quarta-feira, 8 de agosto de 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter 2) by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter 2)

by J.K. Rowling

From Tammy Nezol, for About.com

   The second novel in a series of seven, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets continues a coming of age epic that will enchant readers with its honest portrayal of humanity. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1), Harry arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry knowing little of his past and the events for which he was famous. With the help of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, Harry chose to continue his destiny and once again defeat the powerful wizard known as Lord Voldemort.
   In the second book, Harry returns to Hogwarts only to discover a new machination in the making. Someone has opened the legendary Chamber of Secrets and let loose a monster. This creature literally petrifies anyone that comes into contact with it and Harry has reason to believe that the monster is capable of murder. Can Harry stop the monster before Hogwarts is forced to close?
   In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry was challenged with defining himself in a world that thinks it already knows him. This same theme continues in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but is more generalized. How is one defined? What makes someone who they are? The magical world labels a person based on their abilities and lineage, but what defines who someone really is?
   This theme is best played out through the monster that terrorizes Harry's school. It was locked in the chamber by one of Hogwarts' founders, Salazaar Slytherin, a wizard who believed that the only ones worthy of learning magic were those of "pure-blood" ancestry. The hidden chamber was to be locked until Slytherin's true heir arrived to unleash the monster. The motive of releasing the beast was to rid the school of those born to non-magical parents. The civilized word for such children is muggle-born. To those that follow Slytherin's ideology they are known as "mudbloods".
   The derogatory term "mudblood" literally means dirty blood, or blood that has been tainted. The label implies that those with pure-wizard-blood are superior to those without. Yet Hermione Granger, one of Harry's best friends, is not only a muggle-born, but also the most brilliant student at Hogwarts. In contrast, Draco Malfoy is a pureblood and neither bright nor kind.
   Harry's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher adds depth to the identity theme. Professor Gilderoy Lockhart spends the entire book pretending to be something he is not. While society labels him as a great and famous wizard, he is nothing more than a charming smile and a liar. He lacks any real identity.
   Harry's quest to discover his own identity is complicated when he discovers that one of his gifts, the ability to speak to snakes, is a talent usually reserved for the darkest wizards. In fact, Salazaar Slytherin was himself able to converse with the serpents. Suspicion follows Harry throughout the books as his peers begin to wonder if Harry Potter is Slytherin's heir. Even Harry begins to wonder if his peers are right.

   The identity problems that Harry must face lead him to make some bad choices. When he first hears voices that no one else can hear, he is afraid to tell anyone for fear of being labeled crazy. He even holds himself back from telling Albus Dumbledore, Hogwart's headmaster and Harry's mentor. Dumbledore continues to give Harry chances to come forward, but Harry does not. Instead, Harry tries to solve everything with only Ron and Hermione's help.
In the end, Harry learns that he must learn to move beyond his own identity fears and put his faith in others. It is only his loyalty to the headmaster and his determination to do what must be done for the common good that can save him and the school. When Harry does confront Dumbledore with his identity conundrum, the headmaster offers Harry the wisdom that sums up the theme of the book, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (333)
   While The Chamber of Secrets is an enjoyable book for both children and adults, it is the most disturbing in the series so far. In attempting to solve the mystery, Harry, Ron, and Hermione fail to tell an adult what they know. Instead, they try to brew a dangerous potion from the restricted section of the library. Why they choose the latter instead of the former is never made clear and the reader is left wondering why the heroes would try something so close to the dark arts.
   The most disturbing part of the book has to do with the potion used to revive those that have been petrified. The potion is made of mandrakes, a plant that screams when taken out of its pot. The problem is that the mandrakes look too much like babies and they act too much like people. Rowling treats the mandrake potion lightly but it could be construed as murder and a dark undertone to the book.
   While not as contrived as the first book, The Chamber of Secrets does have its contrived moments. For example, Ron happens to find a note in a petrified person's hand. While it is unlikely that someone in the hospital wing would not have spotted it before, the scene is necessary to help Harry solve the mystery.
   The book is enjoyable, however. Most of the characters are like good friends and the story itself is as enjoyable as the first. Rowling does a masterful job balancing humor with some of the dark undertones and Harry is a believable twelve-year-old that faces all of his struggles on a relatively human level. The story is well told and well worth the read.

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