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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

J. K. Rowling

Chapter Seventeen: The Heir of Slytherin

Chapter Sixteen: The Chamber of Secrets

Chapter Eighteen: Dobby's Reward

Summary

Harry enters the snake statue-lined Chamber of Secrets and approaches an enormous stone figure of Salazar Slytherin, at whose feet lies the still, small figure of Ginny Weasley. Harry runs to her and examines her, and while he is doing this he notices the misty, shadowy figure of Tom Riddle standing nearby. Harry desperately asks Tom to help him rescue Ginny and escape the Chamber of Secrets, but Tom remains where he is, speaking in a lofty voice, unconcerned about the situation. At one point he captures Harry's wand, slightly alarming Harry, but more than anything else, rendering him more impatient to get himself and Ginny out of the way of the hidden basilisk. Harry finally asks Tom how Ginny got to be in her present state, and Tom smiles broadly and begins to speak.

He tells how Ginny found his diary and poured all of her worries about Hogwarts and her crushes on Harry into it, and how Tom wrote back, comforting her. Through this dialogue, Tom grew stronger and ultimately poured a little of his soul into Ginny, manipulating her to kill Hagrid's roosters and open the Chamber of Secrets. Inside of the diary, Tom explained, he had captured his sixteen- year-old self so that one day, he could lead another to finish the work begun by Slytherin himself. Harry got hold of this diary, delighting Tom, and when Ginny broke into Harry's dorm and stole it back, she had already put so much of herself into the diary that Tom could persuade her to write her own farewell, come down into the Chamber, and allow Tom to leave the pages at last. Tom then begins to question Harry about Voldemort, and Harry grows suspicious and more impatient. Tom then traces the letters of his name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, into the air, and rearranges them to read "I am Lord Voldemort," proclaiming himself the greatest wizard in the world.

Harry argues with this statement, declaring that Dumbledore is a greater wizard, and Tom grows angry. Suddenly, a strange singing bird appears, and Harry soon recognizes it as Fawkes, Dumbledore's pet phoenix, carrying in his beak the school Sorting Hat. Tom begins to laugh at the weapons sent by Dumbledore, and he commands Harry to explain how he survived his attack eleven years before. Harry angrily answers that it was because his mother died to save him, and Tom's smile widens at the thought that there is nothing genuinely special about Harry. He proceeds to point out certain odd similarities between them, in their origins, childhoods and appearances, and then he challenges Harry to a duel. Tom hisses for the basilisk to emerge from its chamber, and Harry closes his eyes and feels Fawkes leave his shoulder. He hears a great, weighty slithering noise and he begins to run, fearing for his life. From above him he hears a great spitting sound among all the hissing, and he squints open his eyes only to catch sight of Fawkes puncturing the basilisk's other eye. The blind snake sways madly about the chamber, and its tail sweeps the Sorting Hat into Harry's hands. Harry puts it on and wishes desperately for it to help him, and out of nowhere it produces a glittering sword, which Harry then slides into the mouth of the striking serpent, killing it, but getting injured by a fang in the process. Fawkes lands back on Harry's shoulder and begins to cry. Tom laughs, proclaiming that even the bird knows that Harry is dying, but then all of a sudden Harry's wound seals up, due to the healing properties of phoenix tears. Tom is angered by this and lifts his wand to exterminate Harry, but before he can cast a spell, Fawkes knocks the diary into Harry's hands, and Harry thrusts the basilisk tooth into the center of it, causing Tom to scream in agony and disappear.

At this time, Ginny begins to stir, and Harry collects her, his wand, the punctured diary, the sword, and the hat, and follows Fawkes out of the Chamber where Ron and a thoroughly vacant Gilderoy Lockhart await him. Ginny is weeping and fretting, and Ron has cleared a space in the fallen rock wall, and the four of them hold onto Fawkes' tail feathers and are pulled back up the pipes. Back in the bathroom, Moaning Myrtle is a bit disappointed that Harry didn't die, because she had developed a crush on him and was hoping that he might share her toilet. They all leave the bathroom and are led by Fawkes into Professor McGonagall's office.

Analysis

Here, as in the Aragog chapter, Harry enters a situation bearing only courage and a faint inborn hope that he may be helped along his way. Here, he remains faithful to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore in turn sends the help that brings Harry to triumph. Harry trusts people before suspecting them, as we see when he tries to elicit Riddle's help in removing Ginny from the Chamber, and only after some explanation does he realize that Riddle is working against, not for him. This lack of suspicion is a mark of Harry's inherent innocent and good-intentions; he first gave Riddle the benefit of the doubt, thinking that perhaps he made a mistake in turning in Hagrid as the Chamber of Secrets culprit. But when he finds that Riddle is in fact Voldemort, Harry's attitude changes and he speaks boldly and spitefully, refusing to bow to Voldemort's power or give him the answers he wants to hear. Harry is determined to die struggling, if he must die.

Voldemort is once again the evil instigator. Even though Harry defeated him as a baby, and then again in the first book of the series, Voldemort always finds a new, clever way to return. This pattern will continue through the series, and Harry will continue to do his best to restrain Voldemort from gaining full power and massacring his opposition once again. Although Harry can, with a great struggle, hold him at bay, he cannot yet defeat him. This recurrence of the same evil in different guises reveals a certain truth, which is that no matter how hard a person fights and tries, certain obstacles are never fully absent. The beauty in this is that Harry can go about his life, engage in friendship, learn in his classes, while still in the back of his mind knowing that Voldemort is still lurking out there somewhere, waiting to strike again. All Harry can do is to be alert, careful, brave and lucky, and he must enjoy his days while preparing for the next encounter. Certain strains of worry or tragedy will always be themes in individual human lives, and they will reappear in one of many different forms to challenge us again; as seen through the combat of evil in this book, all we can do it be vigilant while not letting it ruin our lives.

Voldemort is an especially frightening and well-cast enemy figure because he is no longer human, and therefore not subject to the limitations of natural human laws. He can feed off of people and return, or let his belongings fall into unknowing hands and still return. Perhaps the greatest advantage possessed by Voldemort (Riddle) was foresight. Before his strength was diminished by the infant Harry, he had set his affairs in order so that he could return in a number of different ways. This makes him threatening, the most difficult possible challenge to fight in a series such as this. Harry is required to act especially resourcefully, as he did when he stabbed the fang into the center of the diary, in order to combat this multi-faceted enemy creature.

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