Rowling, J. K. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER
OF SECRETS. New York: Scholastic Press, 1998. ISBN 0439064864.
In his second year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter must solve the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets in order to save the school from closure.
In this high fantasy novel, we find all of the motifs basic to modern fantasy. The use of magic is obviously prevalent
in this book about young witches and wizards. A few examples are: students at Hogwarts School taking classes in potions and
spells, the subjects in photos and paintings speaking and moving about, cars
flying, and dishes washing themselves. In addition, Rowling creates a secondary world that only witches and wizards have access
to. Hogwarts School, as well as places like Diagon Alley in London, remain unseen
by non-magical humans, or muggles. These other worlds are sometimes accessed by special portals, such as Platform Nine and
Three-Quarters at King’s Cross train station or traveling through a fireplace using floo powder. However, portals are
not necessary. In this story, Harry and best friend Ron Weasley cannot get through
the barrier at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, so they are forced to use Mr. Weasley’s flying car to get to school.
In this second installment of Harry Potter, Harry and his friends face an unknown evil force emanating from the
Chamber of Secrets below the school. As the story progresses, students who come face to face with this force are literally
petrified, and because he’s usually nearby at the time of the attacks, Harry becomes a suspect. At this point, Harry
begins his quest to solve the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets, but his efforts are intensified when his friend, Hermione,
becomes a victim of petrification and Ron’s sister, Ginny, is taken prisoner. Harry must enter the Chamber of Secrets
and face a giant basilisk, a monster that kills all who look into its eyes. Harry discovers that the basilisk is under the
control of his archenemy, Lord Voldemort. In his courageous battle with the basilisk, Harry is aided by Professor Dumbledore’s magical phoenix, Fawkes. Harry is successful in his quest and once again, good triumphs
This book contains many special character types. The main characters, the students at Hogwarts, are all witches and wizards. In addition, there are the ghosts which haunt the school, like Nearly
Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle; Dobby, the house elf who serves as an indentured servant to Lucius Malfoy; and Cornish pixies,
used a teaching aid in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. There are also many fantastic objects in the book. Each
student has a wand and spends much class time learning how to use it. Caldrons are also a standard school supply, and
as I mentioned earlier, the Weasley family have an enchanted flying car that Ron and Harry borrowed to get to school when
they missed the Hogwarts train. Harry uses some unique objects in the book. He has an invisibility cloak that he inherited
from his father, and Professor Dumbledore sends him Godric Gryffindor’s sword to fight the basilisk.
In spite of all the fantastic elements in the book, Rowling has created strong, believable characters. Although
Harry seems larger than life at times, readers can still identify with him. He wants to fit in and is uncomfortable when people
single him out, like Colin Creevey wanting to take his picture and then asking
him to autograph it. Another example is when he fails to tell Professor Dumbledore about the voice he hears because he is
afraid of what others will think. All of the students at Hogwarts are believable,
from bookish Hermione to bullying Draco Malfoy. Of course, Rowling also includes
characters who are exaggerations, like the self-absorbed Gilderoy Lockhart. These caricature-type characters add wonderful
humor to the story.
Rowling has created an original, exciting plot that will appeal to both children and adults. It is plausible and
internally consistent within the story’s fantastic setting. The chapters are full of action and there are enough clues
to the solution of the mystery to keep readers turning the pages until the end.
There are several themes lying beneath the surface of this wonderful fantasy that emerge naturally as the
story unfolds. Rowling addresses the issue of racism when Malfoy calls Hermione a “Mudblood” or dirty blood, because
her parents are mere Muggles. Even before Hagrid explains what the term means, we understand it is bad from the reaction of
those who hear him say it. Other themes in the story are the power of self-sacrifice – when Harry’s mother died
to save him, Voldemort was unable to kill him; and the power of loyalty – when Harry showed his loyalty to Dumbledore
in the Chamber of Secrets, Fawkes the phoenix came to his rescue. One of the most important messages of this book is explicitly
stated by Dumbledore, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (p.