Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
February 15, 2016 3:41 AM - by J. K. Rowling - Subscribe

Second book of the Harry Potter series. Thread contains series and movie spoilers!

Summary from Amazon: The Dursleys were so mean that hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone--or something--starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself?

Part of the HP Club reread/rewatch of the Harry Potter series.
posted by toomanycurls (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The action setpiece at the end of this one feels a lot more natural to the world, and less like the "puzzles written for kids' book" ending of the first book. The diary felt like a really stunning magical object. But then there's Dobby...
posted by rikschell at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dobby is not a character that can be remotely enjoyed in eitherthe second book or its movie adaptation. It's kind of amazing how Rowling turns that around so that when he gets killed in Deathly Hallows it's actually possible to mourn him. His happiness at receiving a dirty old sock is quite endearing though.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:25 AM on February 15, 2016


Sadly, the thing I remember most about this one is how Rowling explained the rules of Quidditch again.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:58 AM on February 15, 2016


An interesting thing I noticed upon this re-read is how utterly arbitrary the capabilities and restrictions of magical healing are. Madam Pomfrey can regrow an entire arm full of bones overnight but Hermione was in the hospital ward for weeks while they figured out how to un-cat her face. Nobody, including Dumbledore, had any idea what could have caused the petrification but everybody assumed the mandrake potion would fix it, etc.

This book has less of a prequel feeling than the first one but it still has a lot of Kid Book plot holes. How did Crabbe and Goyle get out of that closet, for example? There were no repercussions from that incident? I know they're idiots but Malfoy isn't. You'd think he would have smelled a rat.

Are we to assume Ginny wrote about Harry surviving Avada Kedavra in the diary? It wasn't explicitly stated but otherwise it doesn't make sense that DiaryRiddle would even know Harry Potter existed, much less that he was his ultimate nemesis.
posted by something something at 12:30 PM on February 15, 2016


I'd think DiaryRiddle knows about Harry for the same reason Harry knows Parseltongue. I'd assume the diadem, ring, and other "trinkets" also know about Harry&Tom, but just don't have much use for that information.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:52 PM on February 15, 2016


Makes you wonder, the Diary's chunk of Riddle's soul had an independent existence of sorts. A much better gig than getting stuck in a diadem or a goblet. The locket had One Ring style evil artifact juju, presumably the other horcruxes had similar sentience. I guess as time went on Voldemort got better at the horcrux production process, and presumably he had less soul left to shove in each artifact.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:46 PM on February 15, 2016


But Riddle turned the diary into a horcrux long before he went after the Potters. I guess he may have known about the prophecy already, though.

I do think it would be interesting to know how much of the overarching plot Rowling had planned out at this point. There are a lot of little points in this book especially that are important later, but it's hard to say whether she knew where it was going as she wrote or referred back to incorporate stuff from previous books as needed.
posted by something something at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2016


Poly juice potion is introduced in this story for no other reason than to establish its existence for when she needs it two books later. The whole tangent where they make the potion and impersonate Crabbe and Goyle is a complete waste of time. They learn nothing. It takes them a whole month to mix it. Meanwhile they're hanging out right at the entrance of the chamber of secrets the whole time. In the movie at least there's the bonus of Tom Felton's great ad-lib where Draco says, "I didn't know you could read" to Crabbe/Harry.
posted by wabbittwax at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Riddle didn't know anything about the prophecy. The prophecy was made around the time of Harry's birth. It didn't exist before that. And Voldy only heard about because Snape was sticking his unusually large nose where it didn't belong.
posted by wabbittwax at 2:01 PM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Crabbe and Goyle are the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Harry Potter world. I never remember which is which and it never seems to matter anyway)
posted by wabbittwax at 2:07 PM on February 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Agreed, I was surprised to read her initial description of the two because apparently one of them is supposed to be tall and thinner than the other. In my mind they're the same.
posted by something something at 2:18 PM on February 15, 2016


I tend to think of the chunks of Voldemort's soul being like fractals that contain everything the whole soul does but infinitely repeating as the bits get smaller.
posted by wabbittwax at 2:27 PM on February 15, 2016


Things that stand out to me from this book:

1. The Dursleys are abusive fucks. I said this last time but I'll never get over how horrible and dismissive they are towards Harry.
2. The Burrow sounds like home. Not my home but it just embodies the idea of home.
3. Lockhart's success in stealing the achievements of other people kind of baffles me. Modifying the person's memory seems straightforward but... What about the people who knew the person who originally did the magic or the villages that were saved? Surely someone would realize Gilderoy Lockhart hadn't been there when whatever deed was performed. I also don't know why Dumbledore hired him. I read somewhere that Dumbledore suspected him a fraud and I get wanting to suss that out but he also fucked a year of education for students.
4. Myrtle's death and the investigation that didn't happen irks me as well. I feel like Dumbledore would have put together the basilisk and bathroom doorway to the chamber if he'd bothered to ask Myrtle about get death. It's kind of a miss.
5. Hagrid does seem shady af in the first two books. He might be the most dangerous staff member apart from Dumbledore.

Are we to assume Ginny wrote about Harry surviving Avada Kedavra in the diary? It wasn't explicitly stated but otherwise it doesn't make sense that DiaryRiddle would even know Harry Potter existed, much less that he was his ultimate nemesis.

I recall Riddle saying Ginny talked about Harry and he probed her for more information.
posted by toomanycurls at 2:38 PM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also don't know why Dumbledore hired him. I read somewhere that Dumbledore suspected him a fraud and I get wanting to suss that out but he also fucked a year of education for students.

I get why Dumbledore is often cast as a villian in fanfiction. It's for things like this, where he seems to be aware that Lockhart is not only a fraud, but a fraud who uses dangerous magic which essentially kills people (if you lose all your memories, you're not really you anymore). He actually comments jovially that Lockhart fell on his own sword (or something like that). I mean, sure, try to catch the guy out, but maybe he's a bit dangerous near his students? And in fact he almost was so to both Harry and Ron if not for Ron's backfiring wand

[fun fan theory, wizards who have second hand wands get a lot better when they have their own. Ron will become much more competent from now on, and see how Neville does at magic post the Order of the Phoenix, where he finally gets his own wand]

This is probably the weakest book of the 7, but it has it's moments. It feels very much "and here's another peril for another book" kind of story, rather than a continuation, although the continuity hidden here is quite clever (who knows how much Rowling planned that and how much she retrofitted. She wrote smartly enough that either could be true). Rowling loves a puzzle, and this book is a decent one, although quite why no-one notices the loud hissing noise that basilisk makes I'm not entirely sure. It's speaking snake, sure, but it's not speaking telepathically, right?

There's a tumblr fanfic out there where Harry is a squib and still triumphs, and it's kind of cute, but it is worth noting that until book 4 the three use very little magic, and here Harry defeats a monster using literally no magic whatsoever, although he does have some magic items on his side.

One plot hole that I can't excuse, and drives me insane every time, is that Harry and Ron head to the teachers lounge to tell them that they know where the basilisk is. Then they hide (why?) and hear that Ginny has been kidnapped. THEN THEY LEAVE WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE? AND THEN FOR SOME REASON DECIDE TO TELL LOCKHART, WHO THEY KNOW IS A FRAUD, RATHER THAN ANY OTHER TEACHER? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS WRONG WITH THEM??? THEY WERE ALL READY TO TELL THE TEACHERS ABOUT THE BASILISK BEFORE RON'S SISTER WAS IN MORTAL DANGER, WHY ON EARTH WOULDN'T THEY TELL THEM AFTER???

I'm all for children's stories having children who take matters into their own hands. That's kind of the point, but you need to plot it better than Harry and Ron losing all their sense and entrusting vital information to the one adult who absolutely cannot be trusted with it.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:52 AM on February 16, 2016


I think a huge amount of plotting in the whole series relies on Harry stubbornly refusing to go talk to Dumbledore. On the subject of Lockhart, I think Ron and Harry rather cold-heartedly intended to use him as a human shield all along.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:18 AM on February 16, 2016


Also, she slipped the Whomping willow into this story so she could use it in the next story. Say what you will about JK Rowling, the lady knows how to plan ahead.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:55 AM on February 16, 2016


I get why Dumbledore is often cast as a villian in fanfiction

I'm okay with him making the tough choices when it comes to fighting Voldemort by sacrificing certain people and withholding information. He's very strategic. While it bothers me he put his students and staff in danger two years running by hiring successive DADA profs he thought had issues, he at least had a hazy plan in place. What really bothers me is when he doesn't follow logical avenues of investigation surrounding shit he dedicated his life to. In this book it's digging into the death of a student during Voldemort's time at school or even talking to her once the CoS was reopened. I mean, it couldn't have been a great logical leap to realize the same attacks were happening and there was a victim of the previous attack LIVING IN THE BATHROOM NEAR THE PLACE CURRENT ATTACKS WERE HAPPENING.

Harry not bringing key matters to adults makes sense given the abusive fucks he lives with.
posted by toomanycurls at 7:25 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is it established that adults know about Myrtle? She might only appear to kids. There are always things going on at school that the adults have no clue about. Dumbledore may be a great wizard and a cunning leader, but he's not a good headmaster, and doesn't appear to have a great interest in it. It's kind of a sinecure for him.
posted by rikschell at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2016


She haunted Olive Hornby into adulthood and was ordered to leave her alone by the Ministry so I assume Ministry officials and other adults could see Myrtle or they'd think Olive was insane.
posted by toomanycurls at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2016


I'm late to the party because I just noticed this whole Potter re-read was happening but I wanted to use toomanycurls' comment to bring up a bit of headcanon I like.
Lockhart's success in stealing the achievements of other people kind of baffles me. Modifying the person's memory seems straightforward but... What about the people who knew the person who originally did the magic or the villages that were saved? Surely someone would realize Gilderoy Lockhart hadn't been there when whatever deed was performed. I also don't know why Dumbledore hired him.
I wonder if, particularly outside of Western Europe, wizards live far more isolated lives than we might think. Britain seems to have its little quasi-feudal government and centralized school and such but aside from the floo network (and the Order's Patronus trick) communication is effectively at 19th century speeds at best and magical Britain seems fairly isolated from other magical states. This seems like a perfect milieu for a 19th-century conman type like Lockhart. Someone like Victor Lustig, but with all the advantages of magic (and we see zero evidence in the books that magic makes people any less gullible). Take the wagga-wagga werewolf example from the story. I can totally see Lockheart waltzing into some little Armenian wizarding enclave, bamboozling some local until they half-believe he did help them fight a monster (selective editing of memories seems even more pernicious than total obliviation) and then is out of there before anyone really knows what’s hit them. He gets his books published back in England, and honestly is anyone in Wagga-Wagga (which is off in the middle of nowhere in Australia) or in Armenia going to care about a book that, while perhaps a bestseller among the tiny British wizarding population, will probably never even show up in their country?

I am also onboard with the idea that the ICW had finally taken notice of Lockhart and pushed Dumbledore to do something about it quietly to avoid a scandal. Dumbledore routinely abuses his position as headmaster for political purposes throughout the series. One wonders if his battle with the school governors that year might have had something to do with controversy over allowing Lockhart into the school in addition to Malfoy Sr.’s shenanigans.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:56 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is maybe my least favorite of the books to re-read. This is partly because I find the supporting characters (Lockhart, Myrtle, Dobby, Colin) more annoying than amusing, and partly because I get stressed out by how fraught Harry’s life is during his second year. Hogwarts itself is no longer physically or emotionally safe; the students mistrust Harry, and the two adults who are closest to him are forced to leave (Hagrid and Dumbledore). Harry think he’s going mad. One of his two friends is petrified. By the end of the book, he and Ron are running around with only one wand between them, no one helping them, and no spells more powerful than Lumos.

One thing I do like about this book is Tom Riddle’s diary, which is one of the most interesting villains in the series.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:37 PM on February 23, 2016


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