In this occasional series, I will be discussing books that a teenage girl (now a fourteen-year-old), Jonelle, invited me to read. And when I say "invited me to read," of course I mean "commanded me to read." For those of you who don't know her, she is a highly intelligent, sweet, precocious and fairly bossy young lady.
A large part of the reason why I read this book, and the other works that will be discussed in this blog series, is that I want to understand how teenagers think. These posts will not be a review of the book per se as much as an exploration of my random thoughts on the book.
How did I get myself into this?
Addendum – I have to say that between the Ladies J (Jonelle & Jessica), I am reading more young adult novels than actual nineteenth-century supernatural horror! Unbelievable! The things I do for these ladies!
But Hermione gave a sudden gasp, pointing down the corridor.
Something was shining on the wall ahead. They approached slowly, squinting through the darkness. Foot-high words had been daubed on the wall between two windows, shimmering in the light cast by the flaming torches.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN
OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.
“What’s that thing — hanging underneath?” said Ron, a slight quiver in his voice.
As they edged nearer, Harry almost slipped — there was a large puddle of water on the floor; Ron and Hermione grabbed him, and they inched toward the message, eyes fixed on a dark shadow beneath it. All three of them realized what it was at once, and leapt backward with a splash.
Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat, was hanging by her tail from the torch bracket. She was stiff as a board, her eyes wide and staring.
–The above was excerpted from pages 139-140 of
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
“Why did they have to come to the match?” said Harry bitterly.
“They’re getting hungry,” said Lupin coolly, shutting his briefcase with a snap. “Dumbledore won’t let them into the school, so their supply of human prey has dried up. . . . I don’t think they could resist the large crowd around the Quidditch field. All that excitement . . . emotions running high . . . it was their idea of a feast.”
“Azkaban must be terrible,” Harry muttered. Lupin nodded grimly.
“The fortress is set on a tiny island, way out to sea, but they don’t need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re all trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks.”
“But Sirius Black escaped from them,” Harry said slowly. “He got away. . . .”
–The above was excerpted from page 188 of
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Books Jonelle Made Me Read **Special Edition**
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999) by J. K. Rowling.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) by J. K. Rowling.
Old Sins Cast Long Shadows is pleased to present this second in a six-part miniseries within "this occasional series." The second and third volumes in the Harry Potter septology are examined, continuing the discussion from my previous essay on the Potter-verse. A link to that first part is here.
I have a few initial observations before I begin a brief discussion of each book. Please keep in mind that these observations will apply to the future novels as well.
First, I had no idea of the effect, the impact, these novels would have upon me. The quality of The Sorcerer's Stone, while high, did not prepare me for the emotional resonance I felt; especially after The Prisoner of Azkaban. This feeling would only intensify as I progressed though the remaining volumes.
Second, Harry's muggle family, the Dursleys, are becoming less and less important. They are more an inconvenience to be endured rather than any real threat. The Dursleys perform the role of providing a break in the narrative. Their return marks the start of summer, the end of the school year, and the end of the tale. There is an interesting aside to this. As the Dursleys become more a comedic foil, concerns regarding muggles and muggle-ness move to the fore.
Third, as a counter-point to the above, the character of Severus Snape is becoming less a simple mean and petty man into a more nuanced figure with a mysterious and dark past.
Fourth, and finally, I find it reassuring that even in the world of Hogwarts, with all its wonders and magic, dark things dwell.
The second volume of this septology opens with Harry's twelfth birthday, prior to beginning his second year at Hogwarts. This novel confronts the issue of racial prejudice and how it can lead to the corruption of the soul. This topic will return to haunt the characters in future volumes. As Harry starts his second year at the magic school, so too do Ron and Hermione. Hermione is maturing, developing emotionally and having crushes. Ron's younger sister, Ginny, is introduced as a first year student along with the awkward hero-worship she feels for Harry. Of course, Harry and Ron are utterly clueless.
The novel explores the nature of evil and how it was that Harry, while still only a baby, could have defeated a mighty Dark Lord. The theme (the insidiousness of evil) is advanced; that evil never dies and is always looking for a way in. Also, the prison-fortress of Azkaban and its terrifying reputation are introduced. Azkaban will feature prominently in future volumes.
In the third volume, Harry, Ron, and Hermione attend their third year at Hogwarts. The story here revolves around the escape of an ominously named Sirius Black from the dreaded prison-fortress of Azkaban. To make matters even more interesting, he is said to want to kill Harry Potter. And, there is even a magic map! Themes principally revolve around base treachery and the betrayal of faith. for Harry, Ron and Hermione, while the adults must struggle with controlling their own monsters, both figurative and literal. The prison-fortress is further explored and even more so in the next novel.
On a lighter note, the stress of youth and the setting of excessive expectations are also addressed. But Hogwarts is a magical place so even these challenges result in a happy ending.
In a fine bit of foreshadowing, an argument between Hermione, Ron, and Harry (though primarily Hermione and Ron), drives a wedge between Hermione and the boys (though again primarily Hermione and Ron). Later, at their reconciliation, she is so overjoyed, sobbing in relief, she hugs Ron (not Harry). Here again, Ron is clueless.
I find it a comforting relief to see that foreshadowing can be used to portent good things, not only bad.
In the initial post I wrote concerning the Harry Potter series (link), I posed several questions that I intended to revisit in subsequent posts. The first of these involved how Harry Potter fits into Joseph Campbell's hero myth as detailed in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In reading the second and third volumes in the septology, I believe this is true now more than ever.
While doing follow-on research on this topic, I came across, much to my surprise, numerous articles in print and on the internet as well as several texts that touch upon this subject and agree with my supposition. One of the more considered sources I discovered was a graduate thesis in English by Katie Baker. Entitled "Harry Potter: A Hero of Mythic Proportions," it seeks to show, in Baker's own words:[i]
Using Campbell’s seminal work as a critical perspective, I read the protagonist of the Harry Potter novels as a mythic hero. Starting life with nothing, he overcomes his circumstances while remaining virtuous and strong. His strength and virtue allow him to rid the wizarding world of evil, thus solidifying his status of a mythic hero.
Baker's thesis is too comprehensive for me to go into detail here. It is sufficient to say that for anyone who has an interest in this particular subject, this resource is a must.
Another one of the many sources and one that I found very interesting was the short essay "Harry Potter and the Hero With a Thousand Faces" authored by John Algeo, published in the Winter 2009 issue of Quest Magazine.[ii] According to Mr. Algeo, a central point of his essay was to explore why it was that:
Beyond the appeal of plot, character, and setting, the chief and abiding attraction of the Harry Potter books is that they are archetypal. The books resonate with something deep inside us. They evoke a response from the collective unconscious. Harry Potter is a contemporary version of the Hero with a Thousand Faces. Harry Potter is us.
I think he did an excellent job. I am also quite sure that I will return to this article in my final post on the Harry Potter series.
Another question I posed regarded the progression of the writing. As I wrote in my earlier post, " . . . will the writing progress as well? . . . will the writing evolve from appealing to a child, to a teenager and, later still, from a teenager to an adult, as Harry himself grows?" As it pertains to Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, I can say that as Harry ages a year per book, the writing appears to mature as well; though the differences between a 12 year old and a 13 year old may be minimal.
Not only do the main characters age but the writing also is geared for audiences older as the volumes progress. Furthermore, the subject-matters are more mature and the plotlines are more complex and involved. Future volumes will better highlight this, I am certain.
Do I look forward to continuing my exploration of the Potter-verse?
I have already finished reading Goblet of Fire and will start Order of the Phoenix soon.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999. Print
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999. Print
Algeo, John. “Harry Potter and the Hero With a Thousand Faces.” Quest 97. 1 (Winter 2009): 25-29. Pdf. https://www.theosophical.org/42-publications/quest-magazine/1682-harry-potter-and-the-hero-with-a-thousand-faces
Baker, Katie L., "Harry Potter: A Hero of Mythic Proportions" (2011). English Theses. Paper 1. Pdf. http://digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu/english_theses/1/
Garvin, Patrick. "Harry Potter, Star Wars, Joseph Campbell and the hero myth." patrickgarvin.com. 17 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2017.
Sims, Andrew. "J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson discuss Ron, Hermione, and Harry: The full interview." hypable.com. 07 February 2014. Accessed 09 July 2017. https://www.hypable.com/jk-rowling-ron-hermione-interview/
Stewart, Kaley. "Reread: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Books Etc. 02 March 2014. Accessed 15 July 2017.
Stewart, Kaley. "Reread: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Books Etc. 30 March 2014. Accessed 20 July 2017.
[i] From the thesis' abstract.
[ii] Quest Magazine is a publication of the Theosophical Society of America. Mr. Algeo is the former President of the Theosophical Society of America.