Christmas and Easter as an indication of Jo's Christian beliefs, it is much more a social tradition to do certain things--the recognition has become very secularized. And aside from celebrating those two holidays, most people (in the UK) claim membership in the Church of England, are baptized (christened), get married there, and have their funerals there. Whether or not they attend on a regular basis is a different issue entirely.

That puts the whole point of Harry having a godfather in a different light, as far as I'm concerned. It says a lot more that James and Lily wanted someone designated to care for Harry if something happened to them, which is the point of a godfather. And that's really the only indication that Jo has given with that particular reference. I have some personal opinions about the whole thing, but they really belong in a different thread. It just seems like whenever this comes up, we need to keep in mind that we don't know her intent, but what we are reading is well within the guidelines of just following British tradition.

Posted Oct. 29, 2006:
(by madamros at Leaky Lounge)
Well, I am British, and yes, Christmas and Easter are traditionally-celebrated - religious or not. Weddings - if you want the big white wedding, then church it is. But Christenings - well, some people view them as one of the traditional things you do (and it sure helps if you want to send your child to a Cof E /Roman Catholic school - which tend to have better results than non-religious schools - slap my wrists for my cynicism!), but I wasn't christened, neither was my partner, and neither are our children. I went to a christening a couple of weeks ago - it was the first one I'd ever been to - I hardly know anyone who has had their children christened (and did I feel like a hypocrite!) - I can't easily imagine anyone having their child christened if they didn't mean it - but maybe that's me - making promises like that would make me feel extremely uneasy.
I agree that mentions of Christmas and Easter cannot be taken to indicate anything religious.

(And she added this about godparents:)
I'm going to disaree with you slightly there. A godfather is supposed to provide religious guidance, according to the traditional christening ceremony. They help to keep the child on the right religious path, and it has very little to do with taking care of them in any other sense. I agree that Lily and James would have wanted to designate someone to care for Harry if anything happened to them, but you don't need a christening ceremony for that. . . . In those troubled times, with James and Lily being high up on Voldemort's most wanted list, you'd expect them to have designated someone to look after Harry. Then again, Sirius was probably fairly high up in Voldemort's 'pack of cards' too - so did the Potters make Dumbledore the ultimate arbiter in who got to look after Harry? Certainly Dumbledore is the one who decided to place him at the Dursleys - Harry could have had a home with the Weasleys, or with any other wizarding family, but Dumbledore placed him with his only direct blood relative, Petunia (and Dudley is also a blood relative!).

Posted Oct. 28, 2006
--even in cases of proven child abuse, the abused child is sometimes horrified to find they are being taken away from the parent. Harry jumps at the chance to go live with Sirius after a very short time. However, children can also be very good judges of character when they follow their instincts. Harry is more used to relying on his own assessments of people and situations than most kids his age. The Dursleys never nurtured his trust in them, and they seem to have prevented much interaction with any other adults that might have become mentors or confidants for Harry while he was on Privet Drive. They seem to even hide him from the neighbors, with only Mrs. Figg being mentioned as an occasional baby-sitter. And her hands seem to have been tied by Dumbledore's wish for her to watch him, but not to interfere--as she said, had she been too friendly, the Dursleys would have cut off the connection.

I think Harry's willingness to move to a home with a relative stranger (who must have still looked a bit scary), is another indication of his strong desire for a family and a home life where he could feel safe and welcome, as he knows Ron and Hermione do when they go to their homes. Very sad, indeed.

It is possible that having Sirius as the godfather does have some sort of magical contract associated with it, but I don't think we have enough information from the books to really know--there's another question for Jo to answer--just how many binding magical contracts are there in the wizarding world?

Why does Harry think what it would be like if he were to tell the Dursleys about his scar hurting. I understand that, to Harry, that's an indication that Voldemort is nearby--which is what he has experienced in the past. So perhaps that's the reason that he focuses on the scar and not on the disturbing images and message from the dream. He realizes that his scar is hurting after he is awake, and the dream has already started to fade away, as dreams often do. Disturbing as that dream was, once once he realizes it's a dream, it seems to lose some of its threat and terror, and the very real pain in his scar becomes more important.

CHAPTER THREE: "The Invitation"
(Questions from Leaky Lounge, with my responses.)

1. We see a different side of Dudley this year. His parents are actually trying to do the right thing by him … or are they? What do you think of the diet and the whole family’s attitude towards it?
Well, they are only doing it because they are forced to put him on a diet. I don't think either Vernon or Petunia have any idea of what they really should be doing in raising Dudley. I'm not surprised that Petunia makes everyone eat the same thing--she knows from experience that if she allows any non-Dudley-appropriate food in the house, that Dudley will do whatever he wants and that will be to not stick to the diet. Petunia is now having to deal with the monster she created--she was like the parents you see in the store, with the child who throws a tantrum to get whatever they want and the parent buys it just to get the child to be quiet--and thus stop the embarassment. That tactic has been working for Dudley for all his life, and this summer, being denied his favorite foods must be a horrible blow to him.

2. The letter sent by Mrs. Weasley appeared most innocuous, the envelope amusing. Why was Uncle Vernon so offended by it?
But there's nothing normal about it--all those stamps? And then to have the mailman hand deliver it because he thought it was funny, was probably more than Vernon could stand. For someone who wants to be normal in every way, and to appear to be better than everyone else, having something odd single him out, was just too much.

3. For the second year in a row, Harry has played “Let’s make a Deal” with Uncle Vernon. Compare the “Aunt Marge deal” with The World Cup deal”. How do you feel Harry came out this time? What made the difference?
Harry's getting better. He's learned to be more tactful with Vernon, and certainly understands how Vernon thinks--better than he did at the beginning of POA. Then, he was very sarcastic with Vernon, now he makes it seem that he really doesn't care. If Vernon had realized how much it did matter to Harry (pleading and begging), Vernon might have said no, just as another way to punish Harry for existing.

4. It appears the Weasleys are planning on rescuing Harry whether or not he has permission. Why? What else might be going on here?
It's likely that they have cleared this rescue with Dumbledore. If so, Dumbledore has probably decided that Harry has been at the Dursleys long enough for the protection to continue (as we find out in the 6th book). And I think the Weasleys, who love their children and think of Harry as part of the family, have started to realize that Harry is not living in a place that is filled with happy family moments.

Some of the funniest moments in this chapter were unfortunately left out of the movie. And when you look at it, this chapter is full of set-ups surrounding Fred and George and their inventions and desire for a joke shop. Too bad. I'm sure it seemed like a frivolous chapter for the movie, but there really is a lot of insight into the characters in this chapter. It's one of my favorites--especially since it makes me laugh in a book that has so much darkness in it.

CHAPTER FOUR: "Back to the Burrow"
I've always loved this chapter because it makes me laugh--and it was such a shame it was left out of the movie, as it gives us more insights into Harry's relationship with the Dursleys, and with the Weasleys.

Questions posted at Leaky Lounge Reading Group:

1. The Weasleys, who said they would pick Harry up at 5:00, didn’t arrive until 5:30. What kept them? What might they have been doing during those thirty minutes?

As to why the Weasleys are late, I just assumed that it was one of their typical days where they seem to be running behind. Think how long it would have taken if all the Weasleys had come to collect Harry. I suppose the reason that the twins came along was to help with whatever luggage Harry had, and Ron would come because he's Harry's best friend. However, I'm sure the real reason the twins came was to get a good look at Dudley and to do just exactly what they did. The other reason they might have been delayed is that, since it's not normally allowed for connections between wizard and muggle fire places on the Floo Network, perhaps it took longer to make the connection. And just who was the contact that Arthur had that would do that for him? Isn't there a mention in book 5 about a specific person who works on the Floo Network who answers to Umbridge? Could it be the same person?

2. The Dursleys treat Mr. Weasley with a cold shoulder. Usually, such treatment is very rude, but were they justified this time, given that Mr. Weasley had just blown up half of their living room? Should Mr. Weasly of attempted to teach the Dursleys manners, or was he out of line with this action?

I would not be at all happy to have someone come bursting out of my fireplace, not to mention that it would be quite scary. So I can understand the Dursleys being less than thrilled. However, Vernon was always going to be rude to Mr. Weasley, no matter when or how he arrived, or how he was dressed. We get that indication from the questions he asks Harry when he wants to know what kind of car they drive and if they will put on normal clothing. From everything we have seen, Vernon lives his life to impress others by showing that he is superior. So dressing up in his best suit and waiting for them in the spotless living room is just one more way that he can show he's better than any wizards.

Whether or not we try to teach another adult proper manners is always a touchy subject. It's very difficult to do that in a way that isn't offensive. But I think that Arthur, who wouldn't think of not saying good-bye to his children or to anyone else, is so shocked by Vernon's behaviour that he just couldn't help saying something. And good for Arthur--it's one of my favorite moments when he sticks up for Harry. That is something that Harry hasn't had in his home life--a parent who takes his side when he is treated badly. It not only sends the message to Harry that he does not have to tolerate such shabby treatment, but it also sends the message to Vernon (and to Petunia as well) that said shabby treatment has been noticed. The scene in HBP when Dumbledore talks to the Dursleys is an echo of this one; Arthur is teaching the Dursleys manners regarding their treatment of Harry, while Dumbledore later instructs them on manners in general (inviting a guest in, drinking what's offered, treatment of Harry and of Dudley). Too bad the Dursleys didn't seem to get the point of Arthur's lesson.

3. Harry mentions that he doesn't really mind when he gets no goodbye from the Dursleys... Do you think this is true?

I'm sure on some level that Harry does mind that Vernon and Petunia don't even bother to say good-bye. But by now he is used to it, so it can't be a surprise. As others have said, I think he's more embarrassed that Arthur now sees how badly he is treated.

4. Aunt Petunia throws herself on top of Dudley to 'protect' him. It's the first time we see Petunia be anything like her sister. Compare this act of protection to Lily's act of protection for Harry.

Petunia does show how much she cares for Dudley--but then she thinks she is doing that all the time when she caters to his every whim. I wonder if Dudley had really been in mortal danger if Petunia's protection would have had the same kind of effect that Lily's protection did for Harry? I think mainly it's an example of what most mothers would do if they really felt that their child was in danger, and nothing more.

5. Ah, yes, the Ton-Tongue Toffees…did Dudley get his “just desserts”? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. :wink: )

This scene is so funny in the book, but probably would have looked too fake in the movie. I still missed it, though. Mainly because we get one more example of the twins being just out-of-bounds with their behaviour. Not so much that it crosses the line of being cruel--or at least, not in this case, since it's Dudley, and by now, we don't like him at all. However, when I think about his tongue swelling and his parents trying to rip it out and crushing him, it is rather an awful thought that he could have suffocated before Arthur was able to reverse the spell. So it could have been a real disaster. But then, once that thought passes, I go back to laughing and feeling like greedy, piggy Dudley did get his "just desserts" (I love that, btw, Islwyn. :thumbup: )

CHAPTER FIVE: "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes"

Posted Oct. 29, 2006:

~ Bill and Charlie, even though older than the others, still seem to have the same sense of fun that the other Weasleys do, while Percy seems even more fussy than last year. What do we learn about these characters from this introduction to them?

Bill and Charlie are great. We finally get the whole Weasley family. Bill and Charlie, though now out of the house and working, are clearly love their family and have that special bond of the oldest brothers. And what we find is that Percy is the middle child--the one who doesn't feel that he has a proper place in the family, so he tries to carve out his spot as the one who did everything right at school and is now efficient in his job. With Bill and Charlie having been successful at school, and now having jobs that make then happy and make their parents proud, Percy has a lot to live up to. Of course, there are the twins who are a constant reminder of everything that Percy doesn't want to be. At school, people have talked about Bill and Charlie and when they were at Hogwarts, and everyone knows the twins because they are constantly getting into trouble. But in the Weasley family, because they are twins, they hold a special place--and they have each other, further isolating Percy. Ron, as the youngest boy, feels some of the same pressure that Percy feels--he has older brothers who have set a high standard in their family--Bill, Charlie and Percy because of their successes, and the twins because they are just cool. Ginny has a unique place in the family--the baby and the only girl. So that leaves Percy as odd man out--and this chapter points it out vividly, for the first time. (We've had hints of it before, but not nearly as strongly as this one.)

Percy reminds me of people who want so much to be respected that they will go to any lengths to garner that respect, and we see this in his obsession with getting things done for his boss. I feel sorry for Percy, but to be honest, it doesn't make me like him any better--probably because I know how horrid he's going to be about Harry later on.

~ What do you think was “the Point” Mr. Weasley was trying to get across to the boys about Muggle-baiting?

Arthur is constantly reminding his family--and everyone else, including us--that we shouldn't take advantage of others. In the case of wizards being able to do magic and Muggles not having a clue about it, the Muggles are easy prey for wizards who want to belittle or victimize others. So the whole speech about Muggle-baiting is a lesson for the boys (and us) that it's wrong to do that sort of thing. However, Arthur misses the point that his sons already have learned that particular lesson; they tell him that they didn't leave the toffees for Dudley because he was a Muggle but because he's such a git in the way he has always treated Harry. They're judging Dudley be his actions, not by what he is.

~ Mrs. Weasley is very worried about the twins' lack of seriousness, their poor performance on their O.W.L.s, and their constant antics. What do you think about her concern?

Like any mother, Molly wants to make sure that her children grow up to be responsible adults. And wanting to open a joke shop sounds like something that won't last as an occupation or won't be sufficient to provide them with an income. After all, there are already joke shops in Diagon Alley as well as in Hogsmeade, so the twins have some built in established competition. Given that we later learn of the emphasis that the teachers place on their OWLS and NEWTS, it's no wonder that Molly is concerned that the twins didn't do well. Sometimes it is hard for a parent to accept that a child has a talent that isn't easily measured by standardized tests, and I think that's part of Molly's problem. Living with a creative child who doesn't do things in the conventional way can be very frustrating, and poor Molly has two of them to contend with.

Arthur, with his own fascination for unconventional wizard things, is sometimes like another one of the children. Molly gets stuck being the parent who tries to keep everyone headed down the proper path of getting their education and being successful. It's just that the twins have a different view of what success is--and they see that it doesn't have to be boring and serious all the time, as Percy seems to think.

~ Harry, at last, is in a place and time that he feels ‘at peace’. Why? What are the components of the situation that brings him this peace of mind? Any foreshadowing here?

Yes, when we were talking about Harry having a home, I had forgotten that Molly does treat him like one of the kids, but I wonder if it's because she is so distracted with all the things the twins are doing at the time. Getting Harry to the Burrow was a rather chaotic affair.

I hope that Harry's sense of peace is foreshadowing that someday he will be at home, either at the Burrow, or some place equally safe and loving. I also noticed that the smells of grass and honeysuckle are mentioned. In HBP, when they are smelling the Amortentia potion, I Hermione smells freshly mown grass, which is one of the smells mentioned in this scene--foreshadowing that smells of the Burrow will be important to her, at least, later on.

This chapter is full of set-ups for the rest of this book and for some things in future books. There is talk of the World Quidditch Cup, and of things that will be going on at Hogwarts, although there's not much of it in this chapter. We get Bagman as the sports hero who has got tickets for them. And Bertha Jorkins is tied to being in Albania. Dumbledore mentioned back in COS that he'd had reports that Voldemort was in the forests of Albania--we should get a clue there, but we didn't, and neither did Harry. With all of Percy's fussing about Mr. Crouch, we're given a beginning picture of what kind of person Crouch is. And at least, he would care that one of his employees had gone missing, unlike Bagman, who seems to readily dismiss it.

For me, this was just the beginning of my not trusting Bagman, though I always thought he'd turn out to be more sinister than just a cheating gambler who'd made foolish risky bets. I think in this one it was the easy way that he just seemed so uncaring about the welfare of Bertha Jorkins. Even though she doesn't have a stellar reputation in the MoM, it still seems that Bagman should be paying more attention to the whereabouts of people who work for him.

'MomofMoo' post='993248' date='Oct 30 2006, 10:53 AM']
Bill and Charlie, even though older than the others, still seem to have the same sense of fun that the other Weasleys do, while Percy seems even more fussy than last year. What do we learn about these characters from this introduction to them?

I wonder if Percy feels lost in his own family. Maybe he doesn't feel as physically able to compete with his older brothers or the twins (2 against 1) and competing against Ron wouldn't be a competition in an older brother's mind. So he decided to be book smart and a stickler for the rules. And when that still didn't get him the place he felt he deserved in the family, he began to look for it outside the family. I think maybe he is the middle child personified - desperate to be different in order to be recognized as such.

My point, in an earlier post, exactly. All the other children have their distinctive position in the family, but Percy is the one in the middle, who can easily get lost in the shuffle of all those Weasley children. He's not apparently good enough at Quidditch to make a name for himself there--do we ever even see him play? So Percy studies hard, which earns him a lot of praise from his parents, and then he is the only one who wants to follow in his dad's steps by working at the Ministry, which is another way of being recognized by his father. Percy's downfall is that he lets his ambition rule his actions rather than his common sense.

Ophus, I see what you are saying, but the big difference between Percy and all the rest of the Weasleys is that his sense of what is important and proper is completely out of balance. What happens at work has become much more important than what happens to his family. It's not healthy when a person places position at work and money ahead of all concerns for people, and that's where Percy is headed.

'madamros' post='992852' date='Oct 30 2006, 03:44 AM']
Yes, but was Crouch [i]really[/i] concerned about Bertha? Or did his concern stem from his knowledge that she knew his secret? Because when we finally meet Crouch, he doesn't seem the 'caring deeply about his employees' type, does he?

madamros, I see your point about Crouch's real intentions. Even though in this case, his concern is, as you said, more likely to be about what Bertha can tell if she is found, everyone seems to think it's in character for Crouch to be worried about a missing person. What I was trying to get at is the contrast between Crouch and Bagman that we get from this scene. And no matter what Crouch's motives are, he and Bagman do approach problems in a very different way; Crouch actually tries to do something, where Bagman is laid back and content to let the situation work itself out.

CHAPTER SIX: "The Portkey"

Posted Oct. 30, 2006:
'Islwyn13' date='Oct 29 2006, 10:30 AM' post='992194'
At Oh-dark-thirty the next morning, Harry, Ron, Fred and George are awakened by Mrs. Weasley.

I love it--I thought my husband was the only one who used the phrase O-dark-thirty. :lol:
Possible Questions for Discussion:
1. We have another confrontation between Mrs. Weasley and the twins. Why is she really so upset? Is it the Ton-Tongue toffees themselves or is it the disrespect they’re showing for her and Mr. Weasley by disobeying them? Or both? Or something else?

I think it is the disrespect. She has repeatedly told the twins how she feels about their inventions, and has already done things to stop them from selling them, and now she finds out that they are once again disobeying their parents. It might also be that, given what happened to Dudley, they might not want the twins selling those to anyone in the wizarding world--think of the repercussions if some wizard's child got hold of one. But mainly, I think she's just really angry at their flagrant disobedience.

2. The Ministry of Magic officials have to do a lot to help thousands of wizards arrive at the QWC site without Muggles noticing. Even if such huge gatherings of wizards don’t regularly get together, why does the wizarding community of Britain not have a magical place in which to hold such gatherings? They’ve had hundreds of years to come up with a place.

Interesting question. I had not thought of wizards having any sort of permanent place for things like the QWC. I guess I just assumed that they would move things around as a way of evading the prying muggle eyes--though Hogwarts is pretty stationary, now that I think of it. Or it could be that they had a place, but it was sold or taken over by Muggle developers and they've had to move to a new location.

3. We meet Cedric Diggory again here on this hill, and his father, Amos, for the first time. What were your impressions of them? What were your impressions of how Harry was greeted by Mr. Diggory?

It wasn't until the second or third reading that I really liked Cedric. I think it's mostly from the cool reaction of the twins. But Cedric is quite polite and modest here. Amos comes across as a father who is very proud of his son's accomplishments, but in a way that suggests he is probably enjoying Cedric's reflected glory. (I have a nephew who brags about his son in much the same way, and it's so annoying--makes it hard sometimes to be happy about my great-nephew's accomplishments.)

Amos is just so...... pompous when he talks to Harry. He clearly isn't considering Harry's feelings when he makes those thoughtless remarks about Cedric being the better flier. And something I just realized, is that Amos is very like Uncle Vernon in the way he talks about how wonderful his son is. The difference is that Amos does really have a nice son to be proud of, while Vernon just has Dudley. But this is another set-up for what happens later in the book--here we get a glimpse of what a nice person Cedric really is, how much his father puts him on a pedestal, and that, despite Amos being somewhat of a git to Harry, he seems to have a loving relationship with his son.

4. We also learn that the Lovegoods (i.e. Luna) live near the Weasleys. Any significance to that?

It is interesting that we get the Lovegoods in this chapter, but no mention of Luna's first name, and the Fawcetts, who have yet to appear in the books. I keep waiting for a Fawcett to at least get sorted. From the conversation that Arthur and Amos have when they meet and are looking for the Portkey, it doesn't seem to me that they live that close together--at least not close enough to do much socializing. They are just in the same part of the country, much as I'm near enough to Seattle, Olympia and Portland, but that doesn't mean that I routinely run into people from any of those cities.


*CHAPTER ONE: Owl Post (August 14)
We see a little bit different side of Harry than we normally see during the school year in this first chapter. Instead of waiting until the last minute to do his homework, as he seems to do often, he is beginning on his readings and essays with a month left before school begins. Why? Is it merely that he misses Hogwarts, or is it something else as well?

At the beginning, when Harry is studying secretly, it’s a sign that he is maturing in several ways; he is taking more responsibility for doing his school work, and he is quietly standing up to Uncle Vernon’s unreasonable rules for Harry. That’s just the beginning, as we see him try to control his behaviour in the presence of Aunt Marge, albeit not successfully.

Another of Harry’s rule breaking has to do with his receiving birthday presents without the Dursleys knowing about it. Ron sends him a Pocket Sneakoscope that he bought when his family traveled to Egypt to visit Bill, who works there as a curse breaker. Later the Sneakoscope whistles at seemingly odd times, and Ron dismisses it as being cheap and likely defective. There’s a bit of misdirected narrative there, as we dismiss any warning it might give as well.

Harry is introduced as a unusual boy. Is this preparing us for his being singled out or just a way of making him stand out as our protagonist?

It’s the same sort of thing that Rowling uses at the beginning of each of the first books—a way of setting us up to accept that Harry isn’t just some ordinary teen. There are things that make him unusual, and it’s also our signal that he is our hero of the story.

Introduced to the Pocket sneakoscope... Which is interestingly busy during the Weasley's family dinner…

Yes, the Sneakoscope is quite interesting—everyone dismisses it’s whistling as being something else. Perhaps if they’d paid better attention, they might have pinned the busy-ness down to Scabbers always being present. Of course, with the twins around, and given that they are frequently doing things they shouldn’t, that might have taken a while.

What connections can we make to the Weasley family being in Egypt? Anything?

I don’t think we know the extent of the importance of the Weasleys being in Egypt, but it’s a nice set-up if Rowling wants to bring in any Egyptian legends or artifacts. The one thing that it does is show that the wizarding world is interested in all the world, not just in England, as Bill is working there for Gringotts.

Is all the information on witch burning and tombs and curses just an interesting addition or is there more to it?

It seems at the moment to just add some interest to the story, but it might be too early to say whether there is more to it than that.

Hermione sends Harry a gift he would actually like, which is something he doesn't expect. Why, especially when the books that she has given are ones that Harry would enjoy? Is this merely characterization for Hermione as a bookish person, or is it something else?

From Hermione, Harry receives a book that he actually likes, about Quidditch broom care. Who would have expected Hermione to choose such a practical gift for Harry? I think it’s an indication that our bookish Hermione does think that books make very good gifts, but that she is also very aware that the book should be interesting to the person receiving it—and what better gift for Harry than something to do with Quidditch.

Capturing and controlling the Monster Book. Foreshadowing?

Once again, we see Hagrid’s fascination with the Monster Book of Monsters. Harry can’t open it, and finally straps it shut, wondering what on earth Hagrid could have been thinking. He’ll soon find out, but I wonder if this is the last we will see of this book. So far, it hasn’t made a reappearance.

*CHAPTER TWO: Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake
– How has Harry's relationship developed with the Dursleys?

By the time we see Harry in POA, he is starting to take a stand with the Dursleys, all the while trying to remain as respectful as is possible. He still complies, for the most part with their rules, but barely.

– There is a lot of reference to violence towards wrong doing (beating criminal boys at St. Brutis’s; hanging criminals). In both cases this suggestions refer to people who have actual done no crime (Harry and Sirius): is the author making a point of investigating details before convicting a person?

I’m sure that given Rowling’s background of having worked for a time for Amnesty International that she is definitely making her views known about corporal punishment and the treatment of the accused—it’s amazing that she is able to comment on such serious subjects with a sense of humor, while not watering down her view of it all.

- Uncle Vernon thinks that the fugitive Black is an untrustworthy layabout, and makes a connection to Harry's appearance... Is this normal concern for the news, or another indication that Vernon isn't a good judge of character?

Vernon’s main concern is conforming to what is considered “normal”, and Sirius definitely doesn’t look normal in his prison pictures. Since Harry doesn’t look like Dudley, then Harry must not be normal either, as far as Vernon is concerned. But no, Vernon is not at all a good judge of character—he doesn’t really pay enough attention to what other people say to ever get past their appearance.

– In CoS we learnt about wizards giving great importance to blood lines; here we have Aunt Marge lecturing on breeding and "bad eggs". Is this the flip side of the coin?

I hadn’t really thought of connecting the two, but there are parallels in the wizarding community and the muggle world—prejudice crosses that line with no trouble at all. And for the same reason; people are judged by their backgrounds rather than by the person they are or by their actions.

– In this chapter we watch Harry enduring to live a lie. Interestingly, this "lying" affects him more than the lies he tells to Snape. Why is that?

In living the lie with the Dursleys, Harry has to deny everything that makes him the person he is; he’s not allowed to talk about what he really does at school, what he thinks, who his parents were or how they really died. That would be very difficult, especially since it means he has to constantly endure personal jabs from Marge, with the Dursleys smirking over his misery.

- The Dursleys are watching the news with Dudley?? I thought that in later books they thought it was something no boy wanted to do? When Dudley's attention is fixed on the television, what is HE watching?

Dudley certainly wasn’t watching the news. He had his favorite shows to watch, and likely only watched with his parents because he was too young to be out with his friends. As we see later, though, whatever Dudley does is the proper thing that boys should be doing.

- While significantly different from the other woman who we see hide behind "cute" fashion, Aunt Marge and Aunt Petunia use childish words in reference to Dudley. Are these characters something to be feared like Umbridge, or is it something else? How do these women show what Jo DOES respect in women? (or not, obviously)

Petunia, Marge, and Umbridge are the kind of women who don’t understand or really respect children, especially teens. By talking baby talk to Dudley, his mother and aunt are mentally trying to pretend that he is still the same little 4 year old that they could control—they don’t have to have a real conversation with him--although, I have had some rather interesting conversations with four year olds. After all, if they talk to Dudley like the 13 year old that he is, he might have an opinion that is not the same as theirs, and they wouldn’t have any idea how to respond.

As for Umbridge, it’s clear from the first lesson, that she has no idea how to talk to the students. By treating them like they are five years old, she feels that she still has the kind of control that one would have with a classroom full of five year olds. Sadly, she wouldn’t have any more control over the five year olds than she does over the fifteen year olds—kids of any age can see right through people who are as phony as Umbridge. Her manner of speech is probably her way of trying to cover up just how insecure she really feels.

- Why did Harry make the glass explode now? He says himself that he hasn't done any uncontrolled magic in a while... why is this time different?

Harry lost his temper, and didn’t really have control; it seems that that was how he did magic before he went to Hogwarts—uncontrolled anger or fear seems to set things in motion without Harry having any knowledge that it is going to happen.

- Aunt Marge asks Harry's father's job, and Vernon says that he was unemployed. It is quite apparent he is lying... this topic has been sidestepped a few times now, hasn't it? Do we have any clues in previous books?

We know only that Lily and James were highly respected and very talented. We also see that they had enough money to easily provide for their son—just where that money came from, we still don’t know. I have the impression that James inherited money from his parents.

*CHAPTER THREE: The Knight Bus

Interesting… whose name does Harry draw from thin air? Neville Longbottom’s. Funny moment, foreshadowing, or something else?

I did think it was funny that Harry picked Neville’s name. But I think really it’s a very clever way to start connecting Neville with Harry, so when we learn about the Prophecy, it won’t be so much of a shock to hear that the two are closely linked.

Discussion Points
– Does Sirius appear to make Harry call the Knight Bus?

I think Sirius was just there, trying to get a glimpse of Harry before he headed north to Hogwarts. We find out later that he turned up to watch Harry play Quidditch. I think in this case, he just wanted to reassure himself that Harry was still safe--and what does he find--that Harry is anything but safe, out on the street at night, alone, with no idea of what to do or where to go. Of course, Sirius at that point is in no position to do anything to help Harry.

– Does the comparison of Sirius to a vampire hold any special information?

We don’t get a look at a real vampire until HBP, so I’m not sure why the comparison here. It’s more of a way to misdirect us, so we won’t immediately make the connection of Sirius with the big black dog that keeps showing up.

– Did Mrs. Figg alert Dumbledore and perhaps even know that Harry has been picked up by the bus?

She might have been the one to tell Dumbledore—possibly one of her cats spotted the whole thing and alerted her.

– How does Hedwig know when and where Harry is?

Ah, yes. Hedwig always knows just where Harry is, knows just where to take letters to people with just the name and no location specified. It’s one of those things that Rowling just expects us to accept as the way things work in the wizarding world. The only explanation that is given in the books is that is just something that owls in the wizarding world can do, and do very well.

– Harry and Sirius are paralleled through Stan's small talk. Is the author already setting up the closeness between the characters in the later books?

We get a lot of information out of that talk that Harry has with Stan. It doesn’t ever feel like we’re getting a set-up for the closeness between Harry and Sirius—more it’s the set-up that we are not to trust Sirius Black. It’s one of the nicest bits of mis-direction by Rowling.

CHAPTER FOUR: The Leaky Cauldron (August 21)
– Motherly Mrs Weasley
- Keeping Information from Harry
- Interesting that one witch or wizard notes that he or she wouldn’t allow the children out along while Sirius Black is on the loose, isn’t it? So why has Fudge allowed Harry to stay alone in Diagon Alley?
– 'Join forces with whom you want to avoid': Foreshadowing of something to come (i.e. Snape or the Ministry)?

- Harry sees the Grim on the front of one of the Divination books. What significance (other than just creepy lookin’?) does the Grim have in mythology? In other cultures?
- To what does the mirror answer when it says Harry is fighting a losing battle- his pondering aloud for his life, or the straightening of his hair?
- We see in this chapter, via Harry’s spying, that Mrs. Weasley has utter faith that Dumbledore will keep Harry safe. Why?

- Hagrid finds something less dangerous than others do.
- The possibility that Harry may not make it is highlighted when he looks at [i]Death Omens: What to Do When You Know the Worst Is Coming[/i]
- Magical creatures are smarter than regular animals.
- Percy is an outsider within the group of Weasley children.
- Seven- there are seven Weasleys at the dinner table in the Leaky Cauldron (plus Harry & Hermione)

* * * * *

Well, I did think that Scabbers was a bit weird, being ordinary and living to 12 years old. However, we used to have a rabbit and all the books say they live 2 or 3 years. Ms. Twitchel was at least 9 when she died and might have been older, as we found her in our yard eight years before that--so we guessed she was only about a year old when we got her. I guess that's the reason I just accepted that Scabbers could be living an unusually long life for a rat.

But the sneakoscope going off on the train made me think that it was because of Lupin. He was very suspicious even being in the students part of the train and then seeming to sleep through all the commotion just didn't seem right. Even if he were exhausted, which he might well have been, you'd think he'd wake up with all the times the door to the compartment opened--sounds you aren't used to hearing generally make a person wake up. However, I'm so glad it wasn't Lupin setting it off--I love him as a character and really was glad that POA wasn't the only book where he made an appearance.
* * * * *

Yes, I think there's much more to Florean than has met our eyes so far. Harry was allowed to stay at the Leaky Cauldron, alone, and could wander about Diagon Alley for two weeks, alone. However, even he suspected that it was only because there were a lot of wizards there to keep an eye on him. I'd guess that Florean is one of them, and having an ice cream shop, it would be easy to get Harry to spend extra time there. It's also possible that, while Florean has never been listed as being in the Order, that Dumbledore has a "number of useful spies", and Florean might just be one of them. Everyone seems to know about the Order, and there doesn't seem to be much effort to hide who it's members are, so it would be helpful if Dumbledore had people on the look out that others didn't know about.

And I agree--for an ice cream store owner, he is very knowledgeable. The other thing is, if that's all he does, then why would the Death Eaters bother with him when they are going after people who seem to have much more importance in the wizarding world.

I love all the details in the early books that just seemed like added fluff to make the story more interesting or funny. After I read HBP I went back to Chamber of Secrets, which had never been my favorite, because there seemed to be a lot of things that just didn't make sense. But now that they do, I like COS much better.