Title: Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Rating: 5/5 stars
Contributed by Amy Pumm
J. K. Rowling's magnificent Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets teaches much more than how to transfigure animals into teacups and the adventures of the fishy new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Professor Lockheart. In fact, the popular book teaches many important life lessons and controversial topics. Harry, forced to spend his summer holidays with his miserable aunt and uncle, gets a real shock when he gets a surprise visitor: Dobby the house-elf, who warns Harry Potter that if he returned to Hogwarts, terrible things were going to happen. Harry decides to ignore Dobby's warning and goes anyway, but at Hogwarts, there are strange and terrible things happening. Harry is suddenly hearing mysterious voices from inside the walls, Muggle-Born students are being attacked, and a message scrawled on the wall in blood puts everyone on their guard. While readers may find many themes within the various plot twists and heart wrenching secrets, one theme is prominent throughout the book: Fear of differences creates discrimination. There were two main types of the theme: Fear of differences that people don’t understand, and fear of being different.
In Rowling’s book Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, the theme that discrimination is created by fear of differences is evident, particularly in the fear of being different. Early in the book, when Harry is at the Dursley's having dinner he mentions the simple world ‘magic’, and the house erupts in panic. The Dursley’s scream and cower from the world, and Vernon goes so far as to punish Harry for his mistake of saying the forbidden word. “Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples. ‘I meant ‘please’!’ said Harry quickly. ‘I didn’t mean -’ ‘WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU,’ thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, ‘ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN OUR HOUSE?’”(2). Uncle Dursley’s response to Harry even mentioning the word “magic” shows how frightened Mr. Dursley was of Harry and the wizarding world. Because of his fear, Mr. Dursley bullies in an attempt to control a power that he doesn’t have and can’t understand. The root of his prejudice was clearly from fear of Harry’s differences - in other words his magical ability that the Dursley’s didn’t understand. Though,the Dursleys abuse of Harry is inexcusable, their fear of the wizarding world is justifiable. Many dark wizards such as Voldemort and the Death Eaters abuse their power and use it to not only harm wizards, but also non-wizards who had nothing to do with the wizarding world. Later in the book, when Harry dueled Malfoy in the dueling club Lockheart set up, Harry said something in Parseltongue. Many people panicked and assumed that Harry was a bad wizard because he could speak in Parseltongue, even though he was really only trying to stop the snake from attacking Justin. “I heard you speaking Parseltongue,” said Ron. “Snake language. You could have been saying anything - it was creepy, you know -”(196). Parseltongue exemplifies the old saying that fear comes from lack of knowledge. At Hogwarts, everyone hears Harry saying things they don't understand, so they automatically assume the worst: that he's encouraging the snake to attack Justin Finch-Fletchley. But why do people consider Parseltongue an evil gift? Most likely because many of well known evil wizards speak Parseltongue, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who is a Parseltongue is evil. Soon after, Harry tries to find Justin to apologize that he scared him, and explain that all he was really doing was telling the snake not to attack. When he goes to the library trying to find Justin, he overhears a group of Hufflepuffs spreading rumors that he is a dark wizard. “He’s a parselmouth. Everyone knows that’s the mark of a dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who could talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself a serpent-tongue”(199). Hogwarts fears Harry because he can do things that are different that they can’t understand, which makes him different so they react with prejudice and anger towards him by spreading rumors. Taken as a whole, these examples illustrate that fear of differences that people don’t understand can lead to discrimination, which supports to my overall theme that fear of differences lead to prejudice.
As stated earlier, there are many examples of the theme fear of differences creates discrimination in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, especially fear of being seen as different. In the beginning of the book, Harry accidentally goes to Knockturn alley instead of Diagon alley. He finds himself in a creepy looking shop and hears Mr. Malfoy and Draco entering the shop, so he hides. While Harry is hiding he overhears Draco talking badly about him but Mr. Malfoy stops Draco. Mr. Malfoy, who works at the ministry, doesn't want to be seen as different for not liking the hero Harry Potter. “‘...everyone thinks he's so smart, wonderful Potter with his scar and his broomstick—’ ‘You have told me this at least a dozen times already,’ said Mr. Malfoy, with a quelling look at his son. ‘And I would remind you that it is not – prudent – to appear less than fond of Harry Potter, not when most of our kind regard him as the hero who made the Dark Lord disappear…’”(50). This conversation between Draco and Lucius Malfoy reveals that even powerful people are afraid of being different. Mr. Malfoy is clearly concerned about appearing socially correct. What his actual feelings about Harry might be doesn't really matter, because he doesn't want the ministry to think he’s different. Later, Harry supposedly sets the snake on Justin Finch-Fletchy, he decides to go apologize for scaring him and explain that he was really just warding off the snake. He decides to go to the library to find Justin when he overhears a group of Hufflepuffs spreading rumors about him and calling him evil. “No one knows how he survived that attack by You-Know-Who … He should have been blasted into smithereens. Only a really powerful Dark wizard could have survived a curse like that ...That’s probably why You-Know-Who wanted to kill him in the first place. Didn’t want another Dark Lord competing with him. I wonder what other powers Potter’s been hiding?”(198). Harry’s differences cause others to distance themselves from him because even he is different from the rest of the wizarding world. That’s significant because it’s already different itself. The group of Hufflepuffs Harry overheard talking about him were explaining that Justin was afraid that Harry would do something to him ever since he told Harry that he was Muggle-born. “...Justin's been waiting for something like this to happen ever since he let it slip to Potter that he was Muggle-born”(198). Justin had feared that people wouldn't like or persecute him because he was different - because he was Muggle-born. And he was right, despite the fact that it wasn't Harry that did it. These examples show that fear of being different lead to prejudice, which connects to my overall theme that fear of differences create discrimination.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is not so different from the real world. In all truth, we are facing some of the same challenges of the book today, such as discrimination. This makes it even more important to truly learn and understand the theme that differences create discrimination. By doing so, we hopefully won’t make the same mistakes that the characters did in the book. Others might claim that some of the characters in the book in fact did not make a mistake at all. As stated earlier, the Dursleys' fear of the wizardry world is justifiable. Many dark wizards such as Voldemort and the Death Eaters abuse their power and use it on innocent wizards and non-wizards who had nothing to do with the wizardry world. Because of this, it can be argued that fear of others isn’t bad at all, in fact it may even protect you from harm, alas it isn’t true. However, fear of others only creates more fear itself which leads to prejudice which will create violence if escalated far enough, which is exactly what we want to avoid. Many people in the book experienced discrimination because of their differences, such as the mudbloods being persecuted for not being pure-blood or Harry, for being blamed for the terror at Hogwarts. Truthfully, the chaos at Hogwarts made things worse, people started placing blame wildly and blindly, particularly on anyone who was different from themselves, and who could do think they couldn’t even understand. This caused widespread panic, hatred and discrimination throughout the school. All and all, fear of other's differences and fear of being different yourself proved to be a difficult problem at Hogwarts. In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets and the real world, discrimination is caused because of people’s fear of differences.
I rate this book 5/5 due to it is one of my all-time favorite series and books!