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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

J. K. Rowling

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Analysis of Major Characters

Chapter One: The Worst Birthday

Themes

Tolerance of People who are Different

The idea of tolerance within a community is highly important in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The plot of the novel explores this idea through Salazar Slytherin's intention to wipe out "mudbloods," or wizards with non- magical ancestors, from Hogwarts. Harry himself is only half-wizard, and Hermione's parents are both "Muggles," non-magical people. However, Harry and Hermione are better wizards than Malfoy, who is from a family of generations of pure wizard blood, showing that dedication and work, rather than genetic heritage, are the important factors in guaranteeing success. Rowling describes the Slytherin students as inbred: all are oversized, strange-looking, mean and unintelligent. But their blood is pure, and that is what matters most to them, their final torch of victory when they have nothing else in their favor. The Dursleys too add to this theme with their inherent intolerance-they are a pitiful lot, terrified of magical people, mean to Harry, nosey and ill-tempered, and yet extremely proud of themselves for being, in their opinion, normal.

Reliance on a Community

In the novel, almost nothing is achieved by a single person alone. Harry, Hermione, and Ron break the secret of the Chamber, find the entrance, and defeat the beast inside by working together. Each of the three adds a special element to the trio, and all depend on the others for support and assistance. When Harry and Ron are about to be eaten by spiders, Ron's car saves them; when Harry is about to be eaten by the basilisk, Dumbledore's phoenix saves him. Although the three main characters are courageous, they are also able to seek help when necessary, either from each other or from outside sources. Although Harry is the protagonist and hero, he must rely on others to succeed.

The Importance of Choices

Dumbledore explains the importance of choices when he reassures Harry that Harry is meant to live in the Gryffindor dormitory. Although it is important for wizards to have inborn skill and astute minds, knowing how to use ability and knowledge is ultimately a more important trait. Harry, although famous from the beginning, is impressive because he does not count on his special abilities to protect him. Harry uses each moment as a springboard for the next test of his will and courage, making choices that shape his life, not waiting for his life to shape itself.

Framing

The plot of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets frequently suggests that one character is guilty when another actually turns out to be responsible for causing distress at Hogwarts. This motif of framing reminds us that rarely are things as easy as they may appear. The wizard world is full of secrets and deception, requiring Harry to be careful in his research and accusations. These framings also teach the main characters to be persistent; when they reach a dead end they back up and try again.

Names

Some of the most fascinating and colorful aspects of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets reside in the names of the characters. Some of the names the names have clear origins of significance. Lucius Malfoy's name suggests evil; "mal" is a latin root meaning "bad," and Lucius, echoes Lucifer. Lockhart's name describes his locked heart, or secret identity. Other names, like Dumbledore, are actual words; "dumbledore" is an old English word for bumblebee. Dumbledore, who is an ancient, wise wizard, works hard to sustain his community, at Hogwarts.

Warmth

Hogwarts is an insular, secure place. The sense of Hogwarts as a place of comfort is furthered by images of warmth: Gryffindors studying around the fireplace, hot chocolate being the end all cure for ailments, plentiful food appearing magically on the Great Hall's tables. At a very basic level, Hogwarts is a provider and haven, and through the images used to illustrate this, we understand more clearly what Harry is fighting to protect.

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