"Pass the frying pan." "You've forgotten the magic word," said Harry irritably. The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.
This early breakfast table scene from chapter one shows the attitude of the relatives with whom Harry lives when he is not at the Hogwarts School. These Muggles, or non-magical people, subject Harry to terrible treatment because he is magical and therefore different from their idea of "normal." Any mention of magic, as we see here, angers the Dursleys. Although this passage is humorous, it is emblematic of how the novel explores the issue of bigotry. The Heir of Slytherin's plan to wipe the school free of all wizards whose blood isn't "pure" is reminiscent of more serious attempts at ethnic cleansing that have actually occurred in history. The Malfoys also have a bigoted attitude; they express their distaste for anyone who does not share their pure blood. When Malfoy calls Hermione a Mudblood, he uses what amounts to a racial slur. One purpose of the novel is to teach that anyone, regardless of his or her background, can achieve great things.
"Harry, Harry, Harry," said Lockhart, reaching out and grasping his shoulder. "I understand. Natural to want a bit more once you've had that first taste &133; but see here, young man, you can't start flying cars to try and get yourself noticed." (Chapter six, p. ninety-one)
This quote, said by Gilderoy Lockhart once Harry and Ron have recovered from their journey in a flying car back to Hogwarts, shows a common misinterpretation of Harry's character. It also sets Lockhart as a foil to Harry. Lockhart makes a career out of retelling other wizards' heroic sagas as his own, taking full credit and answering mail from the many fans who love his books and his good looks. Because Lockhart thrives on fame, Harry, who is more famous than Lockhart could ever be threatens his sense of worth. The contrast between Harry and Lockhart shows that wisdom does not necessarily come with age. Harry knows that he cannot live on that fame alone and that his actions and intentions must be noble and strong for him to feel that he is a good wizard. Although his past may place him in certain unlikely and dangerous situations, it is his responsibility to handle them bravely and with all the skill he has. Lockhart's lecture on seeking fame at an early age is ironic, since it is Lockhart himself who wants to be famous.
[S]omeone shouted through the quiet. "Enemies of the Heir, beware! You'll be next, Mudbloods!" It was Draco Malfoy. He had pushed to the front of the crowd, his cold eyes alive, his usually bloodless face flushed, as he grinned at the sight of the hanging, immobile cat.
In this scene, which occurs as soon as the basilisk within the Chamber has taken its first victim, Draco Malfoy, a wizard blood snob and member of the history- tainted Slytherin House frames himself as the culprit. The characteristics of the Heir of Slytherin's attacks plants Malfoy as the ideal criminal, and yet when Ron and Harry slip into his common room disguised as his cronies, they find this not to be the case. Percy also has potential to be the culprit, as does Harry himself, and Hagrid. This sort of build-up of suspicion is one of J.K. Rowling's most consistent writing trademarks. In each book, the crime which has been committed seems to be obviously caused by a person who turns out to be innocent. The detective work that Harry, Ron, and Hermione do throughout the series always leads to the most unexpected conclusions. Because Voldemort is always behind the great central mystery, Rowling demonstrates the extent to which Voldemort's great cleverness works in devious ways.
The basilisk had swept the Sorting Hat into Harry's arms. Harry seized it. It was all he had left, his only chance-he rammed it onto his head and threw himself flat on the floor as the basilisk's tail swung over him again. Help me—help me—Harry thought, his eyes screwed tight under the hat. Please help me— There was no answering voice. Instead the hat contracted, as though an invisible hand was squeezing it very tightly.
This passage takes place when Harry is alone in the chamber with Tom Riddle and the basilisk, both of whom are about to kill him. The scene demonstrates the degree of Harry's heroism. Harry follows clues using clever, sleuth-like plans, and then he uses his great courage and determination to bring himself to the site of the crimes. Once there, Harry confronts powers much greater and more experienced than his own, and often the best he can do is simply hope as hard as he can that help will come from somewhere. As Dumbledore promises, help comes at Hogwarts to those who ask. Here the Sorting Hat produces Godric Gryffindor's ruby-embedded sword, which Harry uses to kill the deadly basilisk. The novel shows that victory is always a group effort—either among friends, with subtle help from teachers, or else with invisible protective charms left by past occurrences, just as Harry as a baby survived Voldemort, guarded by the love of his mother who sacrificed herself for him. Harry is great not only because of his talents and courage, but because he places himself up against the ultimate enemy and allows himself to be assisted by forces greater than himself.
"[The Sorting Hat] only put my in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, because I asked not to go in Slytherin." "Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
These wise words, spoken after Harry has emerged from the Chamber of Secrets, abate Harry's fear that he shares traits with Tom Riddle. Dumbledore explains the connection between the major heroic lessons in this novel. The bigotry of pure-blooded wizards, Harry's ability to defeat Voldemort, and Harry's own heroism, are all addressed by these words. Heroism is unconnected to a person's history, family line, or encounters. Both Harry and Voldemort are great wizards, but what they do with their greatness tells the most about who they are. Harry Potter saves Ginny Weasley and sets Dobby free; Voldemort manipulates the masses to commit murder. Dumbledore's words constitute the greatest truth in the book, and make Harry the appropriate hero. Harry takes what he is given and uses it to the best of his ability.