‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘ J. K. Rowling is a significantly different book than its predecessor in that it tackles a lot of strong and politically charged themes. After ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,‘ this book delves deeper into the world of magic and brings into the spotlight the struggles and unequal treatment of different magical beings as well as the inequalities among humans.
The book also explores the debate of free will and determinism to an extent by discussing the idea of choice. The analysis of ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘ is bound to highlight discrimination and inequalities that are persistent in the wizarding world. The premise of this book alone rests on a group of wizards claiming superiority over other wizards and a select few trying to stop these evil forces.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Themes
Discrimination and Inequality
One of the most important themes explored in the story of ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘ is discrimination and inequality between different magical beings and between the bloodlines of wizards and witches. There are several magical beings, which include humans who are developed for magic (wizards and witches), goblins, giants, trolls, merpeople, house-elves, and many others. However, in this book, after the appearance of Dobby, Harry learns a lot about how house-elves are treated by wizards and witches.
House-elves are direct allusions to how slavery was a prominent practice in our world, and the rules and methods governing a house-elfs’ enslavement is very similar to that of the slaves in our real world. This book sheds light on how unfair practice slavery is, as house-elves are not even allowed the most basic comforts that the wizards who ‘own’ them could easily afford.
Another separate arena for discrimination follows the major plot of this novel – the reason the Chamber of Secrets exists in the first place. A lot of pure-blooded wizards claim superiority over others who are either half-blooded or muggle-born, just like Salazar Slytherin did when he cofounded Hogwarts.
Hence, when he left Hogwarts after disagreements with the other three founders, who wanted magical education to be accessible to anybody who has a talent for magic, he built the Chamber of Secrets to one day let his heir carry out his mission. This mania to ‘cleanse’ the world from wizards who are not pure-blooded is very similar in form to several racially discriminatory factions that have risen in history over the years. This book uses the Basilisk, a very dangerous and monstrous entity whose very eyes cause death, as a symbol of how detrimental and destructive such mania about so-called racial superiority can actually be.
Choice and Ability
Another major theme explored through ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘ is the idea of how identity is built through a compromise between and ability. Harry grapples with this idea for a major part of his second year, especially after the school assumes that he might be the Heir of Slytherin as he is discovered to be a Parseltongue. However, at the end of the book, after he defeats Voldemort and the basilisk, he speaks to Professor Dumbledore, who solves his dilemma with a very important point.
Dumbledore claims that Harry’s identity is based on the choices he makes and not the abilities he possesses. The abilities might contribute to who Harry is, but even though he possesses the same abilities as Voldemort, Harry will never be like him because Harry chooses to do things differently despite his abilities.
Dumbledore means that it is the choices we make that determine who we are. In spite of probably even housing a lot of demons within our psyche, the fact that we choose to do things that are moral and ethical allows us to be better people. We will always have doubts about our identities, as they are constantly changing too, but we will always be who we choose to be and not who we inherently are.
Friendship is a recurring theme in all of the Harry Potter books, but more specifically, in this book, the friendship between Harry and Dobby is an interesting dynamic. Although Dobby’s methods in saving Harry Potter are questionable, there is a genuine innocence in the way he tries to go to great lengths to save Harry. It becomes obvious even to the reader that Dobby means well but doesn’t know what else he could do. Harry acknowledges Dobby’s affection for him and eventually frees him from his masters, which resonates as a true act of friendship.
Fame is another major theme explored in this book. It becomes more prominent when Harry encounters Gilderoy Lockhart. Lockhart seeks fame, and his entire life is surrounded around it and gaining more of it. The narrative does a wonderful job showing the reader how different Harry is from someone who desperately seeks fame. Harry does not seek fame the way Lockhart does.
Analysis of Key Moments in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry is very dejected about his stay at his uncle’s as he hasn’t received any letters from his friends, and his birthday is uneventful.
- Harry meets Dobby, a house-elf who warns Harry about his life being in danger at Hogwarts. Furthermore, Dobby deliberately drops a pudding on Mrs. Mason to prevent Harry from going to Hogwarts.
- Harry is initially locked in a room by his uncle but is eventually saved by Ron and the Weasley twins in a flying car, and they go together to the Burrow, where the Weasleys stay.
- Harry joins the others on a trip to London to get their books and supplies. He meets Gilderoy Lockhart at Flourish and Blotts, and Mr. Weasley and Lucius Malfoy have a fist fight inside the shop.
- Harry and Ron miss the Hogwarts express and try to come by the bewitched flying car to Hogwarts.
- Gilderoy Lockhart is eventually revealed to be an attention seeker and merely has any talent for teaching.
- Malfoy is selected as the seeker for the Slytherin Quidditch team. He has a tussle with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and calls her a ‘Mudblood.’
- Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday Party and meet Moaning Myrtle, Peeves, and several other ghosts there.
- Harry, Hermione, and Ron encounter the ‘petrified’ body of Mrs. Norris. There is a writing on the wall, written in blood which claims that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened and that the Heir of Slytherin has returned.
- While playing Quidditch, a rogue bludger attacks Harry and fractures his arm. Lockhart makes the injuries worse when he tries to repair them.
- During a duel in the newly created Dueling Club, Harry tries to stop a snake from attacking Justin Finch-Fletchley but unknowingly uses Parseltongue to converse with it. People suspect that he may be the Heir of Slytherin.
- The Polyjuice Potion is finally ready, and the trio takes it. Hermione is unable to go, but both Harry and Ron are disguised, and Crabbe and Goyle go to Malfoy to collect details about the Heir of Slytherin.
- Harry finds a diary that belongs to a mysterious and unknown person called Tom Riddle. Harry eventually converses with the diary and realizes that Hagrid might be responsible for the attacks.
- Hermione is ‘petrified’, and eventually, Harry and Ron go to Hagrid’s hut to question him but are stopped short as Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic takes Hagrid to Azkaban prison.
- Harry and Ron go to the Forbidden Forest to meet Aragog, the large Acromantula or spider that Hagrid is friends with. After collecting the truth from it, they are forced to flee in Ron’s old car, which miraculously appears when the other spiders try to eat them.
- Harry and Ron find out that Ginny has been taken to the Chamber of Secrets, and along with Lockhart, who is confirmed to be a phony, they go into the Chamber.
- Harry eventually finds out that Lord Voldemort is Tom Riddle and that he is the Heir of Slytherin. He faces the beast, the Basilisk, and eventually kills it. He also destroys Riddle’s diary, thereby destroying his apparition.
- Harry talks to Dumbledore about what happened at the Chamber, and they eventually meet Lucius Malfoy and Dobby. Harry frees Dobby by giving him a sock by tricking Lucius Malfoy.
Writing Style and Tone
Both the writing style and tone of this novel are very similar to ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.’ Rowling’s writing style is quite consistent for these two books, and she writes similar humorous lines and has quite the same descriptive language for world-building. However, this book is a tad bit darker and politically charged than the first one and alludes to real-world problems like discrimination, slavery, and people who abuse power.
Analysis of Key Symbol in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Tom Riddle’s Diary
Tom Riddle’s Diary is of major symbolic significance for this entire narrative to move forward. It primarily signifies dangerous ideologies that are easy to believe when we could be manipulated through our vulnerabilities. It is also significant because it is this diary that led to the events of this book which include the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. It is quite similar in form to dangerous ‘evil’ ideologies and claims made by people in power to manipulate a large mass of people into doing their bidding, something that has been very common in history.
Does Dumbledore not know about the Chamber of Secrets?
Dumbledore does know about the Chamber of Secrets and had his suspicions about such a chamber existing. However, he had no evidence or any form of knowledge concerning where to find the chamber as it is very well hidden from everyone except people who know Parseltongue.
Who is Dobby’s Master?
Lucius Malfoy is Dobby’s master, and Dobby worked in Malfoy Manor until Harry Potter freed him. Dobby knew about Tom Riddle’s Diary and wanted to prevent Harry Potter from going to Hogwarts. But the unique nature of Elf magic prevented him from betraying his master.
Why does Hermione not go to meet Malfoy after drinking Polyjuice Potion?
Hermione accidentally ends up drinking a Polyjuice Potion mixture that contained the hairs of a cat instead of Millicent Bulstrode as she had initially intended. This turns her appearance into that of a cat. Therefore, she suggests the already-transformed Harry and Ron go ahead.