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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

J. K. Rowling

Chapter Six: Gilderoy Lockhart

Chapter Five: The Whomping Willow

Chapter Seven: Mudbloods and Murmurs

Summary

At breakfast the morning after the arrival by car, Hermione is acting sulky and annoyed with Ron and Harry, although most of their other friends are still clearly impressed. Soon a flock of owls arrives, bringing the day's letters and packages. Errol, the Weasley's aged owl, falls into Hermione's milk jug, and when Ron digs him out and cleans him off, he notices that the envelope in his beak is red and beginning to smoke. It is a Howler, and Ron opens it….and the voice of Mrs. Weasley explodes loudly and furiously into the great hall, yelling at Ron for ruining the car, getting Mr. Weasley in trouble with his job, and putting his own and Harry's lives in danger.

From this point on, Hermione is friendly again, as she seems to feel that Harry and Ron have been punished enough. Together, the three friends walk to Herbology class, where Gilderoy Lockhart, dressed in flamboyant turquoise robes, is cheerfully and smugly advising a disgruntled Professor Sprout on how to doctor the Whomping Willow. Lockhart pulls Harry aside and says, with great pain and understanding in his voice, that he blames himself for the car incident. It soon grows apparent that he believes that ever since he gave Harry a taste of fame that day in the bookstore, Harry has been trying to recapture that fame by behaving recklessly. Harry is stunned and offended as he collects himself and joins his classmates in the greenhouse.

In the greenhouse, Professor Sprout is explaining that the lesson of the day will involve repotting seedling Mandrakes, which Hermoine explains are a strong restorative, used to return transfigured people to their original state. These plants are pale green, mottled-looking babies with leaves growing out of their heads and a cry that is fatal, so the entire class puts on earmuffs to handle them. Before they begin repotting, a boy from Hufflepuff House named Justin Finch-Fletchley introduces himself to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He explains that he almost went to Eton (implying that he is Muggle-born since Eton is not a wizard school) and that he persuaded his parents to send him to Hogwarts after showing them Lockhart's books, persuading them how useful wizards can be. The students work with the Mandrakes, and the Gryffindor House second-years head over to Transfiguration class with Professor McGonagall, where Ron's broken wand malfunctions, casting putrid smoke everywhere.

On the way to his next class, defense against the dark arts, which is taught by Professor Lockhart, Harry is accosted by a small camera-clutching Gryffindor first-year named Colin Creevey, who shyly asks Harry for a signed picture to prove that they met. He makes a large sentimental fuss about Harry's history, Hogwarts, magic in general, the whole time humiliating Harry. To make matters worse, Draco Malfoy passes by them during this and loudly announces that Harry is giving out signed photos; when Ron steps up to defend Harry, Malfoy says dryly that one of the signed photos would be worth more than Ron's entire house. Before a fight can break out, Lockhart strolls through, overhears, and suggest that he and Harry both pose for a signed photo for Colin.

Afterwards, Lockhart gives Harry yet another bit of fatherly advice about why not to give out signed photos this early in his career. Harry is horrified and sits as far back in Lockhart's classroom as possible. Lockhart begins the class with a quiz to make sure they've been doing their reading of his many books. The quiz contains over fifty questions pertaining to Lockhart's personal interests, secret desires, favorite color, and greatest achievements. The day's assignment is dealing with pixies, who wreak havoc when Lockhart lets them out of their cage. He is unable to get them back into their cage, so he hastily leaves the room, asking Ron, Harry and Hermione to clean up the angry pixies.

Analysis

This chapter gives a clearer and more thorough look at the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. In his interaction with his peers, such as Professor Spout, he is bossy and patronizing, giving them self-satisfied advice in their own fields of expertise. As a teacher in his own class, he does not know how to control the dark arts nearly quite so well as he professes in his books. The pixies destroy the classroom, hanging students from the ceiling and tossing wands out the window. Lockhart is unable to stop them or to recapture them. When he leaves this job to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, his boasting tales of adventures with frightening creatures seem suspect; although is a handsome man, his actions and abilities do not make credible his stories.

Most importantly, Gilderoy Lockhart is portrayed here as a contrast for Harry. Lockhart vastly misunderstands Harry's famous history. Harry is humiliated when people like Colin Creevey approach in varying states of awe; any special treatment makes him uncomfortable, especially since Draco Malfoy resentfully mocks whatever "famous" attention Harry Potter happens to be getting. So for Harry to get caught twice by Lockhart in situations that bring him extra attention is horrifying; he does not want Lockhart to identify with him, to give him pointers on fame and to involve him in photo sessions. Lockhart, we begin to see in this chapter, will spare no sacrifice in order to arrive at some sort of eminence, while Harry, who was thrust into eminence without being knowing or wanting it, will do anything he can in order to feel that he is treated fairly despite his fame. He wants to succeed on his own merit, not resting back upon the history of the scar on his forehead, as opposed to Lockhart, who we soon see has little integrity on what he will do to become famous, and in how he will handle that fame. Lockhart revels in the end result, while Harry strives to make worthwhile the process.

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